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March 19, 2008

"the future is text"

an early media company (forgot their name) made t-shirts in the early 90's. "the future is text". Of course they were right: Google. How about now? Still the future? Been reading Amazon.com: The User Illusion by Tor Norretranders and thinking about how little info is encoded in text versus speech or video. No intonation, no smirks, unless you count the less than subtle emoticon, or perhaps a font named "Sarcasm Bold" (come on Emigre, why don't you have a series based on emotional states yet?). In any case, maybe the ambiguity is what makes text so powerful: fuzziness = a greater range of possible meanings = myths and quasi-myths that correspond to our own wishes/thoughts.

Twitter with its bizarre/random limitations and restrictions is a retreat for those craving fuzziness? A cave? Like in Plato's cave, maybe, but here the shadows are 140 characters long.

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Comments (4)

Plato's cave, I like that. As clarity increases, connection decreases. Think about relationships: the closest seem to live in a constant fuzziness of how that "love" or "commitment" can be defined, yet you don't doubt it exists. But the relationship between me and my boss? Clear, defined... and very limited. Depth brings diffusion by definition.

Posted by: Dylan Richards at March 19, 2008 5:50 PM

I think the lack of information encoded in text can force people to write more clearly if they're trying to get across a difficult or contentious point. Of course, it also means there's a LOT of room for misinterpretation.

Posted by: Waider at March 19, 2008 6:30 PM

Dear Ze,
It's not that there is less information in text: it's that it is stored someplace else. Although a given combination of letters has a limited number of "bits", the information contained in a sentence is limitless. The nuances of syntax, of style and even grammar can make the same words -in the same sentence, even perhaps in the same order- mean different things. The information is not on the words: it is in our collective memory. "the night was dark and stormy" is not the same as "it was a dark and stormy night".
And yet you are, in a sense, correct. But the constraints words place on communication force writers to innovate and probe the depths of the mental process of reading in order to communicate more than the meaning of words.

Posted by: Linkt at March 20, 2008 3:30 AM

Since I signed up for twitter last year, I've found that the 140 character limitation has actually helped my writing.

I've gotten into the practice of using succinct composition and grammar in order to convey my thoughts clearly and with as little truncation, SMS-shorthand and compound tweets as possible.

Of all the so called "web2.0" services out there, I've gotten the most traction with twitter, both at the desktop and via my Helio when I'm on the go.

[Blackwatch Team]

Posted by: Macross Actual at March 20, 2008 10:09 AM

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