Today JP and Andrew – two digital migrants (born before 1980) gave a lecture about the Internet to a room full of digital natives (born after 1980). The effect was brilliant.
Being born within a certain era we tend to take the things around us for granted, not paying enough attention and not analysing them. When we actually stop to think about the times that we are living in one of the first thing that we realise is how much the Internet is a part of our every day life.
In the late 1960s Canadian communication theoretic Marshal McLuhan studied the impact television has on our lives. His work decades after is still relevant and fits into the world discussion about the Internet. He argued that ‘the medium is the message’ putting emphasis on the impact the surrounding technology has on the message and the message it produces along coming from the nature of the medium.
In 1996 40 million people were connected to the Internet out of 5.8 billion. Current world population is over 7.4 billion and in it over 3.3 billion people are Internet users (www.worldometers.info/world-population/). Looking at this data we can see how fast the Internet is spreading. With such a vast appearance no one can argue that it hasn’t affected our lives. One aspect has been affected in particular: our language.
New technologies bring with them new words. Such as spine, page, margin (printed books), lens, flash, exposure, memory card (photography), program, commercial, pilot (TV) and so on. A new set of words is an interference to our language. Our language is already so extensive that we can construct a sentence no one has ever used before in the human history. Here is my example:
‘Pink elephants tail got stuck in a round silk door after his wife accused him of having eaten all the mangos.’
Analysing the impact medium has on the message I send my sentence as a text to my sister (without any introduction). That was her response:
As a part of our lecture we were asked to email our sentence to our tutor.
As you can see the message has been altered as the used medium itself contains its own message. The simple fact that its an email carries with it a sense of formality (even if the message on its own isn’t). The structure of the message changes when its spoken and when its written. As British actor Ben Crystal said “We speak in thoughts and we write in sentences”.
The medium that is somewhere in between this two realms (spoken/written language) is the chat. Using chat we often write as we think. That’s why the misspellings are so common in that medium. How often have you seen this sign ‘*’?
While using chat we can also add emoticons to support our message and in a way make up for the mediums disadvantages. Some had even tried to limit the message to emoticons. We can explore the change of the original message that happens when put into different medium by looking at Penguin Random House’ ‘OMG Shakespeare Series’. The series introduces Shakespeare’s plays all in texts using emoticons.
As we explored the impact the chosen medium has on the message in a nutshell it is hard to argue with McLuhan’s point that ‘The Medium is the Message’.
- Crystal, D., Change.
- ELTNEWS (2012) Fry and Laurie on Language.mov. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ij1pZvv9m0g (Accessed: 29 February 2016).
- Marshall McLuhan (2016) Available at: http://www.marshallmcluhan.com (Accessed: 3 February 2016).
- Steyerl, H. (2012) ‘In Defense of the Poor Image’, in The Wretched of the Screen – E-flux Journal. Berlin: Sternberg Press.