The changing ways in which humans communicate

How Virtual Reality Has Changed the English Language and the Way Humans Communicate

Introduction

Is it noise or content?

One of the wonderful consequences of spending far too much time ‘blogging’ is the connections that I have made over the last 27 months.  I have come across a wonderful range of interesting writers and learnt so much more from those links.  However, that’s not all, by a long chalk.  A number of you have offered to contribute an essay to Learning from Dogs. (And if you are reading this and would like to offer a guest post then ‘fill your boots!‘ )

So it was that a few weeks ago I received an email from Alexa Russell.  She offered me a guest post that I found very interesting, leading to it being published today.

I asked Alexa to write a little about herself, to which she replied, “I am a freelance writer who likes to write about technology, education and the changing nature of society. I am currently considering graduate school but fear being scared off by mounting costs and diminishing returns.”

So onto the post, which Alexa explains is about the ways in which virtual reality and digital devices change how we humans communicate and use the English language.  Alexa is the author of several resources on studying English and the value in earning anEnglish PhD.  Here she asks what Learning from Dogs has previously wondered — do we need to understand language in order to get the message?

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How Virtual Reality Has Changed the English Language and the Way Humans Communicate

Technology has changed the way we communicate in some obvious (and occasionally obnoxious) ways. Grammar, punctuation, and even a more general respect for lexical rules have diminished in favor of speed and facility in text messages, which are now the most common communicative tool. Probably more periods have been omitted in the last two days than in the hundreds of years since the Gutenberg Bible. None will be omitted here, but maybe they should be.

As social networks expand, making an acquaintance at a coffee shop can easily translate to a lifetime connection – thanks to Facebook. And finally, there is a way to sever contact without engaging in direct conflict – defriending. The funniest thing about defriending is that it is usually considered as an unimpeachable revocation, as starkly offensive as a breakup – when in fact the message has not even crossed the digital threshold to the real world.

As virtual reality and networks progress, so too do our attempts to understand exactly what has happened and may happen to our grip on physical reality. There are a myriad of movies that attempt to explore the subject: The Matrix, Inception, and Avatar, to name a few of the most popular. In The Matrix, Neo discovers that he can will himself to do anything, move with almost infinite speed, gain superman strength, as long as he can carry that belief to his avatar in The Matrix. In Avatar, the protagonist cannot walk in real life but is then given a taller, stronger, more agile host to control. Inception tests the boundaries of the physical, as well as the emotional, as the virtual realities of the “hacked” mind have real impact on his or her emotional truth.

The conclusions that all of these movies come to is the same, albeit shocking fact: virtual reality has real-world effects. Neo can die if he believes he has died. Love can transfer from the blue, tall, strong, avatar to the avatar’s handicapped controller. Inception controls the outlook and actions of an individual well beyond the confines of the dreamworld. It can even come to define the rest of the dreamer’s life.

Virtual reality allows us to shed our physical shells and our weak points. There is nothing holding us back from becoming what or who we want to be. The zits and potbellies of real life give way to what is being communicated. Equally, as in the Matrix, World of Warcraft and even in NASA’s new medical diagnosis virtual reality for astronauts, skills can be learned more quickly than ever will be possible in real life. The NASA device gives astronauts an instant how-to guide, which will enable them to collect data and provide diagnoses as if they had years of medical school under their belts.

So, it really shouldn’t be all that surprising that grammar, punctuation, and spelling have lost a lot of their importance. When people communicate through a virtual medium, they can forget things like academic training and rules of grammar. The value of training and rules is diminishing. It is the essence of the message, not its style, that matters. The biggest question, however  is, can you understand the essence?

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You can understand why it was such a pleasure to receive Alexa’s essay!  And the question left in the air, so to speak, in her closing sentence, is one of huge import.  As we add to, or is it replace, our tradition of the ‘spoken’ word with this new-world of staccato speak, what’s happening to the essence of the message!

I do hope that Alexa will grace these pages again.

8 thoughts on “The changing ways in which humans communicate

  1. That was gr8. Tx. 🙂

    Being serious, I hate thy way that digital communication is, without any doubt in my own mind, stealing from people any ability they might otherwise have – potentially or in actuality – to use written language properly.

    Of course, that final word is the key: What right do I have to say that texting people is improper use of English? As for the deviant social experiment known as Facebook, I think this brilliant video says it all (very clever since there is no dialogue):

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      1. On You Tube, there is also an interesting copy-cat rebuttal video (i.e. defending FB users against the accusation of being “social perverts” [etc]), which is worth watching too…

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    1. If the original is viewed on You Tube, this should appear automatically as “Re: you need to get off facebook”… I love the way Emily has copied the format exactly (including music and facial expressions).

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  2. Maybe in the not too distant future we shall only be communicating via phones and computers and not have the spoken word!! I must admit I abbreviate the dickens out of my words when I text, it’s habitual. As far as learning the ABC’s and talking properly and writing correctly…apart from the parents being the first mentors, the teachers have to carry it through…if they don’t and we don’t persevere…this next generation will hardly know how to communicate if they don’t have FB in front of them or a phone!

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