Friday, 8 June 2007

4th June

This week I went about printing the final visual outcomes of the diagnostic brief. The final outcomes were based around using text speak productively to experiment and enquire as to how far it can be taken as a linguistic system of abbreviation and simplification. How far could text speak change the language?

I began looking through books and brainstorming whereabouts I might find information/essays/writing on the English language. If I intend to show the change in langauge due to text speak then I can do this by writing the chosen article in text jargon. This would mean the content of the writing wouldn't have to be based on the idea that language is being changed by text speak. Maybe it is something more subtle. Maybe writings from centuries ago. Maybe something written on the concept of change itself. I found a passage online which questioned the english language's capacity for the speed and density of information in today's world and the fact that it may need to change. This seemed fitting for the intentions of my work. Putting it into text speak meant immediately offering a solution to the article.

The article seemed strong enough alone and needed no further writings of a similar nature so I asked myself what else could be presented to support the article. What strikes me about the subject of text speak is that every English speaker seems to have quite a clear opinion on the subject - be it neutral, for or against. The number of opinions on each side tend to be balanced also. It seemed perfect then to take comments from the internet (which addressed interesting issues on text speak and some quite strong opinions) and display them in text speak.

Having done this I thought it necessary to look further at applying text speak to standard English. Would it work on older or poetic forms of English? I thought probably not but it was a nice surprise to find that it did work. When I think about it, it would of course work because text speak is based on phonetics alone. So writing various poems in text speak was another step forward and highlighted certain polysyllabic words which are very visually interesting when put into text speak.

Using illustrator I was able to explore interesting ways of visually presenting the material. I learned in the week prior one or two valuable tricks regarding the relationship of image and type. It has been difficult to use university facilities other than digital processes because of the end of year business and the lack of tutors available to offer help. I still do not feel fully confident in workshops if there is no-one there to direct me from time to time which has been the case recently. Nonetheless I don't believe using any other process would have been as effective as the digital for my subject of enquiry as it itself is a technological issue. It would be interesting to see the article I used in text speak printed in letterpress but I simply don't have the time to lay out so many letters.

In any case I feel I have researched this project in a very productive fashion. Three weeks ago I saw text speak stereotypically as the occupation of young illiterate texters. It was only until I realised its power as a linguistic system that I found it to be a significant possible evolution in English. I feel I have approached the subject in an original way and have gained a good understanding of its value in visual communication for the future.

Friday, 1 June 2007

28th May

The tutorial this week was a good use of time to establish where I stood with the work I have done so far. It seems I have done almost all of the research needed to understand what it is I am looking at. There are only so many examples of text messages and arguments on the subject that I can collect before it gets repetitive. The fact seems to be that there are three groups of people.

The first group is of text-speakers who are mostly young people. This could be coincidence but probably isn't. Mobile phone companies target the younger, 'hip' generation. School pupils with hundreds of contacts from school will text each other all day, every day. There are even text therapy sessions available for those with an addiction to spending money on their phone for texting purposes. These younger users generally say that text-speak is quicker and easier. There was even a case of a 13 year old pupil who wrote an English essay in text-speak. The adults of this group are more inclined to text now and then but many of whom admit they use text-speak because it is quicker. They seem to accept text-speak as long as it is understandable and not overly abbreviated.

The second group is none-text-speakers, those who don't text and some English teachers. These people are of all ages and seem to be neutral to the changes in language due to texting. They are at ease with texting full words and simply choose not to use text-speak. Those who do not text are open to the change of the language because it walks hand in hand with the change of technology and information.

The third group is of texters, non-texters and many English teachers who are completely against the change for reasons which have not been given in their comments online. This group of people are again of all ages and are quicker to insult those who use text-speak than they are to outline their reasons for hostility. They generally argue the English language is beautiful and wonderful and spelling is important and meaningful and that text-speak is destroying the language. What is ironic is that in English language classes pupils are almost always taught about the changes in the English language. I myself remember being taught about the necessity for change in language. But when such change is affiliated with the younger generations it seems to be immediately stigmatised because of the apparent lack of understanding in younger people.

Reading an article online which pondered how clever young people were to have taken the language and modified it to fit it into 160 characters was very interesting as it was true. The way young people did this illustrated their grasp of the phonetics of the language and how easily rules could be bended whilst retaining the meaning of the information.

Up to this point I have researched the subject. I have looked at it from different angles - in terms of history, in regards to the current English examination specifications, in conjunction with foreign languages which are 'suffering' the same changes. French, the most self-conscious language of all, has even been reported of having been written in text-speak by some users. I have collected examples of abbreviations and scrutinised text-speak itself. I have read articles and comments on the use of text-speak and kept an honestly unbiased stance. I say unbiased because I myself do not use text-speak in its fullest and, as I said before, am enthusiastic to retain 'proper spelling'. Furthermore I understand the outcome of this development in text-speak is out of my hands and thus I merely wish to commentate its progress and meaning. I have acknowledged the link between text-speak and technology (not youth culture). I have analyzed the typeface apparent in text messages and its possible uses. I visually expressed words and phrases on the subject of text-speak and am beginning to pursue the modification of information in order to compress it without losing detail (as text-speak does with its 160 character limit).

