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Antar Abdellah. The Art of English Chapter Five: Making connections with new technologies . introduction. This chapter examines the impact of communication technologies on the way we creatively deploy language resources .

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  • This chapter examines the impact of communication technologies on the way we creatively deploy language resources.
  • When a new communication technology first appears, it often stirs up controversy as to whether it will enrich or impoverish the language.
  • Text messaging, for example, has received considerable media attention, and Activity 1 highlights some of the issues involved. P. 209
views on texting
Views on texting
  • The extract below comes from a newspaper article which highlights concerns about the impact of text messaging technology on society.
  • It seems the student crafted her homework knowingly, perhaps to enliven a boring assignment to wind up the teacher or even to experiment creatively with a new style.
  • Over the centuries, humans have used various technological developments to help them communicate, ranging from clay tablets and quill pens to telephones and typewriters. The major development of recent years has been computer- mediated communication.
  • (CMC), which can be defined as ‘communication between human beings via the instrumentality of computers’ (Herring, 1996, p. 1), using a variety of different digital technologies, such as email, newsgroups, online chat and instant messaging.
cmc mode and medium
CMC Mode and Medium
  • CMC Mode relates to the means by which a message is represented, using for example the sounds of speech, the graphic system of writing or the gestures of sign language.
  • CMC Medium, on the other hand, relates to the means by which a message is transmitted. Speech, for example, could be transmitted through face-to-face conversation, a video-conferencing link or a telephone connection. Graphic symbols could be written in ink on paper, carved on stone, spray-painted on a wall or transmitted digitally via a computer.

No computer user is truly isolated, since the use of computer technology depends on the resources and opportunities provided by society.

  • The way that individuals make use of any communication technology, whether ancient or modern, is affected by general features of the relationship between technology and society.

Previous chapters have focused more on artfulness, but in common use the term ‘creativity’ is often associated with novelty. By exploring the way that technology can stimulate novel uses of language, this chapter will also question whether novelty alone can he regarded as creative.

5 2 the impact of new technologies
5.2 The impact of new technologies
  • “Science and technology multiply around us. To an increasing extent they dictate the languages in which we speak and think. Either we use those languages, or we remain mute“.(Ballard, 1974, Introduction to Crash) P. 211
living with technology
Living with technology
  • One way of looking at the impact of new technologies is to consider their affordances.
  • This term refers to the possibilities that the environment offers to an animal. Affordances can be either negative or positive, and this will depend on the individual involved. For a human, water affords drinking and washing, but also drowning;
  • “the possibilities for action that an object provides — however far-fetched some of those affordances might seem”.

Effectivities with human beings are ‘the dynamic capabilities of that individual taken with reference to a set of action-relevant properties of the environment’ (Zaff, 1995, p. 240). EXP. P.212

  • The use of any object, whether natural or produced by humans, depends not only on its affordances but also on the way these are perceived and interpreted by each individual.
  • Technologyis part of our environment, and the way we use it is affected by both its affordances and our own effectivities.
who sets email style reading a
Who sets email style? (Reading A)
  • In this extract, Naomi Baron examines how contemporary email usage has developed in the United States, and compares how the telegraph influenced language use in the nineteenth century.
  • Now read ‘Who sets e-mail style? Prescriptivism, coping strategies, and democratizing communication access’ by Naomi Baron. As you do, note examples of features of the technology (affordances), and characteristics of the users (effectivities), which may affect the use of email or other communication technologies.
cmc affordances
CMC affordances
  • a tension between ‘the excitement of linguistic freedom’ and ‘academically constructed standards for writing.
  • In some cases, it is possible to see a clear link between the affordances of the technology and the way it is used. For example, because computers typically have large display screensand QWERTY keyboards, they afford typing (and therefore longer messages) more easily than mobile phones. Because internet access is relatively cheap and there are no costs associated with distance or length of message, one of the things it affords is spamming. (negative).
  • Communication technologies certainly make things possible that used to be impossible or difficult.
technological determinism
technological determinism
  • technological determinism: the view that technology is a driving force behind far-fetched changes in society.associated with a number of features, including: • reductionism: the idea that complex issues can be simplified to a few basic factors;
  • • mechanism: the idea that social phenomena can be explained by regular rules of cause and effect; • technologicalautonomy; the idea that technology exists independently of society.
  • The quotation from J.G. Ballard p. 211 represents a deterministic viewpoint
  • However, the impact of technology on society is clearly neither simple nor predictable.

