Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A LOL in the Conversation

Maybe it's just me, and the fact that I haven't been in any chatroom environments, but I haven't recently seen many of the old chat-speak contractions that used to be all over the virtual place.

See, iirc ppl used to lol, rofl, even roflmao at the drop of a hat. There were so many of these stupid contractions that I'm astonished to find that I've forgotten most of them. What I do remember is the sort of low-level panic that these things seemed to induce in teachers and related members of society. Habitual use of such contractions was going to lead to universal functional illiteracy and the collapse of society (well, the latter the result of said functional illiteracy in combination with the ubiquity of net-bourne porn).

Of course, this fear is still with us, though now the culprit is the mobile phone and txt mssgs, which naturally will usher in the passing of the vowel in written communication. Our children aren't learning to communicate in a legitimate manner - they can't spell, they can't punctuate, and they have no idea about sentence or paragraph structure.

Da futr is now. Its 2 l8 2 cmplain...

And yes, it is true, to an extent. Literacy rates are a worry. Literacy hasn't been taught in-depth in Australian public schools for god knows how long. (Overseas? I personally wouldn't have a clue.) There are a lot of examples of poor attempts at communication out there - just look at any discussion board and you'll find an abundance. But there's a couple of interesting aspects to this that people often seem to miss.

The first is that any sort of subgroup of humans will tend to develop their own internal methods, manners and habits of communication, which for the purposes of this argument I'll call dialects. These dialects can seem impenetrable to those outside the group. And in the current age of massive and rapid technological change, the development of these dialects can be widespread and rapid indeed. It used to be that your peer group, for most people, was a relatively localised event. Not these days, matey. The younger generation right now is the first to experience world-wide instant mass communication that they can control, or at least contribute to.

That's a little scary, come to think of it.

Anyway, the point really is that such dialects arise all the time, but don't really pose much of a threat to the larger issue of literacy, because literacy in terms of functionally communicating using the english language is the biggest dialect of the lot.

By this, I mean that people who are not capable of writing lucidly in english don't successfully communicate on a wider scale - this is the big fear, no? But here's the thing: if you set up a website, or you post on discussion boards, or engage in any communication on the net at all and you don't make sense, people will tell you so. And, of course, there are plenty of good examples available to learn from. In other words, if you wish to communicate with the world, you have to learn the dialect used most widely, and people by-and-large tend to do this automatically.

That having been said, I'm still one of the guys who uses full words, sentence structure and punctuation when he sends an SMS. I like communicating as clearly as I can (even in unproofed rants such as appear on this blog).

And, of course, the ending to this article is obligatory:

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