I had a fantastic time at the Sense of Place event yesterday. Held at University of Sheffield and co-organized by Chris Montgomery, Emma Moore and Susan Fitzmaurice, its 70+ attendees were treated to four keynote presentations (Sali Tagliamonte, Karen Corrigan, Carmen Llamas, and Barbara Johnstone) and eight posters to peruse during the lunch and wine reception. The talks and posters were themed around the sociolinguistics of place, space and geography.
This event was in honor of Joan Beal, who celebrates the first day of her retirement this Sunday, and leaves us with a legacy of groundbreaking work in the field. Having read many of her papers but only meeting her in person as of yesterday, I can attest that she is not only a bona fide sociolinguistic legend, but also an enthusiastic and genuine supporter of fledgeling researchers such as myself. It’s inspiring to be encouraged to carry on by researchers who you respect and admire, knowing that there are countless miles of experiential road to travel to one day hope to reach their well-earned place of success.
The academics of the day seamlessly blurred into Chinese food and drinks and an endless stream of laughter with new friends and contacts. Before I knew it, I was stepping off the train, just before a pumpkin-like midnight and stumbling back home to my 300 sq. ft. flat — rolled up poster still in hand and thoughts of nothing but ideas for the next steps on a super long path. Which is how I find myself at Starbucks this Sunday (Internet at the new place does not arrive until the 18th), enjoying my birthday drink a bit early, and crunching some new data.
Attached is the poster I presented yesterday, for anybody who wants to take a look and puzzle on about places and their pronunciations of MeFi with me. Got some great feedback yesterday; always welcoming more.
(please click on the image below to automatically download the PDF)
I like that this post ended up being three parts (possibly more!) and not just one, or even…two.
This post is basically a link chronology, to cover where we’ve all been and where we’re all going.
In compiling this, I’m finding that the main thing that has kept me engaged in exploring the topic of digital dualism is the approach that everybody involved is taking. This isn’t a war, after all. It isn’t even an argument on the internet, really. It is a bunch of people with different perspectives figuring out something new and exciting. I want to be a part of that. I’m fascinated by it. It’s why I’m in academia—to join in on just this type of discussion. So here’s my contribution—a link summary—so that others too may easily understand and add their words to what has been thus far been an entirely welcoming duel—more foam swords-like than to the death; the best kind of academic infighting in my e-book.
Is Google Making Us Stupid? (What the internet is doing to our brains)
by Nicholas Carr » the Atlantic, July, 2008
This article inspired Carr’s 2011 book, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. Carr takes a technological determinist perspective in both reads, citing evidence of the cultural consequences and social tradeoffs that go along with the rise of the Internet.
Digital Dualism versus Augmented Reality
by Nathan Jurgenson » Cyborgology, Feb. 24, 2011
This is the piece by Nathan Jurgenson that defines what Digital Dualism is and offers an alternative perspective, Augmented Reality.
Defending and Clarifying the Term Augmented Reality
by Nathan Jurgenson » Cyborgology, Apr. 29, 2011
And a follow-up response to Sang-Hyoun Pahk’s critique of “augmented reality” above.
The IRL Fetish
by Nathan Jurgenson » The New Inquiry, June 28, 2012
This is an expansion on what augmented reality is and an explanation of a contradiction inherent with digital dualism. The article covers many other areas as well and is worth a read.
In Search of the Real
by Michael Sacasas » The Frailest Thing, July 4, 2012
This is a response to Jurgenson’s article “The IRL Fetish.” It takes a balanced, logical and largely philosophical perspective, and introduces two new ways of looking at what we mean by “online” and “offline” as the “theoretical offline” and “absolute offline”.
Strong and Mild Digital Dualism
by Nathan Jurgenson » Cyborgology, Oct. 29, 2012
In this article, Jurgenson outlines a 4-part typology of digital dualism (with a flowchart to boot!), clearly states his position, and includes examples of others’ positions and perspectives.
by Jenny Davis » Cyborgology, Jan. 23, 2013
Davis takes Jurgenson’s 4-part typology outlined above and reformulates it in terms of materiality. She links to her earlier post on this reframing, but I personally much prefer the aesthetic and examples in this more recent one.
