~sKePtic~ : hi green, wanna drink ~sKePtic~ : Hi visitor, want a drink?
Ann_Organa : skep, what are u the welcome party <LOL> Ann_Organa : Skep, are you the welcoming party now (Laughs out loud)
~sKePtic~ : <G>...maybe...trying to entertain in more ways then one J ~sKePtic~ : (Grins) Maybe, I try to entertain in more ways than one (smiles)
neXus : You 2 married, cuz you sound like it...IMHO neXus : In my humble opinon, you sound like a married couple!
Ann_Organa : only in your dreams, skep...he-he Ann_Organa : Only in your dreams, Skep (laughs)
~sKePtic : L ~sKePtic~ : (Frowns, in disappointment)
neXus : BRB, email... neXus : Be right back, I have email to check.
neXus dropped. neXus has left the chat room
~sKePtic~ : Boring now.. : - / ~sKePtic~ : It seems boring now (has a wry facial expression)
Ann_Organa : one more drink for the night.. Ann_Organa : One more drink for the night, please.
~sKePtic~ : BEER.WAV sent <<J>> ~sKePtic~ : (a sound of beer being poured is heard) Smiles happily.
Ann_Organa : THX Ann_Organa : Thank you!
* * *
Old English? Nope. Shakespearean dialect? Not Exactly. Foreign language? Not really. Ebonics? Could be. English? Somewhat. What are the true meanings behind the symbols above? To many it is a form of communication, where symbols reflect expressions and spelling does not count. It is a dialect that continues to grow in the technological aspects of society developed and controlled by a machine we so commonly call "the computer". Has the way to communicate been degraded to the acronyms of the Internet? Or, is a new language gradually developing, one held true by a younger generation living by the standards of a machine? Language has usually followed the norm of time, expanding to the contingencies of new terms and slang expressions. Yet, time flows at an accelerated rate, as our own dialects are being challenged by technology's swift momentum. In the past, technology was kept in check with our way to communicate. Now we find our very own dialect, and ourselves, bending to the rules of technology.
In order to comprehend how technology creates variation within language, we must first understand how languages spoken in the United States progressively become linguistically diverse. All languages have both dialectical variations and registral variations. These variations, or dialects, can differ in lexicon, phonology, and/or syntax from the Standard Language that we often think of as the "Correct Language", although they are not necessarily less proper than, say, "Standard English". It depends on where, by whom,
and in what situation the dialect is used as to whether or not it is appropriate. Before computers, only factors of location, ethnicity, education, and age heavily influenced language. Most people are familiar with regional dialects, such as Boston, Brooklyn, or Southern. These types of variation usually occur because of immigration and settlement patterns. People with the same social class factors, education, and occupation tend to seek out others like themselves. While occupations often produce their own jargons, a person's occupation will also determine what style of speech is used. A lawyer and a laborer would not be likely to use the same dialect on the job. Likewise, a person with little education is not likely to use the same style of speech as a college professor. Customarily, those working together usually develop a certain, direct dialect that they can communicate with and ultimately understand each other. Ethnicity is also a contributing factor that produces language variation, particularly among immigrants. The rather widespread survival of dialects, such as Ebonics and Chicano English, seems to stem from the social isolation of the speakers (discrimination, segregation), that tends to make the variation more obvious. Furthermore, age factors in language variations in two ways. First, there are the generation differences. As the younger members of a speech community adopt new variants, the older members may not be affected, opting to instead to use their traditional dialects. The aged populace will communicate with the words they learned decades ago, as the younger generation communicates on the street using slang and phrases. The second way age produces change is over time, to correspond with various stages of an individual's life. This is particularly evident in teen slang. While this kind of slang does not generally hold over from one generation to the next, the teens that used it generally do not carry it into middle age, either.
Technology resembles our teen generation, in that they both continue to grow. The computer has developed into a communication conduit. Casually learning to transmit and acquire human conceptions through the services and programs it can offer. Feelings of humor, excitement, and sadness have been captured in a plastic keyboard containing a jumbled alphabet. Gradually, as technology expands, more
terms are thrust to the open public. The advent of IRC (Internet Relay Channels), the Internet, and chat rooms bring forth a new way for people to communicate. Without warning, laughter can be generated by over an infinite number of acronym combinations. Today, there are over 513 different characters describing human feelings of emotion and ideas in the computer age. As seen in the example chat session, feelings of sorrow, laughter, and happiness have been captured by the symbols LOL, BRB, IMHO, and THX.
However, with the absence of any visual or aural communication, these electronic characters slowly strip away true emotions usually reserved by body movement gestures. Many emotions can be interpreted incorrectly, and one can gain a totally different image of what is implied. Take the feelings of laughter and love. Both are compressed into the same three-letter character: LOL. Yet, both are complete opposites of expressions. One is defined as Lots of Laughter, with the flip side being Lots of Love. How can one interpret the difference? Only with the knowledge of a certain situation or location, can true intentions be made. Interpretations like this become difficult in real life for some, while others find a knack for it in chat sessions.
