Archive for the General Findings Category

Text and Context

Posted in General Findings with tags , , , , , on April 23, 2009 by gobecky

Many Zoomers are beginning to grow inpatient during aural, informational dialogue, especially if the surrounding atmosphere requires a greater effort to absorb the information than an alternative “transmission method” (i.e. text messages). Conversations latent with information may be likened to data downloading; if it isn’t fast, clear, and concise, it isn’t good enough. This isn’t to say that the phone conversation has died, but that the types of conversation and preferred mode of transmission has changed, causing a bit of a rupture between information givers and getters with different communication preferences (I.E. employers/employees, parents/children, marketers/consumers…)

An example of data-driven texting could be anything from coordinating meeting times to an address or location. Within our own cybercensus team, text messaging has become invaluable when working with our IT pro, Brian, as well as making our whereabouts known to family. Many entertainment and event planning committees have jumped on the texting bandwagon, delivering venue information and showtimes of events via messages on the phone.

This may be extended into mass emails. Which is more effective, a mass email or a text?

Globally speaking, how is text based communication, from in depth emails to short and to-the-point text messages, affecting literacy? In South Africa, for example, nearly everyone had a cellphone. Furthermore, text messages are much less expensive than phone conversations. Not only did many South African communities leapfrog traditional telecommunication infrastructure (given that many of the townships outside of large cities are not wired for landlines or electricity) but they may have also leapfrogged traditional phone conversations in favor of SMSes, or text messages.

Obviously, text messages are not always informational (If you were to dive into any 14 year old’s archive of messages, I’m sure not all would be information or data driven) but it is interesting to consider what text based communication may be doing to aural comprehension. Some children grew up hating reading assignments, but I bet those same children today are asking , “Can you text it to me instead?”

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Music As Background To Your Life

Posted in General Findings on April 21, 2009 by cybercensus2009

Becky & Maren online in the AM

Becky & Maren online in the AM

As we move from city to city and hear from people online, we have discovered that there’s a big difference in the way people relate to music in their daily life. Younger people tend to like music as background noise to their life and can multi-task while listening to their favorites. In fact, some younger people find it impossible to work without music playing in the background. This habit may also apply to some older people (me included) but it does seem to be more of a music listening trend among younger people.

Conversely, people about 40 and older tend to want to play music at specific times to listen to while relaxing or for the sake of listening to music as a solo event. We had an interesting email from one of our Boomer team members, Jane, excerpts are below:

“As a boomer on the high end of the age-category, I never learned to hear music all the time as background noise to life. I grew up only listening to music when I specifically selected and physically started it going. It doesn’t occur to me to want to hear music while I for example walk the dog. William (her son) introduced me to Pandora at the computer where I spend lot of time, but I find it distracting. I like music, I could afford it. Would it be worth anyone’s while to train me to want it all the time?

While Jane finds Pandora “distracting,” Becky needs Pandora on in the background while she works on the computer. This was a challenge for us as we set up the RV for our trip as streaming Pandora would eat up valuable band width on our Verizon air cards. Our solution, Becky is listening to Pandora as we drive and at night, but we are tracking her air card usage…and we’ll have her switch to Jeff’s air card (same model) when it looks like she’s getting close to her band width limit. Cost us the purchase of an additional air card, but worth it to make sure Becky can work the Zoomer way.

Additionally, Becky was kind enough to give Jeff (our driver) her Nano for his use during the trip believing he’d enjoy music and video in our off hours. She completely cleaned off her Nano believing she had her music library on her computer. When she went to load her iPod Touch she was totally dismayed to find that she didn’t have her music files with her…and she had to settle for music she didn’t like that much. Then, when she lost the iPod Touch one day in the RV, she couldn’t work because she didn’t have her music.

Then…to add to her dismay about the Nano and her loss of music, it turns out that Jeff doesn’t really want to listen to music and watch video during his off time. He’s more focused on making our patio area outside the RV nice, fixing things around our camp, and generally living in the physical world.

In summation, I find that I’m learning just about as much from living 24/7 between a male Boomer and a female Zoomer as we do from our study participants. The RV has become a mobile test tube where I can live and observe how our different ages and cyber literacy levels contribute to our daily media habits, work styles, and communication strategies. This morning is a good example…Becky and I are already online…and Jeff’s out at a thrift store getting his physical world fix before we head for Las Crusas, New Mexico.

It’s 95 degrees already at 9AM…

Jeff Likes To Read The Paper In The Morning

Jeff Likes To Read The Paper In The Morning

Should it be Linguistic “Loss” or “Change?”

Posted in General Findings with tags , , , , on April 19, 2009 by gobecky

Maren and I had this conversation on last year’s Cyber Census tour, when she noticed that I did not make the habit of capitalizing specific words or utilize apostrophes. The topic came back today when Maren noticed in one of my emails to our Participant Forum that I used “Weve” instead of “We’ve”. Our conversation went a bit like this:
“The meaning hasn’t changed there is no ‘weve’ in the english language that you could have mistaken it for!”
“There’s no ‘weve’ period!”

Will I betray my years of schooling and degree by sacrificing the occasional apostrophe for the sake of speed, time, and convenience? Are Boomers judging Zoomers, and vice-versa, in their manners of communication?

What I did not recognize at the time is that to most Boomers (many born and raised in pre-internet times), there is a strong ‘metamessage’ or underlying idea being communicated through grammar which is beyond the meaning of the sentence itself. Grammar is a marker of intelligence, respect, courtesy, understanding, formality, class, etc. If it looks like you didn’t have time to write the message properly, what does that say for your values? The answer is vastly different between Boomers and Zoomers.

Perhaps the lament of linguistic loss has less to do with the language itself, and more for the values that grammar embodies. I think the fear amongst cultural defenders is that this “age of convenience” will result in a loss in the dynamics of communication. Capitalizations, apostrophes, and other rules not only help communicate the words which are written, but also what is left unwritten, such as ones intellect, understanding, respect, and tact. Pre-Internet, when these grammatical rules were broken, a different “metamessage” was communicated. For “Zoomers”, it seems as though there is no metamessage. this Message-behind-the-message about their intellect and understanding has nothing to do with the message itself. For me, my use of “weve” instead of “we’ve” makes no difference to me or many of my peers because its the same message. However, for Boomers, that metamessage is still very much alive. (The irony here, however, is that the capitalization of Internet may also be percieved as “old fashioned” and may date or age the speaker. So, while proper English may dictate that we write the word as “Internet”, those who actively use the Internet rarely emphasize the term with capitalization. I only do so to avoid conflict.)
When a language changes, one could also look to see if cultural values are changing. The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis states that culture influences language, and vice-versa. If we apply this hypothesis to the current linguistic changes facing us today, then the lack of capitalization, apostrophes, and even sentence structure may be evidence of a paradigm shift. The respect which is typically communicated in capitalizing oneself or a name may be communicated instead in the message itself, or the message’s mode of delivery. If language slowly discontinues its use of capitalizations and apostrophes (entertain the idea for me here), will we lose the social and cultural rules that went along with grammar, or will they be manifested in a different way?

Ultimately, the words “loss” and “change” may be used interchangeably, but hold significant differences in definition and describe two different attitudes. Which one do we use in describing this trend?
(What would Marshall McLuhan say?)