Other language scholars also tend to favoura socio-culturalapproach to new technologies. As Susan Herring argues; not all properties of [computer-mediated discourse] follow necessarily and directly from the properties of computer technology.

  • Rather, social and cultural factors — carried over from communication in other media as well as internally generated in computer-mediated environments — contribute importantly to the properties that characterizes computer- mediated discourse. (Herring, 2001, p. 625)
  • Our use of technology is affected also by constraintswhich limit these possibilities (Norman, 1999).
  • Some constraints are physical; for example, your ability to carry a suitcase will depend on how heavy it is. Within CMC, the computer keyboard presents a number of physical constraints which have implications for equality of access to computer technology.
  • Countries such as China and Japan use basically the same keyboards as in the west, but since their script cannot be matched directly to the keys, typing requires special software and more complicated input methods.
  • Notice though that these influences involved not only the physical constraints of the technology, but also the cultural constraints of the script. P.216
cultural constraints
Cultural constraints
  • While physical constraints can be seen as the converse of affordances, cultural constraints derive from shared cultural conventions; unlike physical constraints, they can, in theory, be violated.
  • For example, English is written from left to right, but there is nothing to stop me from picking up my pen and writing in the other direction, as Arabic is written. The direction of handwriting is a cultural constraint. But cultural conventions may be built into the technology: my word-processing software, for example, forces me to type from left to right, even if I want to type in Arabic. In such cases, cultural constraints become materialised as physical constraints.
  • The increasing global standardisation of electronic environments can be problematic for languages which are less dominant in these environments.

However, the constraints could themselves be seen as conducive to creativity, eliciting the skills needed to exploit the medium effectively.

  • Constraints and affordances together mark out the scope for creativity.
  • In other words, constraint is a source of strength. McCullough’s argument suggests that creativity involves working with the medium, as a carpenter works with the grain of the wood. Working with a new medium may require adapting existing practices in order to exploit its affordances and constraints.
5 3 adapting to change the poetry of text
5.3 Adapting to change The poetry of text
  • HettyHughes won first prize in a text message poetry competition run by the British newspaper The Guardian. P.217
  • a process in which a new discourse emerges to meet particular sociocultural goals and purposes; resulting in a new hybriddiscourse.
  • The concept of intertextuality, relates to ‘the productivity of texts, to how texts can transform prior texts and restructure existing conventions (genres, discourses) to generate new ones’.
  • Interdiscursivity is an aspect of intertextualityto indicate the combination of discourse conventions that are drawn on in a text; he gave the example of a bank leaflet which mixes the discourses of advertising and financial regulation.
  • An example from literature is the mixture of novel and recipe genres in Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate. P. 219
meanings of discourse
Meanings of discourse
  • 1 - A stretch of language longer than a single sentence or utterance, such as a written paragraph or a spoken dialogue.
  • 2- A type of language used in a particular context, for example the language used by teachers and students in classrooms (classroom discourse) or the written language of medicine or law (medical or legal discourse).
  • 3- In a more critical or abstract sense, a way of representing, understanding and being in the world. Discourse here refers not only to particular uses of language in context, as in (2) above, but also to the world views and ideologies ... which are implicit or explicit in such uses.
  • Interdiscursivityinvolves relationships between discourses in senses (2) and (3).
blurred connections
Blurred connections
  • Several researchers have commented on the way that computer-mediated communication has blurred the distinction between speech and writing.
  • Ferrara et al. (1991) ‘interactive written discourse’
  • Collotand Belmore (1996) ‘electronic language’
  • David Crystal (2001, p. 239) ‘netspeak’, describing it as ‘a new medium of linguistic communication’.
  • Email, bulletin boards, text messaging, online chat and so on, each have their own affordances and constraints, leading to differences in the way that users compose their messages.
style leakage
Style leakage
  • Variations in message styles. Transforming norms from familiar genres to new unfamiliar genres. ‘Style leakage’ as a type of coping strategy.
  • The next reading considers how writers have adapted to the medium of IRC (Internet Relay Chat). IRC is one of several text-based technologies that allow users to join chat rooms . P. 240-241
chatroom discourse reading b
Chatroom discourse (Reading B)
  • Please read ‘Online discourse in a teen chatroom: new codes and new modes of coherence in a visual medium’ by Patricia Greenfleld and KaveriSubrahmanyam.
  • The authors argue that the language of chat is developing into a new register (a language variety that occurs in particular contexts). Based on the analysis of a sample of online chat, they examine the way that participants adapt to the demands of the medium by drawing on the resources of both oral and written English.
signs of creativity
Signs of creativity
  • Send
  • Emote
  • Emoticon
  • Lol
  • Coooooool
  • CWOT
  • NE1
  • B4

