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The selectivity of the symbols in metalanguage’s communication mechanism

The strong communication power of metalanguage

The study of metalanguage is most concerned with the effects of communication, because the ultimate aim of the metalanguage mechanism is to produce the generalization effect in which the part is used to represent the whole. By focusing on the partial facets of an object, the communicator tries to convince the receiver of the information that the facet typifies the whole or the part itself encompasses all the relevant properties of the whole object. The development of the Internet technology has triggered unprecedented revolutionary changes in the way the media communicate. The development of social media, centered on the Internet, has boosted the development of new mechanisms of information dissemination. In the Age of Web 2.0, the impressive interactivity of the social media and the ubiquity of the information sources and information sink have rendered the information transfer much more speedy and effective. In such a communication environment, every individual is an information source, a node which can represent the whole, because even the slightest piece of information is likely to be amplified to produce a maximum impact. Against the overall backdrop of the Internet technology, the ubiquity of information fragments makes it possible for the mechanism of metalanguage communication to happen at any moment. With the omnipresence of the selectivity of metalanguage, information can reach any place in the world as long as that place is connected with the Internet.

On October 13, 2011, at half past five, at a hardware market in Foshan, Guangdong Province, a two-year-old girl named Wang Yue was seen toddling in the middle of a narrow street and was knocked down by a fast-approaching white van. For a brief moment, the driver stopped, with the girl underneath the van, but then he kept driving, the rear tires of the van slowly rolling over the small body of the girl. The girl was left barely moving in her own blood as several pedestrians and cyclists passed by. Minutes later, another small truck drove over Wang Yue without slowing down. Within the first seven minutes after the initial accident of collision happened, more than a dozen passers-by walked, cycled or drove around her motionless body without stopping - until a woman carrying a sack appeared and moved the girl to safety. The incident, once posted on the Internet, went viral and triggered heated discussions among the Chinese netizens. With the rapid spreading of the event, it was reported by a large number of international media and the fact that so many passers-by remained totally indifferent to this tragic incident raised serious moral censures of the Chinese people.

CNN also reported the incident, with the eye-catching title “Outrage in China after Toddler Run Over, Ignored,” presenting the entire video to the audiences worldwide. Netizens across the world posted their comments on the Internet, expressing their outrage and bewilderment over the apathy of a certain number of the Chinese people. At the same time, CNN’s coverage of the event was also shown on the big screen at the New York Times Square, thus putting China’s national image at stake at this “Crossroads of the World” and leaving a tarnished image in the memory of countless people of the world.

With the occurrence of this tragedy, the national image which the Chinese government tried to project with the use of celebrities, despite the huge expenses of the project, was ruthlessly undermined. Via metalanguage’s communication mechanism, the tragedy of Wang Yue, on a very broad scale, projected another side of the contemporary Chinese society and the incident itself became a glaring symbol for the moral apathy of the Chinese people. The communicative power emanating from the metalanguage mechanism deserves our serious attention. If we can develop a correct understanding about metalanguage’s communication mechanism and make good use of this mechanism, we can make it an effective strategy of communication in which we can use the part to stand for the whole and allow the leveraging communication to play an increasingly important role.

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