The physics of new media

My life is in a state of turmoil. I am a ball of confusion. In recent years, I’ve been very happy to embrace many facets of what we term ‘new technology’, in particular, those aspects which affect our communications. However, now I feel tied in a Gordian knot. ring_tangle

We can now produce text and communicate with each other much faster than we can read. Typing provided that ‘benefit’, and our ability to share our written words electronically, even instantaneously, may mean that our ideas seem to come out faster. Some people can produce text faster than they can speak. But, our ability to process text may be lagging. I try to always bear that in mind. I remember one of my earliest bosses telling me to keep my memos to management to less than a page: “They cannot handle more than than,” I was advised.

For some writers, the way around that has been to write fewer words: at one extreme, that leads to ‘text lingo‘, or shorthand that is almost as easy to assimilate as a picture. It takes no time to read ‘*$’ and understand ‘Starbucks’; it’s contextually easy for many of us, and may even work in many languages without need for translation. Yes, there will be those who are unaware of the coffee chain who will have problems and want to read ‘star dollar’ and be all at sea. We add to that the graphic that says much more–the emoticon. In real short order we can truly do more with less. But, you cannot do all with less. This has not yet become an accepted part of ‘business culture’, perhaps seeming to be far too informal. Maybe, I should try a blog post in ‘lingo speak’ sometime :-0. Though, I wonder if it would take much longer to write as I sought to compose the shorthand letter combinations.

The intention of such shorthand is laudable and as speed seems to be one of the things driving it, perhaps its acceptance will be accelerated. However, some oppose shorthand tools, for many reasons, including ‘defending the language’, so they will steer away from them: no ‘LOL’ or even ‘AKA’ or ‘ASAP’ for them (and I chose examples that are well-known rather than what may seem esoteric, such as ‘BOTEC’ [Back Of The Envelope Calculation]. But, in a world that has put itself into a position to be captured by brevity, where Twitter can rule with its 140 characters, this trend toward shorthand may have more wind behind it than opponents may care to withstand.

Although, I use text shorthand little in regular communication, for no reason other than that I have not learned this new language, I’m not ashamed to say that I agreed with Shakespeare when he wrote Polonius’ comment that “brevity is the soul of wit“. I’ve found over time that words, even if uttered clearly, have a density that is hard to anticipate: more of them and they tend to become like thickets. Because confusion can be difficult to overcome once it gets into the process, I thought it would reduce the density by using fewer words and trying to keep those as ‘sharp’ as possible. So, if the answer to a question is really ‘yes’, I’ll happily say so. I may add more, if I think it really develops my answer in a way that is not obvious. But, guess what? Such responses may lead to more trouble for their lack of fulsomeness. I like my text communication in media such as emails to be snappy. But, now I learn that terseness may be interpreted as rudeness: that may explain why some of my email exchanges or comments on Facebook appear to go off the rails, when someone has ‘gone off the deep end’ for a reason that escaped me.

Little did I realize that Einstein had it right in areas far beyond physics, and the meaning of E = mc^2 \,\!, and the concept that the mass of a body is a measure of its energy content also applies to new media.


About The Grasshopper

Professional international economist, recently retired from an international organization. I use blogging as a way of organizing my ideas and thoughts about a range of topics. I was born in Jamaica, and spent many years being educated, living, and working in the UK. I lived in the USA for a few decades, and worked and travelled abroad extensively. My views have a wide international perspective. Father of girls. Also, married to an economist.
This entry was posted in Digital age, Human relationships, Internet, Language, Social Media, Writing. Bookmark the permalink.

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