Watch Your Language.

This week I had my first encounter with a cyber lecture as part of a cyber culture module. Cyberculture is defined by Manovich as “online communities, online multi-player gaming, the issue of online identity, the sociology and the ethnography or email usage, cell phone usage in various communities; the issues of gender and ethnicity in Internet usage”(Cyberculture in Everyday Life).

I’ve found first hand there’s pros and cons to this such as replaying recorded lectures but you lose the physical interaction of speaking to somebody face to face. The first lecture consisted of the basics: cyberculture, the origins of memes and cultural artefacts. I found the latter quite interesting with symbols and language peaking my interest.

The changing language of cyberspace

Cyberculture exerts a high influence on how we communicate with each other (Cyberculture in Everyday Life). Pachler (Cited in Mobile Technology and the Cyberculture)  argues that “young people use new forms of communication which appear to include layers of meaning not accessible by ‘traditional’ language skills alone”. This suggests that despite the simple forms of communication young people use, there is a layer attached when sending, receiving and understanding a text message. There are many variations to choose from when texting,  and with today’s generation virtually inventing their own language as reported in (From WYCM to LH6), does this extra layer of complexity make young people lazy because of word abbreviations or does it make young people smarter?

Text speak
Image by Workshop Marketing

Is texting making us lazy?

People often argue about new technology and how it would affect language (2b or not 2b). “2b or not 2b” indicates that there is resistance towards technology because of its negative effect on language.

John Sutherland of University College London (cited in 2b or not 2b) suggests text slang is like a digital virus arguing the way people text in modern days is bleak, bald and sad shorthand. He adds it “masks dyslexia, poor spelling and mental laziness. Sutherland feels that modern day texting does not contribute or improve intelligence or literacy as he states “texting is penmanship for illiterates”.

John Humphrys is a similar thinking to Sutherland as he suggests that texting is decimating language as he compares people who text to the actions of Genghis Khan 800 years ago (I h8 txt msgs). He adds texters are destroying language and ransacking vocabulary.

I h8 txt msgs suggests that the point of texting somebody is to save time, but argues abbreviations and emojis make it difficult for the recipient to decode the message thus rendering the texting process inadequate. But 2b or not 2b argues that texting was used as a quick way to share information with somebody, adding the longer the message becomes, the more information it contains, the higher the amount of standard language is used. Perhaps just shorter text messages were abbreviated for convenience, but senders knew they needed to be understood, so the more complex the message, the more standardised it became (2b or not 2b).

Abbreviated words are not a new phenomenon, they were used in puzzles, as brain teasers and everyday life. Words such as fridge and exam are actually abbreviated from refrigerator and examination and have effectively become new words (2b or not 2b).

old nokia phone. blockia
Nokia 3210. Image from Wikipedia Commons


2b or not 2b argues that older phones with the 12 button keypads were not linguistically sensible, that letter frequency was not taken into consideration regarding the design suggesting that it took 4 button presses to get the regular occurring letter ‘s’ whereas the less frequent letter ‘q’ only took two presses on the same button which could have led to practice of abbreviating in text messages. 2b or not 2b suggests that texting abbreviations became obligatory because of their ability to reduce time and awkwardness when texting.

It is clear that technology is changing out culture affecting our communication needs (I h8 txt msg). The need for quick and accurate dissemination of messages is increasing and so is our need for technology to accompany it.

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