Similarly, Hutchby argues that: when people interact through, around and with technologies, it is necessary for them to find ways of managing the constraints on their possibilities for action that emerge from the affordances of given technological forms. This can be more or less problematic, depending on the characteristics of the technology and our level of familiarity with it. Sometimes, quite novel ways of accomplishing communicative actions arise at the interface of the actor’s aims and the technology’s affordances. (Hutchby, 2001, p. 30)

a communicative modality in flux
a communicative modality in flux
  • In discussing email, Naomi Baron (1998, p. 162) talks of ‘a communicative modality in flux’, and as long as norms are fluid, CMC in general will continue to show a high degree of variability, and therefore opportunities for linguistic creativity.
  • However, as particular technologies become more familiar and routine, CMC may be expected to settle down in more predictable patterns.
novelty and creativity
Novelty and creativity
  • Over time, some of these innovations are used more regularly, gradually becoming conventions of the newly emerging register. As CMC grows increasingly commonplace, it is likely to involve less linguistic innovation.
  • Yet novelty is not necessarily creative, and it is possible to use language artfully without necessarily inventing new linguistic forms.
  • While CMC encourages certain ways of adapting language forms creatively, it has also been associated with functions that may be seen to underlie other aspects of verbal art — in particular those associated with the presentation of identity.
5 4 being online
5.4 Being online
  • One of the features of online chat is its apparent anonymity. Chatters normally use nicknames, remain invisible. The issue of identity is therefore particularly salient in CMC.
  • However anonymous chatters feel, they may in fact reveal information about their identity through the language they use. In an English-medium chatroom, for example, particular vocabulary, grammar or spellings may indicate a variety of English which makes it possible to guess the participant’s nationality.
  • Goffman notes the way we may unintentionally ‘give off clues to our identity through various aspects of our behavioursuch as our clothes, bearing, gestures and language. On the other hand, we also dramatizeourselves,
  • Online chat also seems to present opportunities for a more self-conscious dramatic performance in which participants use language to play out their chosen roles.
chat up lines
Chat-up lines
  • P. 224
  • In this extract, both participants draw on existing cultural resources in performing their roles, using but at the same time parodying the language of courtship.
  • ‘Dr-pepper’ himself refers to the cliché of ‘love at first sight’, playfully amending the phrase to ‘love at first chat’ to suit the online environment.

On the internet, participants typically have available a restricted range of resources for identity construction. In most forms of CMC, they can neither see nor hear each other, but communicate only by means of typewritten characters.

