The Dangers of Context Collapse

Context collapse is a favorite tool of Internet trolls and other disruptive influences1, but it has so many other implications. It’s important to avoid it, and to recognize where context collapse is leading to incorrect beliefs or actions.

Context collapse itself is the phenomenon of highly-contextual information being used, purposefully or otherwise, in an ambiguous manner which leads to confusion. A pretty common example of this is the word “theory;” in colloquial speech it means the same thing as “hypothesis” in scientific speech. This leads to a very common chain of reasoning: the theory of evolution (in the scientific sense) becomes “just a theory” (in the colloquial sense), which then is purposefully used to sow seeds of doubt in people using the phrase colloquially, when scientifically-speaking it’s established fact.

This ends up being a huge issue in a lot of unexpected places, which can often result in extremely unfortunate results which can negatively impact peoples' livelihoods, even with the best of intentions.

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