Friday, November 7, 2014

Thought Transfer Protocol X

Often taken for granted, humans have evolved and developed this magical thing we call language, Since getting the Goodness word out is critical to living life fully, I think it's worthwhile to highlight the various language mediums we use everyday to communicate, each providing advantages and pitfalls along the way.

Face-to Face-Talking:  As old school as it gets.  Tens of thousands of years of invested ancestral research layered on top of our evolved senses and processing power lets you speak vocally and importantly integrate hand, face and body gestures to get across the point to your listeners.  This mode of communication is still popular in the modern day for those of us who aren't total shut-ins.  Of all the implementations of language, talking face-to-face is inherently the most satisfying, as it provides reward feedback loops wired for millions of years by evolution and further programmed by cultural upbringing.  Its biggest disadvantage is its ephemeral nature; "whisper down the lane" unreliability added  to "foot-in-mouth" inaccuracy hinder its effectiveness.  Still it remains the truest real-time use of language humans use in the current day.

Letter writing: Victorian in essence, but surprisingly popular up until the dot com expansionist era.  Surprising how many post cards, holiday cards, romantic notes and other written thoughts were shared pre-2000 as the primary method of communicating with people too distant geographically or temporally.  There is an art to constructing a written letter that is joyful at its core; sadly the art of cursive handwriting itself is definitely on the extinction list given the current Millennial Generation's addiction to the QWERTY interface.  Writing in general has the advantage of providing the writer an opportunity to reflect before bringing pen to paper.  Books in essence are organized letters to unknown future readers and have served as the foundation of cumulative understanding until the more recent digital days,   The semi-permanence of the written word can also be a disadvantage as one (or a group) can be held accountable for their statements, as they should, especially when updated information contradicts older ideas.

Telephony:  Fully implemented in the 20th century, this convenient mode of vocal conversation sought to emulate FtF talking, sans the presence of gestures, eye contact and physicality.  Sound quality can greatly effect the conversation, and unless you have an agenda or a personal knack in holding a deeper conversation, I find this medium can devolve to "how's the weather?" pretty quickly.  Still, this near instant ability to converse with people at great distances permits coordination of good works and rapid spread of big and small ideas.  Given so many have mobile phones nowadays, I would love to see true voice conversations regain a foothold in our culture.

Email:  The electronic letter was both the savior of written correspondence and the ruin of the handwritten letter.  Email's double-edged sword has definitely increased the amount of non-realtime communication, with all the written letter benefits of being able to be reflective, and easily edit ones words.  Since the late 90's people across the world have discovered this free, near instant, spell-checkable medium.  Too bad 90% of email has gone spam; still if you want to share a deep thought or a brief anecdote with a friend, it can't be beat for convenience, even if the artistry of the email is pretty much relegated to ones choice of font.  Done right, and email exchange can be an effective way at sharing meaningful, personal information.

Texting:  The age of smartphones infected us with the need for greater instant gratification.  Where a phone ringing could be ignored or an email silently filtered to trash, texting inherently requests a near immediate reply in our current culture.  Absolutely great for quick "I'll be theres" and "Pick up milks" alas the tendency for text blurbs to be terse makes them horribly inadequate for deeper conversation.  Unfortunately, the ease of texting use has strong armed its domination of the conversational paradigm.  The result is a dramatic loss of conversation quality, especially when someone misses your text or by choice ignores replying for days.  One can only hope texting will find its way to a place where it simply seeds the beginning of a conversation through a more appropriate channel.  On the other hand the flirtatious use of sexting can be just what the doctor ordered in a romantic exchange.

Blogs and Facebook:  These are the partylines of the 21st century.  Facebook in particular is the collective blog for the masses, having all the makings for a massively detailed, broadly shared multimedia journal. Sadly FB can also be an idea scrambler and even a thought black hole.  Aggregating hundreds of friends' posts into one magazine layout is at the same time enjoyable as it is frustrating for reader and author both.  By design it is not a one-on-one interface; instead, it is a customizable "what's up with my friends and family" space.  As such, it actually permits people to share deeper messages in a well thought out manner.  The major drawback is the messages are untargeted, and a shared, mindful thought may get totally ignored. In FB, one lives for the LIKE, the smallest bit of acknowledgement that what was shared was actually read.  Comments are even more treasured for their relative scarcity, as a typed response gives the author more feedback to go on, whether positive or negative.  FB also suffers from media spamming, and re-re-shared posts that too often have no added creativity by the sender, further diluting the meaningful posts that are actually accessed.  Blogs on the other hand can achieve more successful localized sharing, if only because the readership is more topically targeted.

Twitter: I've tried to use Twitter, alas the streaming idea fragments it generates has been too much of an anonymous jigsaw puzzle for me to assess accurately.  It certainly is used a lot, so I imagine it fills a gap the other mediums lack, particularly in specialized situations like national coups and TV series real-time commentary.  Personally I have eschewed Twitter if only because FB, email and texting have informationally satisfied my communication wants.

In the end, the challenge for each one of us is to utilize these mediums to the best of our ability, whether to improve our relationships with others or to increase the productive outcome for personal and group projects or to otherwise assist us in pursuing good works.

In what ways do you leverage language creatively and effectively?

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