Text: The Technology of Communication

After reading the course materials on ‘text” and ‘technology’, I feel the two are inseparable as they relate to communication.  Text happens to be the technology of communication.  It is what humans use to share information; to communicate thoughts and ideas between one another.  In this sense, I feel text is much more that letters, words and sentences.  We often ‘interpret’ text by ‘reading between the lines’.  This implies that the text carries more information than what appears at the surface.  If we consider the artwork associated with many medieval and renaissance text forms (see the picture below), we see the authors were attempting to play on the mood of the readers to convey the idea that the most meaning could be derived from the text by being in that mood.  The ability to do this was somewhat lost in the books of the modern age where an emphasis on clarity of type and a lack of extraneous frills meant the presentation was rather dry and the readers are left to their own devices as to interpretation.

Boethius, De Consolatione philosophiae, f.1r, (289 x 218 mm), 15th century, Alexander Turnbull Library, MSR-19.
The idea of text as technology has strong ties to the well-known saying by Marshall McLuhan (1964) that “the medium is the message.”  Applying this to current digital technologies used in communication, we see a growing ability to create messages that are much more than the words on the page.  For example, think of all the different font types now available (see picture below).  Many of them are designed to evoke certain feelings in the reader.  Even the font names like Chiller, Eclectic, Impact, Jokerman, Kartoons and Tragic Vision indicate the message the font designers intended these fonts to carry when used in text creation.  At a deeper level, the use of emoticons has allowed the ‘body language’ of digital communications to approach that of face-to-face communication.  Emoticons have come a long way from the simple exclamation mark.  When will :-), :-(,  ;o), 😉 and (:-o become ‘official’ punctuation?  Could we write a sentence simply using emoticons?

McLuhan, Marshall  (1964)  Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man.  New York: McGraw Hill.

Tim

 

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