Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Naked language in our blogs

This evening I went to hear David Crystal speak at a free public lecture at Melbourne University on Language and the Internet (which happens to be the title of his latest book, a second edition only five years after the first). The lecture hall was packed with an audience that covered most of the age groups from late teens and up, and he was welcomed as a hero, or a rock star, almost. He is a well dressed, genial gentleman with a high domed forehead and a fluffy white beard - he reminded me a bit of Professor Dumbledore of Hogwarts (in the books, not the films). He knew his audience well. He gave an animated lecture which centred around why the second edition of his book was needed so soon after the first. The main reason he said is that new technologies have arisen on the Internet which have implications for language and one of these was blogging. He stated that before blogging (and similar computer mediated communication) there have been really only three revolutions in communication: the development of speech, the development of writing , and signing for the deaf community. Now there is this electronically based communication. This last is not like either speaking or writing. In particular, it is not like other writing in the public domain, as it is unmediated writing. Natural, perfectly understandable writing that is not under the subjugation of a copy editor in the way writing in books and newspapers is. He called it "naked writing in the public domain". Crystal sees that there will be linguistics consequences for this, although it is too early to see yet what they will be. He reminded us that it was the first time since the middle ages that this situation has occurred. It is interesting to think about. I guess naked writing is less standardised and more individual. It gives the author more autonomy and is potentially more democratic. David Crystal was certainly optimistic in his view of these developments, seeing them as huge potential enrichments for individual languages, showing remarkable diversity and creativity.
It is now holidays for which I am grateful, but I wanted to mention also the last class of the term on Friday, which happened to be my Recreating the Writer blogging class. For anyone who does not see the point of classroom blogging, I wish they had been there in that classroom. The students were totally engaged on their blogs, some of them publishing poems or stories they had written in the last couple of weeks. The only sounds except for typing noises were, "How do you make a hyperlink again?" "How do you upload a file?" and the help from other students that was forthcoming. And then, "Ooh, look, I've got a comment from Brazil," or "I've left you a comment," speaking to a friend across the room. This continued till the very end of the class and I had to remind them that the bell would begoing in a few minutes. It is very satisfying and enjoyable to be in a room where creativity, thoughtfulness and communication were so evident. So good on you, David Crystal for recognising the significance of blogs.

1 comment:

  1. I had a similiar experience this summer using a classblog. The students would tell me they were on the blog at work, at home, talking about it with family and friends--they had the type of engagement you would want your students to have. This semester I am trying a blog for an undergrad class. When I asked them, they said none of their teachers had ever had one but they seem excited about the prospect.