Monday, October 27, 2008

All Thumbs

In "Thumbspeak," Louis Menand comments on text messaging for the New Yorker in the context of reviewing Txtng: The Gr8 Db8 from Oxford University Press. The author of the book, linguist David Crystal, argues that the phenomena still accounts for a relatively small percentage of total utterages, although the role of global English and code-switching behaviors in the text messaging of multilingual members of many different national groups points to some significant developments in usage. He also points to a story close to home, in which a Metrolink engineer in Southern California was texting just before a disastrous commuter train crash to illustrate how continuous send-and-receive norms differ from the communication patters of desktop computer users. Although much of the book points to abbreviated forms of prose, many researchers also assert that standard written English is surprisingly important to young texters, a finding that my own anecdotal experiences with my own teen seems to confirm.

Of course, there can still be a certain poetics to text messaging, particularly in the current political climate in which "smart mobs" may have certain kinds of electoral agency, as NPR's story "St. Louis Voters Discuss Struggles, Election Hopes" makes clear in describing how African-Americans are disseminating more lyric messages to express their collective aspirations.

The trainees' instructor, Ed Welch, was listening to the conversation; he mentions a text message he got from a friend urging him to vote.

The message read: "Rosa sat so Martin could walk. Martin walked, so Obama could run. Obama is running so our children can fly."

Update: the Washington Post provides more analysis of the use of texting by the Obama campaign at "What Next for Obama's Text-Messaging Database?"

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home