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MONDAY, JULY 04, 2011
<<shari.w>> 해녀 says:
lmao man i totally fell down the stairs today and
<<shari.w>> 해녀 says:
my pantss fell completley down in front of like 10 ppl
Say Goodnight and Go says:
This is why I hate pants. Idle pants are the Devil's tools.


As a young pseudo-writer/artist/arts student/hack, living in an area largely populated by the same, I'm pretty well-versed in the ways in which hipster cred is pursued and achieved. A certain distance is good; don't laugh too loud, never act like you're really impressed. Trendy politics are big, particularly when it comes to sexual politics. Creativity is good, emo is bad, creativity with a slight emo edge is best. Drugs you can take or leave, though you're encouraged to choose one or the other and take it to the extreme. Individuality is ironic. Consumerism is good when it comes to (countercultural) fashion, just don't tell anybody. And that's what it comes down to: aesthetics. You can take any of the things on the admittedly non-extensive list above, say fuck that, and do the complete opposite and you'll still have hipster cred. You can play the individuality card, or the "defiantly mainstream" card to defend anything deviating from the hipster norm. Except for aesthetics. In short, clothes are more significant than politics in defining a hipster. The way a hipster talks is more important than what s/he says.

In addition to my other illustrious titles, I'm also an unabashed kid of the cyber-generation. I have several instant messaging programs on my computer, I send and receive around 100 texts/day, I've experienced the evolution of social networking sites firsthand and yes, I have a facebook account. I'm completely surrounded by people mediating these modes of communication: changing thoughts into speech into text to send off or post. I've noticed, which should hardly come as a surprise, that no one's fashion of "talking" on (over?) MSN or AIM matches exactly their natural speech. Some people's speech survives the translation to page relatively unaffected, but even then there are always little anomalies present. Maybe the fact that the interaction is not face-to-face makes them bold, and they'll call you "babe" or "honey" unexpectedly. Maybe they'll use gangster slang they would never actually say aloud in any seriousness. Of course, some people's manner changes entirely online. People who use the Internet for social networking tend to build online personas, which seem to be a blend of who they wish to be in face-to-face social settings and who they think they actually are.

More than anyone, hipsters have made me aware of the artificiality that springs up somewhere between mind, mouth, and keyboard. For some reason, hipsters tend to use perfect punctuation and grammar. Whether it be in text messages or on MSN, hipsters construct beautiful, typo-free sentences that I would use in essays. Capitalization and correct punctuation along with aloof wit. Their tendencies to call you "kid" or "lady" or "my dear" or any other edgy quaintness intensify. When capitalization is not present it is presumed purposeful, à la e.e. cummings: cool, rebellious. They refuse to laugh at or acknowledge any hilarity with a genuine "haha" or even a meager, cold "lol" here or there, instead responding with some clever and unimpressed line (even when I'm really funny!!). Basically, they pump up the distance in formality and make it cool. They resist the tendency to lol-monger on MSN and thus prove their difference.

I will be the first to admit that seeing correct grammar as a signifier of high artificiality in text-speech is a little fucked up. My lefty instincts initially saw this purely as the class struggle of the educated, upper/middle-class artisan with language (hence the high levels of artificiality) against the uneducated, lower-class everyman who speaks plainly to convey meaning (thus, low levels of artificiality). But there's got to be more going on. Why? Because the last thing most hipsters would ostensibly want to do (or admit to doing) is side with the bourgeois in any conflict. I'm left wondering: is it about aesthetics? The aesthetics of language and the physical aesthetics of the text as it appears on a page? I'm not even sure if there exists such a thing as a line that is more appealing on some level than another, purely on the basis of its physical appearance.

To be fair, I may just be ruined for IM'ing and a healthy online life by years of having literary analytical techniques pummeled into my conscious and subconscious mind. My reaction to written language is definitely different than my reaction to oral communication... Reading tends to put me in an analytical mode, whereas my analysis of body language/speech tones in a face-to-face interaction is generally lamented as terrible. Basically, my reading of text is better than my reading of faces, which is some sad shit in and of itself.

