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Guest Andrew Moore

Language and technology

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Guest Andrew Moore

A mailing list to which I subscribe has recently seen some discussion of language and technology. The posting that follows is a response to some things I saw there.

It's easy to be confused by what happened when.

The printing press was not at first the means of mass production that we may assume - Gutenberg spent years setting up, and taking down, and resetting, the type for his Bibles.

It's interesting that after the invention of press, the number of manuscripts produced by groups of scribes increased in much of Europe. And the luxurious printed books were illuminated by hand.

It's only in the 18th, and more so, the 19th, centuries that printing becomes highly mechanized and affordable to a wide public. Writers like Dickens (especially in the cheap magazines he edited, and in which he published his novels first, serially) both help, and benefit from, the technology.

William Blake is interesting - he's a printer, but uses handwriting, rather than movable type in many cases.

The scene in Shakespeare in Love, where young Will keeps screwing up sheets of paper is deeply implausible - it was far too valuable a material for that. (To see just how much our forebears re-used and recycled, we need only look at the account in Our Mutual Friend.) Yet also it proceeds from an anachronism - we suppose that writers need to draft on paper. But any competent poet of the time would do all this mentally. Much later, Wordsworth tells us that he composed Tintern Abbey while out walking.

There is a further corollary. I lose patience with school inspectors (in the UK) who insist on seeing lesson plans on paper. It seems not to occur to them that anyone can hold a complex or developed set of structures in his or her head. (I think it makes as much sense as asking a stand-up comic to show his or her "plan" for a performance - the point here is that the mental plan can respond, in real time, to the contributions or questions of the learners or audience - and it is impossible to find a piece of paper big enough to show the possible permutations of that.) It may be that some of the new technologies (voice telephony and broadcasting, say) will restore some of the primacy that the spoken word undoubtedly had in a society where many intelligent people were not formally literate.

In Romeo and Juliet Old Capulet gives Peter a written message - he does not suppose that a servant will be illiterate. Peter, looking for someone who can read, knows that gentlemen, distinguished by their dress, may be able to help, and asks Romeo and Benvolio. Shakespeare's plays are full of messengers - but we should think of them not as postmen before their time, so much as message speakers. (Macbeth sends his wife a letter, but only because what he says is unsuitable for delivery by messenger. Sometimes the recipient of the message is honoured by the status of the messenger - so Duncan sends Ross to tell Macbeth of his new title.) Teachers often use Chinese whispers to "prove" the fallibility of the spoken word. But there are many societies today, and others in the past, where the accuracy of transmission would be far greater, if not exact. What that test really proves is that there are a few people to whom you should never entrust an important message. But when you appoint your town crier, you choose someone with a decent verbal memory. When the Player King arrives at Elsinore, Hamlet is able to choose from a wide repertoire - the players carry all of these plays in their heads.

There's more to writing than paper...

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Guest ChristineS

A few side-thoughts: I am glad I am not the only one who was irritated by the implausible waste of paper in that film! And do you see teachers as stand-up comics then, Andrew? I do sometimes feel as if we are being treated as a joke by our political masters, it is true. :rolleyes:

I don't think I understand the point you are making about language and technology, to be honest.

I am very literal, you see. I need to see concrete examples of what is meant, only then can I work backwards to theories and concepts.

How would what you say affect one's study of language and technology? In what way do you suggest it should change our perspective of what technology is?

Edited by ChristineS

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I don't think I understand the point you are making about language and technology, to be honest.

Nor do I :rolleyes:

I sometimes describe myself as a Language Technologist, i.e as a person who has made a career out of researching and teaching about ICT applications to natural language and second language acquisition: machine translation, computerised concordancing, computer assisted language learning, speech technology, etc. We have a module entitled Human Language Technologies at the ICT4LT website: Module 3.5 at http://www.ict4lt.org

Human Language Technologies is the term used by the EC to replace the former term Language Engineering and embraces a wide and growing field of ICT applications to natural language.

Regarding computers and the printed word, there is no such thing as the paperless office, and I probably waste vast amounts of paper directly as a result of possessing a computer. I always print out longer texts that I find on the Web. There is a reason for this. Web guru Jakob Nielsen writes:

Reading from computer screens is about 25% slower than reading from paper. Even users who don't know this [...] usually say that they feel unpleasant when reading online text.