On the Political Origins of Digital Dualism
by David Banks » Cyborgology, Feb. 23, 2013
A preview of the upcoming talk at the Theorizing the Web Conference. There is some overlap of the concepts and examples discussed in this post as with Carr’s early one “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” (see link #1, above), which may or may not have caught Carr’s eye (ire? j/k)…pure speculation on my part. At any rate, the final presentation by Banks, here, is clearly inspired by the events of the days following this talk preview.
Digital dualism denialism
by Nicholas Carr » Rough Type, Feb. 27, 2013
This is the post that sparked the recent rounds of discussion on digital dualism. It is the must read; the 30+ comments are worthwhile as well.
The digital dualism of “digital dualism” critics
by Tyler Bickford » TylerBickford.com, Mar. 2, 2013
A long but also worthwhile read, as this post includes practical critiques of both “camps” and raises some really interesting questions and follow-up comments that will clearly shape the detail and direction of digital dualist theories as we move along.
All My Digital Dualist Feels
by Sarah Wanenchak » Cyborgology, Mar. 6, 2013
An additional response to Carr, both complimentary and critical. Admittedly, this is the post that really got me into exploring the topic further. What can I say…I like talking about feelings.
Digital Duellists: Intellectual Battle in the Shadow of Theorising the Web
by Chris Baraniuk » The Machine Starts, Mar. 7, 2013
A fantastic perspective and summary of the recent rounds up discussion up to that point. I’m indebted to Baraniuk for helping me understand what all is going on—there’s a lot to take in!
Responding to Bickford on Digital Dualism
by Nathan Jurgenson » Cyborgology, Mar. 8, 2013
Jurgenson response to Bickford’s piece, above. He incorporates materiality, as well as points by Sacasas in the earlier “In the Search of the Real”
Here is a writeup of the recent digital dualism debate…
by Nathan Jurgenson » nathanjurgenson.tumblr.com, Mar. 8, 2013
A meta-discussion on Jurgenson’s Tumblr blog. This is small part response to Baraniuk’s summary, large part email-as-interview between Baraniuk and Jurgenson.
I’ve intentionally tried not to interject too much of my own opinion or bias here—frankly, there’s too much to say in many directions. But hopefully this link chronology is helpful to someone, if not myself for later reference in dissertation writing. I would love to elaborate more on bits and pieces of this, but unfortunately for now I’m overwhelmed with other tasks. As fun as it was to procrastinate, I must now prepare (for teaching tomorrow), pack (for moving next weekend), quiet the mind (for marking 45+ student essays), and repack (for two weeks in the states –DC, Oregon, California, hellooo!). So yes, perhaps I’ll revisit all of this for reading away the the big plane ride.
I am aware that I have been remiss in including Sherry Turkle and her book, Alone Together, thus far. This is despite her being what David Banks described as “probably the longest-standing, most outspoken proponent” of digital dualism (Sherry Turkle’s Chronic Digital Dualism Problem, April 23, 2012) and repeatedly mentioned in several of the posts and responses above. Admittedly, I am the least familiar with her work and I have gotten very wrapped up in the other aspects of the discussion. So maybe another one for the plane—I have six flights in two weeks up ahead, so I should manage to do some of that much sought after deep and thoughtful reading that is so lacking in our modern age. On my Kindle, of course.
Thanks to everybody who has had the ideas, the critiques, and the guts to post them. You are all models to me for how to be a successful academic. It’s inspiring—at a time where I feel the impending doom of an unfinished dissertation and all the pestering imposter feels that go with, it’s appreciated with immense gratitude.
I had every intention of posting an update yesterday, and even made long strides in doing so. But the post I wrote morphed into another monstrous tangent, which I may save for another time.
I want to represent both camps here as fairly as I can, but I’m clearly biased toward a particular perspective. My attempt yesterday, linking to this article by Nicholas Carr (from the July/August 2008 issue of the Atlantic): “Is Google Making Us Stupid? (What the internet is doing to our brains),” did not do that. Try again.
In this piece, Carr shares the concerns he and many of his colleagues have about the influence of technologies over the ages. This is backed by personal anecdote, examples from the historical record and selected scientific studies. I personally am not sure that the studies he chose actually prove the point he is making (but they seem like good studies that have things to say in their own right). This is another tangent though.
