Friday, January 11, 2008

Where Have all the Cowboys Gone and What Happened 2 Phone Calls?

On average I receive zero letters each day and approximately three e-mails (most of which consist of quick messages such as, “Hey wanna go to coffee tonight? Bye! friend x”). Communication has changed so much in every way imaginable. Presidents no longer prepare eloquent three-hour speeches. Instead, they recite simple speeches (told to them through a small earpiece) the masses can comprehend, which are probably written by some temp or intern at a public relations firm in Corvallis, OR. The art of letter writing has been lost in the web of technology. Not only has the medium changed by what the medium contains has also changed. We blend words in order to consolidate such as, “sup” or “y’all.” I know language changes and I embrace change but there is value in quality communication, which seems to have been kidnapped.

Let me use the example of text messages. When living in Europe I was introduced 2 the concept of communicating purely and only by “sms” messages. I nearly forgot how 2 dial a telephone number, as I was so used to using my phone as a texting machine. As I averted my eyes out the window on the train, I could text messages full of acronyms and modern lingo. I had become a prestigious deeply importantly talented texter. “where u @?” “ILBCNU” “will b l8” There ought 2 be a manual on how to text. In this manual one could learn all the acronyms, and special techniques, such as how drive and text, how to position the thumb in order to be as efficient as possible. Efficient Texting Instructions: 1. Lay phone in hand with the foundation of phone at base of fingers. 2. Loosely clutch. 3. Position thumb over keypad. 4. Quickly Depress keys. 5. You are texting. 6. Congratulations, and don’t forget 2 send your message.

Even some of the most expert and experienced texters I know struggle with the lingo. Recently, my friend (who happens 2 be a text message connesseuer), whom I shall refer 2 as Person A, sent a text 2 Person B. The text read something along these lines. “at nat treas, u goin 2 cdr st?” Now, let me help you decode that message. “nat treas” actually means the movie: National Treasure 2. “u” has replaced what ought to be are you. The beginning of the sentence seems to have been forgotten all about. The number 2 refers to a dead word spelled t-o remember that word? Hmm, come on..,think harder! It died when it was decided that it was simply far 2 much effort to spell, so it was replaced. “goin” is the word going with the “g” abandoned. And lastly, “cdr st” is a simple acronym for Cedar Street. So in English, a dying language that is quickly being replaced by text lingo, that text would read as follows: I am at National Treasure 2, are you going to Cedar Street? Now imagine getting a text message that communicated using English and not text lingo. I bet your reaction would be of confusion. What? Huh? What are all those extra words for? Why can’t people just say things like “at nat treas u goin 2 cdr st?”

And now, a call to action: You can change this. Write to your senator, your congressman, the newspaper, the mayor, and your cellular phone provider demanding that all texts are to be written in text lingo; it is the public’s best interest! Tell them your goal is to have the gasses of the English language that are emitted into the communication ozone layer decreased by 45% by the year 2014. If we all work together and each of us tries to reduce our English language footprint we can change the world.

All this innovation and advancement in the English language is truly exciting. But on the rare occasion when I hear English and not text lingo, I find myself nostalgically wishing things were the way they were back when I was a kid. I got a letter a few months ago, a hand written letter, with a postage stamp, tucked inside an envelope. I was quite thrilled, as that hadn’t happened to me since I was in elementary school and regularly receiving letters from my various pen pals (including a boy called Richard Bailey, from England, who liked pancakes and wondered if I liked them too). Getting a letter is actually very exciting. I found myself enjoying old-fashioned communication. There was a unique bond in reading someone’s actual handwriting and trying to figure out if they had written a “u” or a “v.” This was something I knew better than to take for granted because it is a rare occasion to receive letters, whereas electronic mail regularly flows into my electronic inbox. Recently, my phone rang, which is quite strange because normally it beeps, alerting me that I have received a text message; I almost didn’t know what the ascending jarring and most unpleasant noise was (yeah, I was class too), then it occurred to me, it was a phone call! Hmm…how strange. This too was a very pleasant surprise, as I never get phone calls anymore. I mostly get these strange coded memos also know as text messages.

I really miss the old fashioned way of communicating; it held great value and still does. But, does anyone know it? Or, are people simply 2 lazy to put fourth effort into communicating? Perhaps the call to action we ought to take is resurrecting the English language. We could start by calling people, or writing them a letter; how cool would that be? Imagine rushing 2 the mailbox in anticipation that something personal, written with effort was waiting. Waiting just for unique you.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Information Age

To be informed means to have relevant knowledge of current events, past events, and the implications of these events. Relevant knowledge is knowledge that matters to more than just a few people. The latest events in Paris Hilton’s life are not knowledge that I would consider to be relevant. Sure, is might be of importance to her family, but to the general public, it has little value and virtually no implications. The passing of a new law by legislature does affect the American people and that is relevant knowledge. It is in everyone’s best interest to know the laws so we can act accordingly. One can say the Iraq war is bad or good but, if they cannot defend their position, then this person is not properly informed. To be informed is essentially an accumulation of knowledge. Being informed does not pertain purely to world events. One could be informed on the bioluminescence of fireflies and be able to explain it in great detail; this is also being informed. An well informed person has relevant knowledge that they are able to defend, they debate the issues, and seek the truth.

Although many people take the time to inform themselves of many things, particularly world events, what is done with that information is often small. When I heard of a cyclone barging through Bangladesh, I did nothing. When I heard of the assassination of Benizir Bhutto in Pakistan, once again, I did nothing. However, when I hear that traffic is going to be bad, I might take a different route to work. If I was a banker, I would pay particular attention to Wall Street news, then, based upon the information accumulated, I might make educated decisions. In that way news also will cause people to act. What humans do with most of the news they acquire is generally nothing, unless it pertains directly to them. Oh sure, we might shed a tear for the mass killings in Darfur, but very few of us actually take action. The most that the gum-chewing individual is going to do is spend a few hours researching a candidate who has plans to take action and then proudly casting their vote. After that, this individual will go about town wearing their sticker that says “I voted.”

I would consider myself to be relatively informed. There is so much to know, even about a single event; I simply do not have the time to understand it all. I first began taking interest in world events when I was eighteen, after I had taken a vacation to Europe for the first time. Although, I spent most of my time in England, a country with many similarities to the United States, I learned that the world is so much larger than my little plot. I wanted to know what the people of England cared about. What were their concerns? What was news to them? From that point on I began reading the news. The affect reading the news has had on me is that is has expanded my mind, opened me up to new ideas and perspectives and given me a well-rounded world view.

In my experience in reading the news, which is my primary way of informing myself, I’ve found that it is almost like a puzzle. Certain world events are connected to another event; history plays a huge role in what is happening today. For example, one could learn much from going back into the history of Iran to find out why there is a negative attitude towards Americans from Iranians. Simply reading the news is not enough to be considered informed; one has to find out the history behind what is happening today in order to develop a true understanding. Discussing the issues is a great method of seeking the truth; one might find that their opinion is actually quite narrow-minded. It is healthy to debate issues and open the mind up to new perspectives and ideas. That is seeking the truth, a vital part of being informed. When one seeks the truth through research and debate they are then able to defend their position much more easily.

In conclusion I would like to say that being informed constitutes primarily of the accumulation of relevant knowledge. What is done with that knowledge is not necessarily applicable but nonetheless noteworthy. To inform oneself of relevant knowledge, debate the issues, and ultimately seek the truth is to be informed.