Be Succinct! Writing for the Web, Alertbox for March 15, 1997: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/9703b.html

It was interesting to read the story in The Times (29 November 2000, p. 9) headed "King leaves Internet Readers in Suspense". Stephen King decided not to complete his Internet novel The Plant because - according to King - "it failed to grab the attention of readers on the Web". King found that a surprisingly high proportion of the readers accessing his site (75%-80%) made the "honesty payment" for being allowed to download chapters: "But", he said, "there are a lot fewer of them coming. Online people have the attention span of a grasshopper." The article points out "that digital publishing has a bleak future because it is an unattractive medium for reading long texts and it is difficult to stop breach of copyright". See: http://www.stephenking.com

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The Questia library has changed on-line reading habits for me... I now regularly scan texts and cut-and-paste sections for use in my classroom projects. This resource is a phenomental boon to our profession, and a real paper-saver. Naturally, we must still print out copies of text for our students. But as we become increasingly interconnected in our webs of opportunity, I believe this too will change. :ph34r:

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Guest Andrew Moore

Hi, Christine,

I was not making one point, but trying to trace a bit of history, while challenging some myths (like that lie about Chinese whispers, which I have heard many teachers tell).

Broadly, I am describing a process whereby technology increased the standing of the written word over three centuries, and then started to redress the balance by attending to the spoken word.

Our educational culture is deeply conservative, and has not begun to catch up. We carry much of what we value in our own heads, or should do, but have largely lost a knack we once had (and our supposedly primitive cousins in other cultures have never lost) of holding more complex structures and stories there. A few years back, I thought that I had lost this, but writing, designing Web sites, listening to certain things while driving - these have somehow given me even more capacity to hold these structures than I ever had before. I don't need paper, and I have more than enough to "read" inwardly for me never to be bored, when I find myself having to spend time without any visible means of entertainment.

I do not regard this as at all remarkable. But I do think (I see everyday) that in the UK today, this is quite unusual. I still read books, of course, and enjoy them...

I would go further than Cerebrator - we do not need to print things for students. We can leave the digital versions on networks for them to pick up when they want. Better still, I cannot make copies of some things without breaching copyright. But a student can scan and do OCR on his or her own copy - and maybe pass that on. Whereas some spiteful publisher or petty author may try to beat up teachers with the law, they have no chance against all the teenagers in the world...

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Whereas some spiteful publisher or petty author may try to beat up teachers with the law, they have no chance against all the teenagers in the world...

I resent the terms "spiteful publisher" and "petty author". I am both: an owner of a small publishing firm and an author. This is the way I earn my living. If you steal my work you steal my livelihood.

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I would go further than Cerebrator - we do not need to print things for students. We can leave the digital versions on networks for them to pick up when they want.

It is, of course, illegal to make a digital copy of a copyright work and leave it on a school intranet or a public website to be picked up by others - unless given permission by by copyright owner to do so.

If you are unsure about educational copyright, check it out at the BECTA ICT Advice site:

http://www.ictadvice.org

Do a search under "copyright".

See also the Web page that I created at:

http://www.ict4lt.org/en/en_copyright.htm

Watch out for the copyright bounty hunter. To quote an example taken from a website in the USA:

"I've always had people come up to me with examples of friends or neighbors who have been turned in for using Walt Disney graphics and were fined three to five thousand dollars. Many teachers feel they don't have to bother with the copyright law because the "copyright police" aren't going into their classroom to check on them. However, the most common way that teachers end up in court over copyright violation is when a disgruntled employee turns in the teacher down the hall. The copyright bounty hunters are out in force -and, yes, they may very well be in your school."

http://lserver.aea14.k12.ia.us/TechStaffDev/copyright.html

The site contains a good deal of useful advice on copyright. Although the site is concerned with copyright in the USA, there are many similarities to copyright law in the UK - see the BECTA ICT Advice reference above.

Watch out for the disgruntled kid/parent too. Why burn down the school when you can shop the staff for breach of copyright? My local secondary school was reported to the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) by a parent of a child attending the school for illegally distributing copies of a software package that I wrote. FAST contacted me to see if I wished to take action against the school. I told FAST that I had already made an arrangement with the school whereby they were allowed to distribute student copies of my software subject to an agreed fee. I do wonder, however, what motivated the parent to go directly to FAST rather than approaching the school or myself first?

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some other ideas about lang and tech posted on the Lang List

(starting with more from Andrew ~ I presume there is not a copyright issue!)

Tim (Shortis) has published a book on the subject.

The Language of ICT: Information Communication Technology see at Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0...6452482-8948465

------------------

aspect to consider:

pragmatics (say politeness theory)

semantics

language etymology and change

possible gender effects

-----------------------

source data,

go to message boards and blogs, and look at instant messaging.

Of course there are older technologies to consider (print, radio and TV

broadcasting, telephony and so on).

Andrew reckons we don't really need to collect resources - just know where they are and point people at them.

---------------------------

For an informed bit of research look at Susan Githens' stuff:

http://www.georgetown.edu/faculty/bassr/githens/covr511.htm

See also

http://www.uwe.ac.uk/ictconference/session3.htm

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this idea was posted by Mark Boardman - the host of the LangList - plugging his up- coming new book:

'The Language Of Websites' by Mark Boardman, forthcoming title

in the Routledge Intertext series.

