So last week I had to present more on the “context” of my thesis, but I didn’t really get into the details of the projects I showed – why I loved/hated them or how exactly I saw them fitting into my area of research. I also thought of/discovered a few more after the fact. Most importantly, though, I never managed to post ANY of that here. So here goes.
Oh, and just in case you forgot, I’m exploring how communication technologies shape interpersonal relationships. Or how they shape our conversations. Or how our social interpretations shape communications technology. Or something. They’re all related you see!
Ze Frank was on to something here when he did this little video about what goes on between the lines of an email. It’s all done in good fun, but the truth is, the lack of emotion of an email is one of the things that make it such a useful tool. Perhaps because we’ve all been trained by interoffice communication, it’s most often used for coordination and other dry administrative type communications.
So what didn’t I like about this project? Well, just Ze Frank, really.
Next up is the email typewriter which I thought of in the shower one day, only to google it and to find that it had already been made (damn!). So what’s cool about this project is the way that it instills one communication technology with the characteristics of another. Sitting down to a typewriter is such a different experience than sitting down to write an email. There’s the sound, the feeling of the keys, the feeling of finality, the linearness with which it forces you to write, many of the same things I ascribe to letter writing, but with a more official feel.
The problem with this project is just that, though. An email is not a typewritten letter because you don’t write an email with a typewriter. It’s cool that the two channels can physically intersect, but the fact that it’s the physicality (mostly) of those two channels that makes them produce such different forms of content, just makes the whole thing really uncomfortable. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it still makes you think about form and content and whatever, but I just can’t help thinking of all those poor typewritten letters written by grandma, and how her grandchildren just dread getting them in their email inboxes.
On that note, though, I can’t rag too much, as this did inspire one of my weekly experiments (to come!).
Next, I mentioned clipfm, which Jonah recommended that I check out, before the semester started. I can’t really take this project more seriously than just seeing it as some kind of commentary on the flippancy of sms messaging. Most of these are messages that no one should ever send, yet they are somehow eerily familiar to those pre-programmed text messages that come with your phone, or just about any ridiculous message from your drunk friend that you’ve ever gotten. I filed this one under “things that are technically possible, somehow in keeping with the technology that enables it, but just shouldn’t be done.” This is a social matter, obviously, and, fortunately, we are mostly “right” in the codes of contact that we socially construct. Another one that I’ll keep in this pile is the iPhone Shuffle, which Alex sent to me the day before my presentation.
Not to get too picky here, but what I don’t like about this project, or rather, what I’d like to try to avoid in coming up with my own, is, again, the form and function mix up, at least, if it’s not intentional. These are all very short messages that make sense to type on a mobile keypad, yet they are being sent from a web page. Again, I think that mixing mediums is interesting, but, like the email typewriter, I just can’t be sure if that was one of the intentions.
Another project Jonah referred me to was Social Mobiles. These are a pretty fun commentary on the ways that people inappropriately use their mobile phones. The problem is, I don’t think that using your phone in public is socially inappropriate anymore. Annoying? Yes! But the fact that most phone calls (even those made on a landline) are made in the presence of others makes me think that this usage has indeed stood the test of time and social scrutiny.
They’re still fun though.
Last, and probably my favoritist of all, is this person’s blog. I know, I know. But just look at it will you? This person has managed to recreate an entirely rich and amuzing portrait of their life and character, just through text messaging! The technology has obviously enabled some new way of communication for this person, perhaps even a new artform.
My only problem with this is the fact that it’s public. It reminds of the momblog in this way. No matter how cool I think it is, there’s always some asshole out there going “but it’s public!” and as much as I hate that asshole, he’s right. It’s almost impossible not to be affected by the fact that, nomatter how honest you think you are, part of you is really doing it for the invisible audience. I keep running into this problem and it’s not going away. How do you talk about interpersonal communication without some real examples of, uh, getting personal?
Well, this guy did it. He wrote a piece of fiction. Written entirely in text messages. I see absolutely nothing wrong with this work. Absolutely nothing whatsoever. I just wish I could speak Finnish.