definition of contextualization

Contextualization is the act by which the circumstances of a situation, an event or a fact are taken into analysis, be it public or private. Understand a set of interrelated aspects. In this sense, to understand an isolated phenomenon it is necessary to explain it within a more global sphere.

It includes everything that surrounds a fact, the space and time in which that fact, event, situation occurs. Thus, we speak of the context of the French Revolution as a very conflictive space and time in which social protests for various reasons were on the rise. We can also talk about the context in which a talk is given, or for example an interview. That would be the moment in the life of the people who are part of that conversation, as well as the place and everything that the combination of these two questions can add to that instance: if two people chat in the middle of the street, it will not be the same as if the context is a much more formal one determined by the work environment, for example.

It is undoubtedly of great importance to take into account the contextualization that can be made of a situation because it will not be the same in two different contexts. Therefore, if the contextualization has not been properly developed, it can easily lead to misunderstandings and confusion, as well as scientific errors of historical misinterpretation (for example, if the elements that cause the historical development are removed and isolated from the particular context in which they arise).

Historical facts and contextualization

If we study an event from the past, we can do it from several possible perspectives. In a simplified way, we could say that there are two options: understanding the context in which the events occurred or decontextualizing the events.

Let's imagine that we study the human sacrifices of the Aztecs. If we decontextualize them, we can say that the Aztecs were murderers who executed their victims without mercy. However, if we really want to understand this phenomenon, we will have to contextualize it. In this sense, the Aztecs worshiped the Sun as the supreme divinity. They thought that if the Sun went out, life would cease to exist. Consequently, they performed human sacrifices to "please" the Sun.

In historical analysis, one runs the risk of evaluating the past from the mindset of the present. This intellectual exercise implies the decontextualization of historical reality.

The text and context in literature

Literary phenomena bear a certain resemblance to historical ones. A romantic novel of the nineteenth century will be understood if the reader is able to appreciate everything that surrounds the novel (the literary style of the time, fashion, aesthetic values ​​...).

Personal identity and contextualization

To understand a person it is necessary to analyze everything that surrounds him, that is, his social context. Consequently, we will be able to know what someone is like if we know the reality of their country, their cultural level, their family and emotional ties, their social class and the historical moment in which they live.

Information taken out of context

In journalistic activity, professionals report some facts to the public. The information should be truthful and rigorous. However, to explain an event it is necessary to contextualize it properly. It is not enough to state what has happened, but it is necessary to provide more information: why it has happened, for what purpose or what interests are there in relation to the events that occurred.

If not all this information is provided, its content is presented regardless of its context. The end result of this journalistic approach is related to information manipulation or yellowing.

Contextualization is not only important in historical science or in the social sciences, but on the contrary it is also useful in the hard or natural sciences. This has to do with the fact that the growth or development of matter will not be the same if the context in which it occurs changes, for example the response of a liquid element to different temperatures or environmental conditions is not the same.

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