What remains now is to question text-speak. After all it is only succesful as far as I know as an abbreviator of casual vocabulary. What are you doing tonight? Where are we going to meet? How are you? These questions are typical of text messages. They are informal because text messaging is an informal medium of communication. Text-speak can deal with such casual vocabulary because the words are short and the frequency of their use is enormous. I doubt text-speak could be applied to essays on political history or business practice and thus there may be room for experiment here as the final work. Finding essays/articles etc which range in formality of vocabulary may difficult. The subject of these articles will be significant - so I will have to decide what they should be about. Putting an essay on a general history of the english language into text speak may be rewarding as a subtle expression of my subject. I am assuming now that more heavily worded essays would be more difficult to abbreviate but I will have to try it out to be sure - hopefully I am wrong. If I am not wrong then text-speak may have to be passed off as a simplifier of the language with limited ability to simplify longer words.

21st May

This week I did not receive a tutorial as Anthony had to speak to some other people but I was confident my new intentions of researching text message language was an adequate line of enquiry. I had intended to print my letterpress design during this week but when I got round to getting into the letterpress room I found myself leaving just as quickly thanks to the third year student who decided to take all of the table space in the room for her non-letterpress work. I did start to wonder what I was paying for in this university when my access to every room other than those used for examination was strictly limited.

Having established my subject for the project I started out on my research by looking through internet articles and books in the library which address the idea of text message language or text-speak and its changing effect on the English language. Unfortunately I have been thus far unable to find work by artists which looks at the rising technological language. Keyword searches in the library can only take you so far so I may still yet find an artist to study and relate to. Teresa Monachino's book Words Fail Me was an interesting viewpoint of a learner of the English language. She addresses her qualms and confusions with the language and communicates them very simply using few colours and effective layout. I thought the way she communicated these situations with words could be helpful to my own visualisations. Reading her book made me understand how many illogical systems and flaws lie within the language already. Maybe it isn't so bad tht peepl r strtn 2 spk lk this. Usually it is extremely irritating to me when people spell things incorrectly unless it could be a typing error. However I may just be reciprocating the same feelings about spelling that people in the past have had - like my English teacher. After all language is only there to communicate. I suppose I care about correct spelling because I fear that if it changes I may have to re-learn certain words.

This is no doubt the case with many people today who argue against the development of text-speak. They fear the language will change too quickly - that they'll need to learn new words. They scorn at those who use text-speak because they think they're linguistically challenged or that they're rebellious to the oh-so-praised works of Shakespeare and Blake etc. These poets and writers no doubt had a huge grasp of the language in their days. Today however, we have mobile phones and the internet. Information is in vast quantities and we want this information in it's entirety and we want it now. Many anti-text-speakers fail to see that the new patterns in language usage are not the result of juvenile, linguistic wrecklessness but rather of necessity. It has been necessary for people to abbreviate their words in text messages due to the 160 character limit which is purely for the service provider's financial benefit. If the change in language is caused by this necessity then we are talking about a language of technology. Shakespeare himself was known to have several spelling variations of his name and even made up new words for the language due to the emotive subjects of his scripts. Today we are finding the need for change with technology. If a language does not change to accomodate new ideas (broadband)/objects (mobile phones)/actions (emailing and googling) then it fails as a tool of communication. Reading certain comments made by internet users on the subject of text-speak it was clear that some people have misunderstood language. 'The English language is something to be proud of' - this is what was written by one anti-text-speak user. I was confused by this comment. Writers and poets in the past have used the language creatively and elegantly. They have been playful with the words. The language itself has changed for hundreds of years. But the language isn't there to be elegant and fancy and rhythmical. It is simply for communcation.

I doubt most of the abbreviations in text-speak will survive as time goes on unless I am underestimating the amount of people who text using extreme abbreviation. It could be that shorter words like two/too/to may be substituted for '2'. The phonetic value of text-speak is enormous. This is what is causing numerals like 2, 4, 8 and 1 to be used as words. I haven't yet seen any other numerals being used as phonetic abbreviations but it is possible to use 3/5/6/7/9 on some occasions. Other abbreviations like 'b' for be/bee, 'u' for you/ewe/ew/oo and 'n' for and/en/no/in are the more basic text-speak phrases which are the first to be used by those adopting text-speak.

It seems to me that being able to link this change in the language with events of change from history may argue my point subtly but clearly enough. Subtle messsages are usually more desirable and effective than obvious ones. My intention is to convey the fact that a linguistically able person who appreciates the English language all the same is not against change in the language which is intentional. Not against text-speak. It may look uglier but it sounds exactly the same. Those who love Shakespeare for instance, probably do not see that it is the sound of Shakespeare that they love and not necessary how it looks written down. Text-speak is simply a different way of writing English, not speaking it.
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