Tuesday, October 11, 2005

undergraduate delineations.

two posts from an online message board used by the course i'm TAing:

I think its so frustrating that so much of language is based on phonics and accents. Have you ever noticed that when you are talking on instant messenger it is so easy to misread the tone of a conversation? You can say a sentence out loud in 5 different ways and have it have different meanings. While email is informal and easy, Im so afraid that what Im writing is being misinterpreted. Especially since Im such a sarcastic person, I've definatly said " That is an awesome shirt" and had people take me seriously.


oh i totally agree(honestly i do) i mean i cant even count how many times ive had misunderstandings even fights start from the lack of vocal inflections that r lost online. your comment on the informality of email and the issues of actually reading a conversation has to make me wonder, is online "talking" spoken or written english. i wouldnt say it's exactly written, i mean it is informal, structured like talking not a paper or essay or even a written letter. however, with out the human interaction and verbal speaking i dont know if its classified as spoken language either! oh my.

are 'vocal inflections' completely lost online? speakers are going to figure out ways to get around that barrier somehow, aren't they?

not wanting to get into the big ethical quandary about copyright and the internet (just yet), express permission was obtained by said students to re-post.
BUSTED! I'm telling the IRB police at colorado! You're going D-O-W-N archnemesis >:)

It seems that some people who socialize online have indeed figured out ways to both present their intended "intonation". Of course, smilies help, or other metalanguage like "hehe", "jk", etc. I don't really see much difference between the online and offline here. Some people offline claim to be sarcastic, but they aren't really too good at coming across that way and are repeatedly interpreted as being serious. Some people online don't have any problems conveying sarcasm or surprise even if they are interacting with people outside of their usual online speech community.

moving attention from the speaker, i also think that there is an interpretive aspect to the interlocution on the part of the hearer. some people are less judgmental of what they read online. some people are quick to take offence, or quick to think that people are talking shit to them. again, this certainly isn't unique to online environments.
Yeah, I've often heard the "it's hard to be sarcastic online" line. And I think it's malarkey.

Well, that was clearly sarcastic. Obviously there is something lost when there are no visual cues or intonation, but humorists and satirists have had no problem getting their points across in written language (sans smilies and emphatic punctuation, even) for centuries. So I think I agree w/ Josh when he says "Some people offline claim to be sarcastic, but they aren't really too good at coming across that way and are repeatedly interpreted as being serious." Though this feeling of lacking something, we should take seriously.

It also depends on how well the person knows you who you're talking to online, right? Whether or not they can interpret your textual cues.

Also, now that smilies are so ubiquitous (at least, they're in-built in most of the CMC systems now, not created by users) I'd love to see a re-do of Walther & D'Addario's (2001) study of emoticons - because they found that unless an emoticon was supposed to cause one to interpret a sentence negatively (like a sad smilie), there was no effect on message interpretation when emoticons were involved vs. just text.
>humorists and satirists have had no
>problem getting their points across in
>written language

True, but I think the first, er, specimen makes the critical point, namely that sarcasm is rendered primarily (or commonly, anyway) through vocal tone. To render such a tone in writng (without the emoticons ... "hehe") takes quite a bit of skill, or at least lots of writing experience, and the majority of online writers are simply not up to the task, articulate as they might be while talking. Moreover, I think that the kind of writing that can convey sarcasm is perhaps not the idiom of IM.

I have a couple of friends who refuse on principle to use emoticons, and sure enough, they're often misinterpreted -- usually as sounding pissy when in fact they're attempting to kid.
you ain't got shit on me, iorio! i'll see you in hell!

that being said, i'm with you in thinking that a portion of this is largely interpretive and intersubjective. you bastard. i'm sure that successful interpretation of textual cues is a basis for forming community around here, and in a few of the more close-knit IRC rooms i've seen, it's really an in-group/out-group thing.

i think revamping the 2001 study on emoticons is a great idea, actually. i'm really surprised that hasn't been addressed yet. i'd personally like to see that portion of the literature extended to cover those situations where emoticons are used as sole responses, sans text - i have a piece in my corpus where a girl tells a friend about her recent abortion and the only response is :/

something has to be said about that.

my poor undergrad specimens. i boycotted emoticons for the longest time, but now i use them constantly to what i pray is a sense of irony. i'm a big fan of AIM's kissy face.
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