Frequent failures in interaction between individuals, communities, ethnic groups, religions and nations cause harm, economic loss and conflicts at both the individual and the societal level. The goal of this community is to produce, with the help of multidisciplinary research, new knowledge on causes and consequences of misunderstandings. We can hardly expect to achieve a total elimination of communication problems, but even the slightest progress in this matter can make our planet a better place to life. We invite all researchers interested in these questions to join us.
In modern society, interaction is essential. It is evident that spoken language is a vital part of the professional tasks of groups like politicians, car-sellers and teachers, but also civil servants like researchers and programmers need appropriate communication skills to be effective. In order to succeed in work and social life, an ability to accommodate one’s speech to the audience is needed.
When investigating these very complex phenomena, we need cooperation between researchers representing a variety of scientific fields, among others, philosophy, sociology, psychology, cultural anthropology, religion studies, and linguistics. Only if researchers are aware of the hypotheses and results of other scholars, research can proceed in an accumulative way. By collecting new knowledge on processes of understanding and misunderstanding, researchers can engage in creating tools to avoid failures of communication.
There is a great variety of questions which need to be tackled. Some examples.
In philosophy, especially in hermeneutics and phenomenology, the very essence of understanding has been discussed for centuries. This research tradition should be put into practice by posing concrete practical questions. What do people really understand when they claim understanding about a certain matter? What do people understand about politics, economics, nutrition and nature, and where does this knowledge come from? Under which conditions does this knowledge turn into action? How is our understanding of the state of the world affected by media?
Recently, the climate of opinion has polarised. Why do people not to want to understand each other? What is hate speech and how does it spread? Is it possible to soften differences in opinions or at least, to make people understand why other people think in a different manner? In considering these issues we inevitable touch upon questions of basic values of people. Where should we draw the boundaries of freedom of speech?
International politics is a power play where nations, especially superpowers, fight for prestige and influence. This has always been a part of their politics behind the scenes. Some leaders, such as Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, say it aloud. This leads to a tactical and manipulative speech manner. Words play a central role in this game. The general speech mode is hostile. To which extent is this speech mode only rhetoric directed to the home front rather than a dialogue with the counterpart?
In a modern society, we participate frequently in meetings and sittings. What does really happen in these meetings? Do all participants understand the decisions made in the similar way? Do the participants understand the basic terms and concepts in a similar way? How many different interpretations do the workers have about the strategy of an enterprise, university or organisation? How do these differences affect the practical work?
Interdisciplinarity is a modern buzzword of research policy everywhere. It is said that big challenges of humankind can be solved only by joint efforts of researchers from different fields. This is true. However, all who have been involved in multi- and interdisciplinary research projects are familiar with the problem of “speaking in different languages”. How much do we know about the causes of misunderstandings in these encounters? Could it be possible to speed up the process of mutual understanding? Is it possible to reach better results in research in this way?
Politicians speak more and more of evidence based decision-making. What do they mean by that? Is it just to select such scientific results which support their own opinions or is it an open-minded attempt to utilise research in solving societal problems? How does the dialogue between politicians and researchers work in practice? Are they ready to conduct a dialogue where both parties attempt to speak in a language comprehensible to others?
Our personal life with our family and friends is full of miscommunication. As a matter of fact, we meet cases of misunderstanding even more frequently at home than in encounters with foreigners – this paradoxical observation will be explained in other parts of this site. Small and big misunderstandings irritate and harm us. Could it be possible to diminish their number and to make our everyday life a little bit less frustrating?
As we see, research on mutual understanding covers a wide range of topics and themes. Usually researchers have a rather narrow perspective to these questions. The idea of this site is to widen researchers’ interest so that their own research can be put into a larger landscape.