Instead of being the most common stereotypical computer user, who shuns all social contact and withdraws to a room to play with the computer, IRC allows a wide range of social interaction on a level unthinkable in the past. Some users stay on the computer an average of five hours a night - not to play video games, but to talk with other users all over the world. Through chatting (or real-time conferencing), friends meet over the E-mail lines. Some members fall in love without ever meeting face to face. Some E-mail subscribers have even gone through "virtual marriages" while maintaining a traditional family life on the other side of the computer monitor.
Because E-mail systems are text based, communication between people who do not know or cannot see each other sometimes can be difficult. Fortunately, a system of keyboard characters has been developed to give added meaning to messages and clear up misunderstandings. Named "emoticons" or
"smileys," these characteristics are used to convey pleasure, sadness, or sarcasm. Message writers use hundreds of types of smileys. Letters in place of long phrases called shorthands, also speed up communication. Some of the most widely used smiley and shorthand symbols are included in the conversation on the first page.
With the introduction of these characters is also the ever-growing threat to our language. Even now, we can slowly see the rippling effects. The computer has altered our language, and now it rules the network lines of communication, held fast together by the very computers that created it.
"What is a my name now? The 'Net has stripped away our identities as human beings..."
A typical chat session is filled with members greeting each other, making trivial conversation, and flirting. Members send messages that include aliases in which they have created, BB jargon, typographical errors, smileys, and shorthands. For example, take our above chat session, within "The StarSide Bar and Grill." Conversation is light, as a friendly bartender always wants to give you a free, VR alcoholic drink. (Perhaps these E-mail bars are the answer to the drinking and driving problem.) In the absence of an aural or visual communication, smileys are necessary to convey feelings and emotions. When visually based VR systems become common, such a symbol set may be eliminated and not needed. Yet, chat sessions have been slowly threatening our identity as people, and is questioning our human morality. Through personal interviews, I gained a deeper insight on this new form of interaction. "What's a name now? My true identity has been ripped apart from me, and I feel helpless. Has my enriched heritage name been degraded to the nicknames of the web, like "Q-BarfMan" and "-CornHulio-." Another told me, "To chat is like practice - for the real world. Here you can talk to girls without getting nervous or embarrassed, or start a fight without ever getting a scratch." The decency of chat rooms are still being disputed and argued today. And like technology, will never rest.
However, text-based systems will always be an important form of E-mail communication. For example, with an alias, no one can tell if the message writer on the other end of the line is male, female, Asian, Anglo, young, old, wheelchair-bound, or deaf. Consequently, people in an E-mail world are judged not by their physical attributes but by the content of their messages.
"...because of e-mail and chat, people haven't picked up a pencil in years..." (Heslop 401)
In Brent Heslop's essay "Return to Sender", he argues that E-mail has become is more advantageous to the individual then one may think. "With the Internet, E-mail has become the ultimate convenience," (402) Heslop writes. The arguments are presented through the eyes of businessmen, the speediness and relative cheapness of E-mail have more opportunities than that of lifting a pen. "E-mail programs enable users to send attachments of other documents, and transmit them in a fraction of the time it would take a courier service or U.S. postal system to deliver them." (Heslop 401) Because of the speed, reliability, and efficiency of E-mail, the postal services have lost thousands of dollars, it's delivery system ridiculed, and letters have been tentatively titled snail mail. However, downsides do occur. What happens when network servers go down and fail to deliver documents? Have we become to depend on keyboards to deliver information than that of pen in hand? And what is to become of the beauty of poetry? Can the same rhetorical sense of Shakespeare and Yeats be understood in the acronyms and abbreviations of the Internet lingo? Again, only the advancement of a single machine can determine the outcome of delivering information across each other in the near future.
In his science fiction novels, William Gibson uses the word cyberspace to describe the ethereal world of the electronic highway where the unusual and unlimited communication links are available. Space on the electronic highway comprises not asphalt or concrete, but electricity and light. Writer John Perry Barlow describes cyberspace as having:
...a lot in common with the 19th Century West. It is vast, unmapped, culturally, and legally ambiguous, verbally terse (unless you happen to be a court stenographer), hard to get around in, and up for grabs...In this silent world, all conversation is typed. To enter it, one forsakes both body and place and becomes a thing of words alone....It is, of course, a perfect breeding ground for both outlaws and new ideas. (South 63)
The Internet has become our brave new world. It has succeeded in fabricating a new environment of language, emotion, and expression. Everyday it threatens the existence of our language, and challenges our values as human beings. Our present world as we know it is being transformed, slowly sucked into the virtual worlds originated by computers and its creators. The Internet has become a secondary world in which we must talk to others without truly seeing them, and speak a peculiar dialect consisting of smileys, acronyms, and short hand. Ironically we have not done anything to change this, until now.
"The Internet has changed my life - I no longer have one..."
