Friday, March 10, 2006

a tiny thread on synchronicity.

so i was sitting around this morning and writing on levels of synchronicity in forms of internet discourse, explaining how synchronous forms can act asynchronously on occasion and asynchronous forms can function synchronously on occasion and how the consideration of quasi-synchronous mediums is always there on the sidelines. and i thought, hell, maybe it would make things clearer if i referred to instant messages as prototypically synchronous, and email as prototypically asynchronous, for example, just to allow for all of those other differentiations in the terminology.

that's it, really. adopt my jargon now.

I like it. I'm game.

"Jargon." hehe.
Aaaah...but 'twere it only that simple. You know, once upon a time a few years ago I came up with a diagram that attempted to plot the "level" of synchronicity along with number of possible participants in various CMC channels, althought I didn't really have a good reason for doing so at the time, but it seemed like something that needed to be done. A little like your jargon, which I think have a certain interesting flavor. The key problem confronting any discussion about synchronicity in CMD is "compared to what." And so any use of jargon has to be sensitive to the audience and the context.

So what is prototypically asynchronous? email? that's what first came to my brain, whihch is admitedly on spring break right now and thus a little sluggish.
some of naomi baron's recent work has some nice diagrams on separating mediums by synchronicity and typical speaker number (i.e. one to one or one to many), which is what i base most of my own divisions of synchronicity on. i consider instant messages, chats, and MMOG's (for example) to be prototypically synchronous because speakers can potentially see the discourse as it unfolds directly into the instant message box, chatroom, or game chatbox. with prototypically asynchronous media, like bulletin boards, message boards, and email (for example), i think part of the asynchronicity comes from the fact that to view a message, you typically have to click a link, open a thread, read an email, etc. if we are using spoken discourse as our model for synchronicity, which i think most researchers are, then i think the synchronous media mentioned above are better eqipped to approximate that model than the asynchronous forms. the categories can get pretty fuzzy in actual use, which is why the part of me that's reading through lakoff's big old analysis of categorization really likes the idea of a prototype in describing these :)

i think that's a good way to look at at it too. i've been in Im "conversations" that were very much like email. I'd get on in the morning, see my buddy was on, and send him a long message. a couple hours later, he'd respond. then later that night, i'd respond. I think it's important to distinguish between how the medium was designed to be used, and how it's actually used (as you do with the prototypical distinction). and now a couple questions...

1. does the language forms/discourse structure have anything to do with this synchronous/asynchronous designation?

2. are forms typically associated with asynchronous imported to synchronous when the proto-asynchronous is acting synchronously? (are the forms a product of the medium or the way the medium is being used)?
1) that's a tough question. just from my own research, i would argue that there is an overall trend for discourse to be shaped by the synchronicity (and certainly other factors) of the medium. that being said, this is far from a universal designation - there are features that seem contoured towards synchronous communication that are used in asynchronous communications, and vice versa (for example, the end-marker 'ga' [go ahead] seen in some styles of chatroom talk to signify the end of a turn can also be seen on message boards, in which case its use seems somewhat redundant). what one does with things like this is up to the researcher and their data, but i'd argue for some sort of language change, register spreading type of thing happening up in here.

2) this could certainly be a factor in the language change just mentioned, but from what i've seen, i think a medium's prototypical synchronicity is what influences the language used within much more than a shift in the functional synchronicity.

i <3 talking synchronicity.
"i think a medium's prototypical synchronicity is what influences the language used within much more than a shift in the functional synchronicity."

i'm not sure i understand what you're saying here (you and your damn jargon). what's functional synchronicity and how is it different than prototypical synchronicity? is functional synchronicity how the medium is actually being used? (so rapid fire emails back and forth would have a functional synchronicity somewhere between synch and asynch?)

i'm trying to pick up on kris's diagramm idea. i think that we could put async and sync on two ends of a continuum and then try to plot (based on some scale) where different actual occurances occur. the scale would have to be based on a list of characteristics that describe prototypical usage.

These variables could be things like: 1) use of non-standard forms and emoticons, 2) use of the subject line in emails, and 3) use of a signature (and possibly double signing your name). the scale would also have to incorporate the quantity and intensity of use.


if some kind of methodology could be worked out to place all CMC in a relative position to other CMC, i think we could gather some pretty convincing evidence about the relationship between lots of things. of interest to me would be the relationship between use of standard forms and their correlation to points on the continuum.
oh, functional synchronicity was just a bullshit term for the actual synchronicity of a medium as it's being used :)

more later!
i will henceforth be using "bullshit terms" instead of "jargon". everything you say is so catchy, josh
Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?