Technology Changes Language

Books, comics, games, novels, novellas, shows.  All available faster, quicker, and at times better due to new technology.

So if technology is getting us media faster, exactly how is technology changing the media we consume?

There's a wonderful book I think most Bibliophiles would enjoy, "A Social History fo the Chinese Book" by Joseph P. McDermott.  It's a look at the history of publication in China, especially cultural aspects.  One of the many fascinating things I derived from it was how the "technology" of transcription and woodcarving changed how books and even language looked in China – spacing of characters, flow, even how they looked altered.

It's simple, really, but the act of having a way to make printed documents changed how the documents and language looked – because of different skillets, because of efficiency, etc.  It may seem a cultural curiosity, but to me it's a reminder that the technology and methods of transmitting information change how people create and send that information.

Technology changes the language it transmits.

Now, think of just how much we're transmitting with technologies and ask yourself how the language we used is changing.  Not just the language of words, but how the media themselves communicate concepts.

THen ask yourself if you, as a creator of media, games, advertising, comics, is aware of how the "language" of your chosen media is changing due to the very methods we use to create and transmit it.  Think of some of the trends we've seen:

  • The idea of returning to novellas and pamphlets to deliver fiction or ideas electronically.  The "language" of pacing and novel size has changed.
  • How many games are conceived of with DLC in mind before they launch – or are even started?  The "language" of expectation, of what "complete" means, of game pacing has changed.
  • How many games, in fact, have common visual metaphors, terms that came from other games that are now universal, or even specific archetypes of characters?
  • Look at the webcomics that change pacing to fit the 3 panels or page-every-few-days methods.  The "language" of how people expect comic pacing can change for consuming some comic mediums.

How much more has changed that I haven't touched on – or you and I haven't seen?  How much has the "language" – the ways of communicating, the media, the styles – has changed?

We need to be aware of this if we're media producers or even if we work in a media-related industry (which being geeks we probably do or hope to).  We have to adapt to the languages (and again not all "language" is verbal).  We have to be aware of how our technology changes those languages or creates them.

We need to be aware so we can keep with expectations, work around limitations – and see how communication changes in the future.

Steven Savage