Will the usage of the Internet and all its derivative cause us to adapt a new dialect of Standard Internet English?
IDEA: Perhaps we should examine the factors that played a role in the development of new dialects, and in doing so, should be able to adequately forecast whether the Internet will have a similar impact on our language (though I think it's already safe to say that it does and that it will.)
The reason why language tends to change is because language is empowering. Only the privileged can speak it, and the truly privileged speak numerous languages. I learned basic Russian from an Azerbajani friend when I was 13. Back then, to me it was just fun. Looking back, however, we used that language (more of a dialect of English/Russian, almost identical to that found in Burgess' A Clockwork Orange) to communicate thoughts and ideas that we didn't want others to hear. It's how we talked about girls, sex, bowel movements and all the other embarrassing things 13-year-old boys feel compelled to talk about constantly. In English, however, breaching these topics would be too risky, and frankly, a bit too blunt for discussion. Speaking vulgar English idioms with Russian words lent a great deal of levity to conversations most lewd in nature.
In the same way, people are empowered and compelled to express the ideas and thoughts they otherwise wouldn't on the Internet, especially through e-mail and instant messenger. There is little to no risk factor, as skillfully concocted screennames (or Internet identities) can leave the author next to unidentifiable. In addition, the notion of speaking a language that parents and other superiors "just don't get" is reason to learn and speak it in and of itself.
For me personally, I find this type of discussion fascinating (as I have mentioned in my wiki because I have just now come to the realization that I have been a sort of guinea pig; I latched onto all this new technology at a young age, and now having about ten year's worth of perspective, I've made some very interesting discoveries:
1. I didn't necessarily learn the Internet dialect to which Day's article refers. It sort of just became the way how I communicated when online. It is kind of akin to how I never learned the Brooklyn accent with which I spoke for the first 12 years of my life, it was just how kids who grew up on Long Island talked. At the same token, I didn't consciously lose it when I moved to Florida in 1995, it just disappeared.
2. The language that my friend and I coded in person and fortified on the Net when we were younger is still a language that we use to communicate today, oddly enough. These days we see each other less as we go to different universities, but when we do hang out, we do not speak the language just to ensure we don't lose it. What held 10 years ago still holds today: If I am interested in my friend's success or lack thereof, so to speak, with a particular woman, instead of asking the incredibly awkward "So, did you sleep with her?" I'll instead just smile, and say the much more succinct "Tee dzeli?" which crudely translates from Russian to "Did you do it?"
3. I am quite fond of the screenname that I coined for myself when I was 15 and would honestly be devastated if I had to part with it. The fact is, ScooterDMan and I have been through a lot. It was under this name that I first spoke at length to the girl that I have been dating more or less since high school. When I first left for college, it was in this guise that I had many an after-midnight conversation with my mother, who, concerned with my well-being, set her instant messenger to moo like a cow when I had returned to the computer after being idle for several hours. An electronic bellowing of a bovine is how my Mom knew I was safe 130 miles away at 3 in the morning. More seriously, it was while I was testing the limits of communication, maintaining way too many conversations at once, that a instant message popped up that carried more gravity than any that had preceded it in my ten or so years as a user: My favorite professor, Dr. James Halsted, had passed away a few days before.
My point here is what we do on the Internet transcends our status of either "online or offline." What we do and say and how we act on Internet isn't without meaning as some would like to believe. In its most basic form, the World Wide Web is nothing but a tool for communication, which is arguably to most essential tool of human survival. We find a magnitude of worthless materials, mundane, meaningless diversions in several corners of the Net, but overall, what we do there is serious business. And it should be treated as so.
Some key points from Heim's chapter:
The “new sense of reality” involved with computers requires us to Play.
As computers get more advanced, more of its operations will be hidden to the user. We will have some control, of course, but not as direct as popping open the hood and tinkering with the insides. This is called “System Opacity.”
It's fun to hear him talking about Macros. I know of very few Microsoft Word users who take advantage of Macros, even when performing tasks that would be greatly simplified by Macros. We don't think, like Heim, that “word processors invite programming.” We've forgotten this fact. It's bad that we've forgotten that computers should do what we, not Bill Gates, want them to do.
Funny story about Macros--I was temping at a diagnostic clinic one time and was told to go through a huge folder full of files and change out some of the fonts and font sizes. They expected it to take all day. I wrote a macro to do the work for me, then ran it through all the files. I was done in about 30 minutes. They couldn't believe it. Needless to say, they didn't hire me back--I might have put six or seven people out of a job!