It goes without saying that the reading of text-speech is as subjective as any reading. I may therefore be reading and interpreting text-speech incorrectly when it comes to the hipsters. However, I don't think its "looking too much into things" to wonder about how our text-speech communication works and where it fails. As evidenced by hipsters (and almost everyone who uses text-based communication regularly), a certain amount of deliberation goes into word choice that is not as easily afforded by the instantaneous face-to-face conversation. And people who are experienced IM'ers do recognize that. In a sense, people expect that there is a kind of general, text-speech iterability which they can reference in their text-based communication with others to be understood. Otherwise why bother going to the trouble of "creating" yourself online? This iterability, unlike that of general language's, would be expected to encompass all the mechanical aspects of speech, as well as their tonal implications. I'm just not convinced we're there yet. A small example: in a discussion about the tonal differences of "haha" and "lol" with several friends, I discovered that I was in the minority who believed "haha" represented a more genuine laugh and "lol" represented a polite, insincere laugh. A few who disagreed with my interpretation stated that they took "lol" to literally represent the act of genuinely laughing out loud. It's not that people don't think about these things, it's that we're interpreting things differently.

Are IM'ing and texting then more like fictional written genres like novels and poetry? That is, are they there for creative acts of interpretation? Or are they more often used as bald forms of communication? It probably depends on who you're asking, which only begs more questions.
Comments

Alamir

Alamir

I think you nailed it in your second last paragraph. To add to what you were saying, it's the interpretations of the iterations by the reader that also dictate heavily how we write. To use your example of people who use more gangster-slang in IMs than in public, some people do so because that slang has become an iteration in the "virtual" world and not their public one.

I have a program on my IM that doesn't only automatically change my misspelt words such as "teh" to "the" but can also accept any corrections that I provide. So I made "lol" turn to "I'm laughing out loud right now." That is, when I type "lol" the reader will automatically read the full sentence that "I'm laughing out loud right now." I also changed "Cya" to "Goodbye, I hope that we'll meet soon sometime" and "g2g" to "I'm sorry but I have to leave immediately, please email me if you need to speak anymore." The result? It was horrible. The iterations were analyzed heavily in that people actually read them. So that rather than taking my "lols" as just a general message of my amusement, they interpreted it as me actually laughing out loud because the text would change from the acronym to the full sentence. And if I were to type "g2g," people, who would only see the automatic sentence it generated, would actually respond back with long sentences back; Whereas before they'd only respond with a "k" and thus allow me to actually "go" from the conversation as quickly as possible. I ended up having to remove a lot of the automatic corrections.

Hogan

Hogan

Nice stuff, Shari. I have too much to say to say it right now, so we should hang out; no intant messaging, face to face (not facebook to facebook).

You're speaking with a McLuhan accent in that piece, then again, anything to do with modern communication technology is associated with him. Like you pointed out, different media make people say different things, like using "babe" or "kid" when face to face they never would. And you can flirt heavily over chat, then see them in the flesh the next day like nothing was said. But if it was said in person it'd be inappropriate. I guess this is a bit of "the medium is the message".

Same with "lol" vs. "haha", or even Alamir's back-firing abbreviation expansions. It's the medium that's making a big difference. Sometimes I take "lol" as a warm indication that I made someone last, other times I feel it as a "cold 'lol'", as you put it. I like "haha" better because it sounds like the speech would. It seems more real, even if it isn't. "lol" on the other hand, is curt and familiar, easy to type, so it comes off like a brush-off.

As for you, Alamir, you should have known that "I'm laughing out loud right now" would cause a disturbance in the grammar-hostile arena of digital text. That sort of translation, from "lol" to that, is like spelling out why you're waving to someone while waving at them, or that you are laughing while plainly laughing in front of someone. It seems condescending and sarcastic. McLuhan would explain it away by saying it's the medium - not the content - that matters more.

There's a lot of "putting on" that McLuhan talks about, and you, Shari, talk about "'creating' yourself online". McLuhan would say we're putting on a mask, an identity, and that we "put on" the audience. Exactly like what online personalities are: a mask you put on to "put on" your audience. It's a "put on", a cover, a gag, an illusion.

Anyway, enough McLuhan echoing. I only do so because he gave us a decently useful way of talking about technology which seems to be holding up. We need to tinker with him a bit, though.

The whole piece was great, if rambly, like you told me. And I like the last line. I'm glad you're online here now, too!



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