The New Conversation

Article excerpt

In 2011, we continue to learn new ways to communicate. This discussion will not include the very important issues of literacy, civility, articulation, and any requirement to understand the lyrics of a song or text of a politician's speech. What and how words are being used is always the most significant part of conversation. Today, the delivery of words has been expanded by the huge growth of technology and services. Whether the exchange is between two people, from one person to many, or within a group dialogue among many to many, equipment, services, software, and a language explosion all contribute to how communicating is evolving. Remember, I am not writing an opinion piece on what we communicate.

The grunts, barks, roars, clicks, and chirps of animals are being analyzed and interpreted by scientists in every corner of the world. We have learned to train animals to perform based on sounds and hand signals. And many of us dog lovers have mastered teaching our loyal pets to sit up, roll over, and get off the couch. Grunts and hand gestures started with people. Cave drawings were an early use of preserving images for all to see. Most of these early drawings would not be classified as graffiti. Rather it was a way of telling a story--I was here, killed a mammoth, discovered fire, and fought with my neighbors.

Early languages used pictures. Letters, alphabets, numbers and words evolved over centuries. Talking also evolved. Speaking softly, shouting, and yelling all became standards. Then we started using messaging assistance with various devices, such as drums, flags, smoke signals, megaphones, writing on parchment and stone, and the first mechanical device--Gutenberg's printing press. Electronics in the 19th century enabled messages to be sent long distances--telegraph, radio, and the telephone replaced slower methods such as carrier pigeons and the pony express.

From the 19th to the 20th century, smart people discovered new ways to send messages between two locations. This included devices that carried the voice (telephone, radio) and boxes that delivered still images and then moving images we called film and now call video. Black-and-white was supplanted by color. Wire-carrying signals are being supplanted by wireless. Cellular satellites support all sorts of short- and long-distance message exchange. You can journey far to see cave drawings or access a few internet sites to view them from any location at any time.

These days, we have many choices for messaging, ones we may use occasionally, often, or not at all. Devices include landline phones, cellular and smartphones, conference calling devices, and the few remaining pay phones. The range of services includes email, text messaging, and voice over internet protocol (VoIP) from vendors such as Skype. Writing is not entirely forgotten, as we still pass notes to friends; jot reminders on scrap paper and envelopes; use full letter-sized paper, sticky notes, private journals, etc.; and then there's always the ubiquitous email. The expanding world of digital writing is evidenced through websites, blogs, published books, published digital books, and even magazines such as this one.

Messaging has escalated to unimaginable volumes through the social media world. A few statistics can illustrate the impact this messaging medium has had in less than 10 years:

* Facebook has 600 million subscribers.

* YouTube receives an average of 35 hours of video each minute, and 2 billion videos are watched daily.

* LinkedIn has 90 million users in more than 200 countries.

* Twitter generates 65 million tweets a day and executes more than 800,000 search queries per day.

Whether one chooses to use one, all, or no social media services, the expansion of these sites into the business world cannot be overlooked. "Follow Us" on Facebook and Twitter is now a standard phrase. Special discounts, information, and access to resources are disclosed through YouTube videos, tweets, and Facebook fan pages. …