  • The absence of extralinguisticclues seems to encourage greater linguistic creativity. Carter (2004, p. 200) suggests that it may lead to heightened self-dramatism, with ‘linguistic marking which is often creatively realized in schema-refreshing ways’.
carnival disguise
Carnival – disguise
  • The disguised identities, the sense of self-dramatism, and the tendency to parody are reminiscent of the spirit of carnival, seen by Bakhtin as:
  • a pageant without footlights and without a division into performers and spectators. In carnival everyone is an active participant, everyone communes in the carnival act ... All distance between people is suspended, and a special carnival category goes into effect: free and familiar contact among people.
  • As in carnival, online chat often involves an element of profanation, which can be seen in the unrestrained use of taboo language, the frequent sexual references, and the occurrence of flaming (online insult).
5 5 the playful medium
5.5 The playful medium
  • A number of CMC researchers have drawn attention to the inherently playful nature of the medium . Above all, she suggests, ‘Relaxed norms of coherence can be liberating, giving rise to increased opportunities for language play’.
  • Word play is also facilitated by the fact that because text remains visible on screen, participants can reflect on it more than is possible during face-to-face conversation. All these factors contribute to the way that cyberspace provides what has been called a ‘playground of identity’.
  • Online humour occurs not only in online chat, but also in educational applications of CMC. P. 227
  • Students can, half-seriously, half-playfully, try out a variety of roles that may challenge prescribed norms. For example, in the extract from a discussion on the role of technology, ‘Mr. Mac’ and ‘Eric Loomis’ can be seen ‘ganging up’ on ‘Jim Davison’, who surrenders the argument with a reference to walking the plank.
creative intertextuality
Creative intertextuality
  • This aspect of the use of humour within CMC can be related to ideas about intertextuality. So, for example, the flirting dialogue between ‘Nagin’ and ‘Dr-pepper’ is constructed and interpreted against the background of many other written and spoken texts that involve flirting, while the ganging up against ‘Jim’ draws on other familiar scenes of verbal or even physical bullying.
  • Intertextualityis evident also in the use of specific linguistic expressions. For example, the mention of Superman in the teen chatroom data (in Reading B, Figure 1, line 88) references the film and comic-book hero while the phrase ‘love at first chat’ in the #india data alludes to the many instances of ‘love at first sight’ in a variety of romantic texts.
  • Although we cannot be sure how far writers and readers are conscious of specific references, our understanding of any text is shaped by our previous experiences of a multitude of other texts.
the creative use of intertextuality reading c
The creative use of intertextuaLity (Reading C)
  • This article discusses a research with students on an online course where the chatroom was open only to course participants. Three areas Angela Goddard identifies examples of the creative use of intertextuality:
  • 1) using the language of physical location to locate themselves within the online environment;
  • 2) building on the visual aspects of the emerging text;
  • 3) creating a heightened sense of audience for the performance of identity
  • P. 253, 257, 258
  • IWD (interactive Written Discourse”

she focuses on the importance of common cultural references in building individual and group identity, and the way that intertextuality lays out known material and disrupts expectations by renegotiating it’.

  • Once you start looking for intertextual references, they seem to be everywhere, but it is hard to determine how far the producers and receivers of the text would have been conscious of them.
5 6 conclusion
5.6 Conclusion
  • CMC: the physical connections that afford computer-mediated communication, the social connections which participants create though interacting via computer technology, and the textual connections which seem to feature so prominently in online chat.
  • Many of the characteristic features of CMC can be seen as creative adaptations to the medium, allowing users to manage interaction online, without a shared physical context.
  • As time goes on, however, such innovation may decline, as what was once novel gradually becomes routine.

Novel is not always creative

  • Humouris evident even when CMC is employed for serious purposes, and functions to build both individual and group identity.
  • It draws in particular on intertextuality. These allusions both contribute to group solidarity and also allow for elements to be recombined in ways that can be surprising and revitalizing.