The concluding paragraphs are also fascinating. Like so much futuristic writing about where electronic writing will take us, Heim essentially presages the wiki--writing processes will become public, and so on. He also makes a claim that e-writing will become more like spoken language.
Two neologisms worth considering:
Electracy and emerAgency.
Electracy: "Electracy" is a neologism, then, to give a name to the apparatus of the emerging digital epoch.
EmerAgency: The emerAgency is a virtual distributed online consultancy, whose purpose is to deconstruct instrumentalist approaches to applied problem-solving by placing them in the context of electracy.
I notice that Ulmer refers to the work of Deleuze and Guatarri and Eric Havelock. I'm familiar with Havelock through Ong, but D&G are just too far out to really make sense of, though I have read some of their work. Johndan uses their work in his books.
This article raises some interesting issues. I especially like his statement that the web is an advertisement for a book, and his focus throughout on advertisement. Of course, by “advertisement,” I think he is getting at the sort of in-your-face style of modern advertising with its emphasis on pathos and spectacle. Unlike Benjamin, I don't think any advertisement or film can somehow discourage or inhibit critical thinking, but I can see how the internet is moving towards a more slippery, right-here right-now phenomenon than it has been. Essentially, the net is becoming more like television--much to my chagrin!
At one point Ulmer talks about Phaedrus, and asks if we have an electracy version of the Phaedrus. I'd say we do, and it's the wiki. Wikis work through a dialogic, much like one of Plato's dialogues. The point is not so much to understand a wiki page as to find ways to interact with it; to change it; to discover its history and find ways to further evolve the page. I can see a wiki page progressing and regressing--though telling which way a wiki is going will require temporarily assuming an external perspective.
Well, the first class went rather well, I thought. I wonder why so much prejudice against open content from the get-go? Perhaps the problem is that so many students in the class have experience with commercial writing. Their concerns seem odd to fellows like me, who seldom write for commercial purposes and freely donate writings to non-profit journals and websites. While it'd be great to make a living writing and selling novels, I can't help but think it's a little irresponsible. Undoubtedly, I'd get bored after awhile, especially if I had to strive to attract a dedicated readership.
One thing I definitely shy away from is the notion that I'm an “author.” I would quickly correct anyone accusing me of such plagiarism. I do consider myself a composer. I take bits and pieces of the language around me and re-arrange them into what I hope are pleasing or useful compositions. I want anyone to feel free to “steal” my scribblings if they feel they can use them, provided that they not turn around and deny someone else the same privilege.
There has never been a spontaneous or original idea or expression--only derivations and re-arrangements. Often enough, what we think is a radically new idea is actually just a re-hash of something far older. For instance, post-modern and post-structural thought is largely a re-hash of work done by the ancient Sophists, and I'd be silly to assume that the buck stopped there. The Greeks were traveling all about, importing ideas and notions from the wackiest places.
Intellectual property is perhaps the most alarming and devouring development in late capitalism, and I fear it may be the worst. However, I share the conviction with various others that its days are numbered. The Internet has simply made it too easy to copy and distribute digital information. Only law can prevent people from snatching ideas and expressions from the prostitute-artist, and laws enacted against the expediency have a tendency to fail, regardless of the money pumped into Congress by big business interests. Even today, major artists like David Bowie are publicly offering support to the “remix” groups who take their “copyrighted work” and re-arrange it into new and interesting compositions. Bowie even offers a prize for the best such effort.
America has long been combining the best of orality with the permanence of literacy. What I mean by this is the ability to record, archive, and (increasingly) to search audio and video files. Soon programs will be built that will allow users to search an audio lecture for a spoken word or phrase, and a video search that will help people locate a specific scene in a film or clip.
I get very excited to think about the potential opening up for young compositionists. Think of the huge base of literary material to work from--books, movies, video games, songs--it's all ripe for the taking. The new artists will not strive for “originality,” but purely for insightful derivations and rearrangements of old material.
Fredrick, Candace, and Sam McBride. Women Among the Inklings: Gender, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and Charles Williams. Contributions in Womens Studies, No. 191. Westport: Greenwood, 2001.
Deep insight into the role of women in the lives of three great authors. Lewis' and Tolkien's experiences with the fairer sex were compromised at an early age, giving rise to the notion that the female characters in their novels were shaped largely by both men's distance from feminine influence. Williams is another story, yet his involvement in the fellowship of the Inklings is still notable and inextricable from the feminine equation.
*dips toe in*
mmmm ... tepid!