Thursday, July 31, 2008

Digitally fluent, but I still have an accent.


I was reading through my blogroll recently and saw a title that piqued my interest, David Warlick’s 2-cents worth post, “r u Reading Across a Generation Gap?” It was an interesting look at the current debate over what really constitutes literacy in the digital age, but what I noticed most was the title, specifically the “r u” part of it.

I’m sure everyone immediately identifies this as text messaging shorthand, ubiquitous among teens and young adults as they txt, IM, even comment on one another’s MySpace pages. Now, I’m not getting involved in the debate over the decline in the adherence to grammatical conventions by students or the value of this type of communication; I’m just acknowledging its prevalence and confessing that I can’t bring myself to use it. Maybe I’m old-fashioned with regards to my written expression, but I have to use capital letters, correct punctuation, and spell complete words when I text or Tweet. I know, it sets me apart from many others using this technology, but I can’t lose my digital “accent,” at least not without conscious effort. Oh, I may drop in a “where r u” or a “do u want me 2” every now and then, but to me it feels, I don’t know, just wrong.
Fortunately for me, I don’t correspond with students over txt or IM too frequently, so my awkwardness with this new language isn’t too apparent. (It has been commented on, though. “Wow, Mr. C, you write so formally! Yes, child, I know.) And, while it may take me a few extra seconds to send a message, I don’t feel like this malady has really impacted me in any negative way. Hey, maybe it’s not a bad thing, after all. Maybe I can be the spearhead of a new, Luddite-esque linguistic movement, in the same vein as an older family member of mine who refuses to surrender her rotary telephone!
Seriously, I don’t think my digital accent is really a bad thing. What would be a bad thing is if I didn’t use these tools, if I refused to make the attempt to learn this new language, even if I never learn to speak like a native.

1 comment:

David Warlick said...

Agreed! I text exactly the same way, with capital letters and proper punctuation. It's how I communicate. It's how I was taught to communicate. That said, I suspect that my children are much more effecient at using thumb communication devices than we will ever be, and thumbing is probably going to be a major part of how they communicate in their future.