05 June 2007

The Problem with Language in Virtuality

I might be stating the obvious here, but with all the strikes against communicating effectively as it is - communicating in a virtual world is, well, virtually impossible.

But not quite.

It for sure has it's challenges; one of the most obvious being that we don't have the benefit of non-verbals, body language, or other 'cues' to help us out.

If I say, "You're trouble!" and I'm screaming and holding a sharp object you'll get one meaning. Whereas if I say the same words with a smile and a wink, you'll get an entirely different meaning (and may want to yourself scream and hold a sharp object).

Mere letters online can't tell this. You can type - "YOU'RE TROUBLE", or you can type - "You're trouble ;-)" and you can infer some meaning, but for the most part, you're stuck with educated guesses.

For example, in a previous blog I made the comment, "The Evangelical Church doesn't know how to love."

This raised all sorts of problems with people saying things like, "We'll some of the most loving people I know are Evangelicals." A handful of people seemed to be deeply offended.

Now, in reading the subtext of the blog, and knowing me as a person, and gaining understanding through conversation with me (rather than having me be one of the last to know) could have alleviated much confusion. Though I felt justified in defending my off the cuff broad-stroked statement, I also must fully accept blame and responsibility for saying such a thing in a virtual world where all eyes can see and read, aware that most people don't know me, and would not be forth rite enough to try and gain further understanding.

There's no 1-2 step answer to make this 'virus of language' go away. Communication in a virtual world however is here to stay and will progressively increase, close to exponentially.

Which means that we must be aware of how our thoughts and intentions are displayed on paper - or rather a computer screen.

So in conclusion, I'd just like to say,
"The Evangelical Church knows how to love..... kinda, in some cases..." ;-)


sonja said...

To be more precise (and precision with language is one of my great and dear loves).

An institution cannot love. Love is a human emotion/action. Thus, the Evangelical Church can only promote or not promote loving behavior by its adherents.

So. We all know some very loving evangelicals. But on the whole, many evangelicals are not loving. Thus, it cannot be said that the Evangelical Church promotes love as one of it's tenets.

How 'bout them apples? ;-)

David said...

Wow, I wish could have said that back when,,,

I like your thinking.

Sally said...

good post- and thought provoking- I wonder sometimes how what we write is recieved, we naturally hear our tone of voice emphasis etc- but it all gets lost in the text!