Archive for ethnography

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?”