crystal’s chrysalis

Apologies for the late, brief post. Schedule willing tomorrow, I’ll update and expand this.

I just want to say how – is frustrating the word? perhaps alienating? – it’s been, reading Crystal’s analysis of “Netspeak.” He just doesn’t seem to be describing, for the most part, the way I interact with most of my friends online. Maybe it’s that bandwidth is better now, or maybe we’re just strangely literal people, but we *do* throw in a lot of paraverbal affirmations (like “yeah” and “mm?” and “oh!”) when we IM with each other.

Part of what makes this possible – and Crystal’s oversight here is most glaring – is that we’re having *one-on-one instant message conversations*. Somehow, he seems to have concluded that the technology for “chat” only, or primarily, applies to groups – which is very surprising for a book that came out in 2001. It’s as if he’s stuck back in AOL keyword zones, which I associate more with 1995-6. And to say that there wasn’t software to enable simultaneous echo of entered text on both ends also strikes me as weird: if I was able to ychat (split-screen, real-time text) by 1998 in my dinky college unix shell, surely more tech-tuned people were doing it before that… and either should have been available to Crystal.

He also, I think, undersells the power of bracketed, “novelistic” descriptions to substitute for somatic expressions like raised eyebrows, etc. While it’s true that we can’t duplicate the automatic responses, there are certainly many things that we can describe – including, in an innovation made possible by written communication, bodily reactions that we *can’t* pull off in person. Feedback like ::head explodes:: or ::leaps into the air with joy, freezing at the top as if in a cheesy inspirational commercial:: or even ::gapes in combination of open admiration and dawning horror:: can often capture rather more precisely the emotion we want to convey than, say, a simple widening of the eyes (in the latter case). And it also encourages creativity, and practice honing *writing skills*, which is something many cantankerous folks often worry about when they say that kids these days are spending too much time online (implying: not doing serious work).

Sigh. It’s too late at night for this…

ps. I did enjoy the Manovich. More tomorrow.

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