It is estimated that an alternation in our language occurs every minute. The Internet is the new frontier that pushes additional words into existence. However, many want to stop this rapid succession of word play, including the government. Those against it want to transform the Internet into a grammatically correct world of communication. Presently, the Internet is under scrupulous observation for indecent material by the not only the government, but the nation's communities as well. For myself this theme is a complex one, and a tad ironic. Agreed, there are many X-rated sites on the Internet which can be easy accessible by children, but wouldn't government control on a system based on information be an infringement of the First Amendment? Seems we have placed ourselves between a rock and a hard place. My explanation, part argument and solution, narrows down to the virtue of the user. The morality and values of the individual at the keyboard should ultimately decide the viewing control of one. For whose
right is it to control what you want to view on the Internet? Is it mine? Yours? Someone else? Or Uncle Sam's? Even today I was placed on the hot seat when I entered an argument with someone passionately fighting for the Decency Act (the act that government will have the right to abolish what they feel is indecent on the web). First we disputed what the true definition of indecency and decency was, and how the government and CDA officials may hold a different meaning to what is decent and what is not. Surely, the ideas of what is decent have its comparable differences to a 16-year-old teenager. "The Internet may have some good aspects, but as a whole it is terrible. It is the number one method that child molesters find their victims, and one of the number one causes in the kidnapping of children exposed on the web." I shot back with, "How do you know that this is true, do you have facts? Do you surf the 'Net daily looking for child molesting sites, and if so, how decent is that? Do have any proof, if so where? If you got it off the 'Net, how decent is it, and if you said the majority of the Internet is bad, how do I know your data is reliable?" From her, all I got was silence. The next thing you know I'm talking to an empty phone, as the phone hits the receiver with disgust and anger. It will become an interesting battle, and an issue that will be long talked about in the future.
Ironically those fighting for the Decency Act, have failed to see the obvious. With all the fighting circulated on pictures (such as pornography), 'Net frauds, and sites which aim to scam we have neglected to change language and its diversity found online. We have heard the expression "An image can be a thousand words," but can that apply to those placed on the Internet, especially those unacceptable. Why are we only fighting the images, should we not also fight for our language, too? If we want to stop the spread of variance, and stop the acronyms and smileys, shouldn't we fight for a language decency act first? Why have we become so blind? The injustices do not just lie in the images, but in the text as well. In order to stop change, the Internet must be reviewed as a whole, not just by pieces. Not implying that English professors should swamp Congress in order to change the written laws of the Internet. If we want to stop the torment
that language receives by technology, we should first make the text decent enough to understand. Then we could make decent sense in communicating to each other what is appropriate in online images. Only then will language progress with technology. As a joint effort, not a cat and mouse game.
Technology will always continue to push communication to the edge. For some, the edge is where they have to be. We find ourselves bending to the rules of communication in order to stay in constant check with friends, loved ones, and to check current news. For us to keep ahead of time itself, we have to play by the rules of technology, despite age, location, or ethnic background. But how can we eliminate the problems of technology in communication? The only answer is to wait, and let the patience of time go to work. Eventually we may lose this dialect as years go by, as younger generations continue to introduce new terms.
If history repeats itself, variations in our languages may create new dialects that will replace our current ones, for the better, or worse.
I must say, I really did enjoy this paper. Not only was the writing and research fun, but also it was exciting. How many times can you retrospect upon history, only to find out that the answer of the future of communication may actually lie in the past? What I tried to show was a two-sided argument to this theme. Especially as the Internet will face constant gridlock, now that official hearings have begun on its decency has an information service provider. Since I, like others, are heavily affected by computers and the Internet, I wanted to share some of my personal thoughts and opinions with the reader, I only hope that it gives the paper more flavor and does not distract it from the main issue.
Even though there was excitement, it was also one of the most perplexing papers that I have worked on. I could have easily rambled on and on and basically made this paper around 20 pages! So many tangents opened up along the way! But, I wanted to show you (the reader) the hardcore facts, and the strength of the evidence used to back it up. What became so perplexing was they way language intermeddles with technology. It was as if I had one huge jigsaw puzzle spread out on a table and slowly I had to piece each one together to make the whole picture become visible and clear.
I must say (and question) on a personal level, that technology does have its benefits, yet has it done more evil to society then good? If we zip to the past, we can see that it was technology that created the gun, the atomic bomb, and the plane that was used to carry it. And today, we build even more deadly machines using even more sophisticated technology. These new weapons of destruction, created in the hands of technology, now have a better kill ratio and better efficiency to destroy its prey.
Ironically, technology can affect us on the subtle, personal levels, too. As I type this, there is a little assistant, modeled after Albert Einstein in the lower right hand corner. With my technology, I have upgraded
to the newest version of my word processor, and now this little assistant guy pops up. He just sits there. Staring, looking at his clock, yawning at times, and once in a while falling asleep when all is well. When a spelling error occurs he suddenly wakes up, telling me if he should correct it or not. Is this some sort of sick joke? Have humans become so terrible and lazy, that we cannot remember to spell, so now we have to have this "virtual" assistant attend to our own errors? He stares at me now, and I wonder if he is aware that I am typing about him? It is almost scary when you think about it.
So to stop myself from making this discussion page a whole other essay I'm going to stop here. I hope that I have sparked ideas and new horizons in you, as it did to me researching it and ultimately creating it. And in one last word, I want to comment on the cover page picture. Okay, so it might be a bit obscene, but it truly shows our eventually link and bond to machines and to computers. Besides, you'll never guess where I got it. (The Internet, of course.)