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10 September 2008
Text messaging as cultural artifact

One hundred forty characters. Do you, or a teen you know, measure your life in text messages? How do they shape us? Be brief, be wise. Go.

1. What does text messaging assume about the way the world is?

It assumes that the world can be captured and explained in sound bites, like a 30-second jingle.

Marriah Star

It assumes dat d ppl u most nd 2 communicate w spk ur lngwij & have acces 2 d sAm teknoloG u do.


I feel gross now.

Charlie Park

It assumes we want to be in constant communication with others, even if such communication is not so personal.

Kevin Sanders

It assumes that I can connect to whoever and whenever

Eddy E

it assumes that what we say is more important than how we say it

brian
2. What does text messaging assume about the way the world should be?

It assumes that a wired world should connect every person on a second-by-second basis, almost like a Vulcan mind meld

Marriah Star

It assumes that the world should be connected. It points to an equality in human relationships, where we can connect across culture, language, time and space.

Eddy E
3. What does text messaging make possible?

It facilitates the redefinition of news to encompass everything happening around us, and it allows everyone to report on everything. Thus, we all become observers and reporters of life.

Marriah Star

Especially when messages are public (Twitter), it creates an instant zeitgeist (recognizing that the perspective is from a specific class).

Charlie Park

Also, it enables an awareness of details about friends’ lives that would normally be too mundane (or private) to report (ambient intimacy).

Charlie Park

It lets me leave for the airport when my visitor tells me the flight is arriving (as opposed to the scheduled arrival).

Paul Grant

Impressive dexterity with my fingers.

Kevin Sanders

It allows for conversation and connection to happen on my terms.

Eddy E

allows for positive moments of conversation in a busy world when coupled with intentional deeper talk time. Great Tool!

michael drager

It enables me to communicate with groups of friends simultaneously (like when initiating hanging out time) and to communicate with people when I don’t know if they are available for a phone call and can reply at their leisure.

—Chris Francis
4. What does text messaging make impossible (or at least a lot more difficult)?

It limits, or eliminates, a deeper understanding of the world by truncating and reducing language. Messages lose their content because the medium is so limited.

Marriah Star

It can make it more difficult to keep boundaries and avoid the “urgent”—for those who don’t know when to turn off their cell phones.

Kevin Sanders

Depth of community, friendship and connection. In effect it makes true friendship more difficult.

Eddy E

Txts make it very difficult to pay attention in class.

—Melissa PierreSaint
5. What new culture is created in response?

People stop having conversations with each other. They simply become producers and consumers of fragments of information, with less ability to see the forest instead of the trees. It replaces thick culture (deep meaning, highly symbolic value) with thin culture (no meaning, low importance).

Marriah Star

In the words of a friend: “I no longer have conversations – I have grammatical encounters.”

Charlie Park

A culture of constant interaction. At it’s best, this invites us to realize that we are not islands and are created for relationships, at it’s worst, it cheapens and redefines how we relate with one another.

Eddy E

Two answers ripped from the headlines this weekend: The Rocky Mountain News Twitters from a funeral for a 3-year-old (http://twitter.com/RMN_Berny) and investigators say that the engineer of a crashed commuter train may have been texting (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/15/us/15crash.html). Yikes.

Andy Crouch