ISBN 0-415-32853-5 (hb)

ISBN 0-415-32854-3 (pb)

Catriona Murray at Routledge is in charge of its marketing - Her email is catriona.murray@tandf.co.uk.

Mark reckons that his book:

*explores the ways in which websites use and present language

*covers the main generic types of website, from linguistic, technical,

historical and media perspectives

*considers how the Web has evolved as a medium, and how hypertext has

created fundamentally different types of audience interaction from

traditional mass media

*features a full glossary, which assumes very little prior knowledge and

includes linguistic, ICT and media terminology

*will soon be accompanied by a supporting website at http://markboardman.com

Edited by susanwilde

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someone called Jennifer Greenald suggestd these sites:

"I have just been teaching a related topic for A level Communication Studies

and found a few sites useful for lang" -

http://www.greenhill.org/facultyfolders/US...uage/index.html

http://www.vuw.ac.nz/lals/research/lwp/resources/op3.htm

http://www.rider.edu/~suler/psycyber/emailrel.html and other sections on

this site.

Edited by susanwilde

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this is a bit of fun - but to be taken with a pinch of salt, ask your students, they already KNOW all about this - they invented it!

http://www.netlingo.com/emailsh.cfm

Edited by susanwilde

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'The Language Of Websites' by Mark Boardman, forthcoming title in the Routledge Intertext series.

ISBN 0-415-32853-5 (hb)

ISBN 0-415-32854-3 (pb)

Catriona Murray at Routledge is in charge of its marketing - Her email is catriona.murray@tandf.co.uk.

Mark reckons that his book:

*explores the ways in which websites use and present language

*covers the main generic types of website, from linguistic, technical, historical and media perspectives

*considers how the Web has evolved as a medium, and how hypertext has created fundamentally different types of audience interaction from traditional mass media

*features a full glossary, which assumes very little prior knowledge and includes linguistic, ICT and media terminology

*will soon be accompanied by a supporting website at http://markboardman.com

In 1997 I made a decision to stop writing textbooks and instead put all my written work on the web. I have therefore given some thought about how this new medium has changed the way I write. I have come to the conclusion that the following has taken place:

(1) When writing textbooks you have to take full account of the potential market for your work. For example, it is a much more attractive financial proposition to write a book on Nazi Germany than the United Nations. It goes further than that, textbook publishers have to make commercial decisions about giving contracts to authors writing textbooks. Since the emergence of full-colour textbooks, publishers need to sell at least 10,000 copies to get a return on their investment. This has further restricted what you can write about. For example, a school textbook about the United Nations is now out of the question.

The main advantage of web publishing is the freedom to concentrate on subject matter that interests you. You are still rewarded financially for producing popular material (the money raised is largely dependent on the popularity of the pages created) but you are not completely controlled by the market-place.

(2) Writing for the web gives you an international audience. The web also provides a convenient way to interact with your audience (by email and forums like this). As a historian I have found this very useful. Authors are invariably influenced by their own cultural upbringing. Feedback from people reading my work in other countries have made me fully aware of this and has I am sure has had an influence on what I write.

(3) I always found the publication of books a painful experience. I have never been pleased with the end result. It is not long before readers begin pointing out mistakes in the text. Therefore, you have to wait until the book is reprinted before these corrections can be made. Large print runs of colour books makes this a greater problem than before. Publishers are also not keen about making minor corrections to existing printing plates (this is a fairly expensive business).

The web of course is very different. When mistakes are pointed out they can be corrected immediately. As I also include a “source section” I can also add different interpretations of past events. For example, I write about people who are sometimes still alive. When people go on the web for the first time they often type in their name into a search-engine. Therefore, if I have written about them, they are likely to come to my website. The same is true of children and grandchildren of famous people. They invariably are unhappy about something I have written and the result is a dialogue between the author and the subject. This sometimes results in changes to the narrative. I always give them the right of reply and their comments are added to the sources section. This is therefore the greatest change to the writing process. This is completely different from the kind of writing that one does for a book.

(4) Last year Larry Hancock published a book on the assassination of John F. Kennedy (Someone Would Have Talked). It is the best book I have read on the assassination but without the web it would probably not have been published. It is extremely difficult to get books on the JFK assassination published in America (for political rather than commercial reasons). Although it appears in book form, it has been published by a popular website, JFK Lancer. It also comes with a CD with 1,400 pages of reference exhibits. The book is currently being discussed on this forum.

