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filling the void

Saturday, June 11, 2005

The Ephemeral Nature Of Speech

The ephemeral nature of speech, is something that GUI people, and HCI (Human-Computer Interaction) specialists talk about. It's about how speech and sound, contrary to text, disappears after you've heard it. If, for example, you have a voice alert for some error in your system, then that voice alert has been raised, and the voice has said "The document was unable to print" or some such, there is no remnant of the error, it's only, hopefully, still in your head. This is why having a voice interface to a computer system is almost always a bad idea. I know, being able to speak to the computer like in the Sci-Fi movies might seem like a cool thing, but the fact of the matter is that sounds is a poor representation of information. Not to mention the fact that people usually read a lot faster than they are able to hear. Also, people jabbering on in read-speed would be hard pressed not to have to repeat them selves all of the time.

"Well what has this got to do with anything?", you ask. Well I'll tell you.

The language that we see online today, in the form of IM conversations, e-mail, irc and forum posts, is usually a far cry from what we see in, say, the articles of nytimes.com. Sure, some people plain just don't know how to write, but that's usually not the problem. I'm normally something of a grammar nazi (although my spelling is horrible), both when it comes to English and Swedish. But after reading the first paragraph of this article, I had an epiphany. (This might not have been what the article was about at all, I just HAD to blog about it before I lost my train of though. Writing stuff down helps us eliminate the problems with keeping language and thoughts fresh in our memory banks).

What if the way that people write in these mediums, IMs and irc, is just a representation of how they'd want to say something, but can't, because of a) the fact that the internet is based on text, not sound, and b) because the "ephemeral nature of speech" (there we have it again) is a poor carrier of information. Sure, most of these people could probably formulate proper sentences, and use proper punctuation and whatnot, but they choose not to. Not because is would take longer, or require more effort on their part, but rather that they want to convey information in the same language (form of expression, rather than the kind that differs from country to country) that they would, had the person or persons been present in the room with them.

I might have to start cutting people some slack for their horrible language habits on irc, because whether they know it or not, they might be trying to communicate with me on a different, less formal level than I had previously anticipated.

People who know me will tell you that I in no way condone actions that allows language to degenerate into guttertalk (or newspeak, for that matter), but in light of this recent discovery, I might have to revise my view of the world.

OR, I've just gone too long without a proper acid flashback... (a.k.a I must be slipping in my old age).

Speaking of old age, I saw in my blogger profile that I was born in the year of the sheep.
Seems more like I was born in the year of the critters from StarCraft who bray "bah-ram-ewe" when you poke 'em...

Ohh, and I have the cow from distributed.net as my Do Not Disconnect image on my iPod.
Espy sans is a much better font than that horrid thing you're stuck with by default.


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