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=693

This forum has resulted in the author being put in direct contact with other researchers as well as people (and their relatives) who appear in the book. This has enabled Larry to make changes to his original text. It seems to me that as far as history books are concerned, this approach is likely to become fairly common over the next few years.

Another possibility is that writers will in the future produce a draft text for the web. After a period of dialogue and with all mistakes removed, the material will published in book form.

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thanks for that John - I found that really interesting!

meanwhile I am continuing to trawl through the Lang List old emails, and transfer tips from there to here, as a way of reviewing the materials for myself, as well as being philanthropic!

Louise suggests this link for language of emails, a fairly academic presentation by an American scholar :

http://www.id.iit.edu/visiblelanguage/Feat...AgeofEmail.html

which I thought looked interesting, but not likely to be the sort of thing I'd expose my average students too! We had a more accessible one than that, which I have used for lang change teaching this year --- by brenda danet

*wanders off to look for it *

http://atar.mscc.huji.ac.il/~msdanet/email.htm

which was really easy to convert into a worksheet - indeed, I DID convert it into a worksheet - dunno if I can post it on here though?

ANDREW???

---------------------------

We have photocopies of an article in our files called "the Joy of Text" from a broadsheet - which I wanted to locate for you - when trawled in Google (using the whole phrase in inverted commas) - there were zillions ;) of offerings - that in itself becomes something we could set as a homework .. to explore the way ppl are writing about txting on line! (and using dreadful puns!!)

the one that came out on top was a nice looking little thing from the BBC, which looks very student-friendly

and here is the link to the Guardian Article, which is pretty good, actually!

http://atar.mscc.huji.ac.il/~msdanet/email.htm

---------------------------------

Edited by susanwilde

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and here is another one that a few ppl have said they think is useful from the university of washington - crispin thurlow ...

http://www.shu.ac.uk/daol/articles/v1/n1/a...low2002003.html

this has some up-to date info and interesting links

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I write mainly for the Web these days. Web guru Jakob Nielsen's site contains useful advice on writing for the Web:

http://www.useit.com

One must bear in mind that reading from computer screens is about 25% slower than reading from paper and that people tend to read less accurately from the computers screen, tending to skim-read and often miss important information - various research projects have come to similar conclusions. All the materials that I produce for the Web can therefore be printed and you can read them sitting in a comfortable armchair with a cat on your lap.

This subject has recently cropped up in the EUROCALL discussion list at:

http://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/lists/eurocall-members.html

Markus Ritter initiated the discussion by writing:

>From our own e-learning environment I have found that the majority of students very much prefer to do "normal reading" offline, based on a well-designed print document. In the long run they are really only prepared to consult the platform for more genuine electronic purposes (eg CMC, Flash animations etc.). This is not only for technical reasons (dpi) but also for more general reasons, eg efficient text processing. Or should students just be told not to be so old-fashioned and adapt their reading habits to the new E-world?<

I replied, referring list members to Jakob Nielsen’s site (above) and also to the following paragraph that appears on the homepage of the ICT4LT website: http://www.ict4lt.org

>It was interesting to read the story in The Times (29 November 2000, p. 9) headed King leaves Internet readers in suspense. Stephen King has decided not to complete his Internet novel The Plant because - according to King - "it failed to grab the attention of readers on the Web". King found that a surprisingly high proportion of the readers accessing his site (75%-80%) made the "honesty payment" for being allowed to download chapters: "But", he said, "there are a lot fewer of them coming. Online people have the attention span of a grasshopper." The article points out "that digital publishing has a bleak future because it is an unattractive medium for reading long texts and it is difficult to stop breach of copyright". See: http://www.stephenking.com<

Fred Riley added:

>In my experience, users are happy to read (often skim-read) short texts on screen, but for anything longer than a page or so prefer to print to paper. I think that if you try to force your students into reading online then you're going to become very unpopular very quickly. Indirect evidence for the difficulty of screen reading comes, I believe, from the marked failure of 'e-book' technologies to take off amongst the general public. I well remember, nearly a decade ago, going to an educational technology conference at which some Suit gave a plenary on how the book was dead, and how everyone was going to be reading books and magazines and papers on cheap portable screens. He even boasted how, instead of taking a book to bed, he took his laptop (which I thought was rather sad, in the modern sense of the word). Back in the 90s there were dire predictions that books and libraries would become obsolete, and pundits wrote portentous articles lamenting the impending loss of the printed word. More recently, more portable LCD e-book readers have come on to the market with a number of e-books, and have signally failed to make any serious impact on the mainstream public. When, in the future, 'screens' are developed which can be treated like paper - folded, wrapped up, legible in all light conditions, truly portable - then perhaps traditional paper printing will come under threat, but until then I can't see screen text taking over from hard copy. After all, you can't read screen text in the pub, or the bath, or on the toilet...<

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