Carr doesn’t call himself a digital dualist, and this article was written years before Jurgenson coined the term. However, the nearly 5,000 word piece does go a long way towards giving the reader an idea of who Carr is and what he cares about. The digital dualist ideas are not readily transparent, but rather underlying what is – something between a hard and a soft form of technological determinism. Meaning that, Carr and many of his colleagues, believe that the internet and all its incarnations has been altering our brains, changing the way we read, the way we think, and therefore perhaps our very senses of self.* He relates to past examples of this—from Socrates on writing and memory (why always with the Phaedrus, people?) to Nietzsche’s typewriter, or the inventions of the clock, the printing press, the production “algorithm” and other irreparably society transforming events.
This is fundamentally digital dualist because there is a psychological divide inherent in technological determinism. The distance between man and machine is necessary because it allows one to be viewed as separate from the other. It gives directionality to the influence (machine as agent, man as patient) and it develops causality for the results of the contact and influence—that man is “reprogrammed”, “altered” and the mind possibly “flatten[ed] into artificial intelligence.” As Carr elaborates,
When the Net absorbs a medium, that medium is re-created in the Net’s image.
So does that mean it is swallowing us up, too? Have we been reduced to little more than a medium? According to Carr,
what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles.
So, perhaps. But I’m getting lost again. The point is, that whether Carr agrees with the term “digital dualism” or not, he speaks of man and machine as two separate actors, pitted against each other in a battle for attention. He may be skeptical of the strong stance that man is losing that battle, but I don’t think he’d cede on the idea that there is price we pay to play. Whether it’s the game frame, or the vendor one, a Space Odyssey or a debate on the very Internet itself, he sees sides and trade-offs. I suppose I do too. But I can only go so far with it, because I (and I can and should only speak for myself here) also see the tangles of an enmeshment, the willful yet automatic embodiment of technology in my everyday experiences, and the line that exists common to the “on” and the “off” being at times as inclusively wide as it is long.
Later today I will post Part Three.
*It very much reminds me of this rather deterministic quote:
Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.
— ironically attributable to so many different people that all I can say for sure is that the Almighty Internet is now the keeper of them all.
Maybe “duel” is more apt — a pun that I’m sure hasn’t escaped anyone involved I’m sure. Regardless, an intellectual battle has been going on for the last week or so (but really, for years and years) between two (and arguably more) camps of internet researchers. In the context of this, even the word “camp” is debatable.
“Digital Dualism” was a term coined by Nathan Jurgenson, in a post he made in February 2011 entitled “Digital Dualism versus Augmented Reality.” I think he says it best, so I’ll direct quote his definition and stance on digital dualism here:
Digital dualists believe that the digital world is “virtual” and the physical world “real.” This bias motivates many of the critiques of sites like Facebook and the rest of the social web and I fundamentally think this digital dualism is a fallacy. Instead, I want to argue that the digital and physical are increasingly meshed, and want to call this opposite perspective that implodes atoms and bits rather than holding them conceptually separate augmented reality.
Jurgenson later elaborated on this with a proposed 4-part typology of digital dualism, as shown below:
Strong Digital Dualism: The digital and the physical are different realities, have different properties, and do not interact.
Mild Digital Dualism: The digital and physical are different realities, have different properties, and do interact.
Mild Augmented Reality: The digital and physical are part of one reality, have different properties, and interact.
Strong Augmented Reality: The digital and physical are part of one reality and have the same properties.
Various internet researchers have recently been actively engaged in making cases for or against different conceptions within the typology. There is too much going on at the moment to really delve deeply into all the arguments, but I’d like to share summaries and links of some of the more interesting (IMHO) posts I’ve found lately regarding this topic. To be perfectly clear going into this, Jurgenson is in the Mild Augmented Reality camp…but ymmv.
Kicking this linkfest off, one article I found particularly mind-blowing was Jenny Davis’ January 2013 post “Theorizing Embodiment.” She takes Jurgensons’ typology and maps it onto notions of materiality. This results in a new way to conceive of the original model, putting more focus on the physical and experiential aspects of digital dualism. Davis’ reformulation of the original model is copied below. Note that it contains a fifth, ideal and “empirically unreachable” category:
Pure Digital Dualism: This is an Ideal Type in which digital and physical are fully separate, share no properties, and do not interact
Mild Augmentated Reality: Highly digital or highly physical, with small amounts of digtal/physical interaction
Augmented Reality: Physical and digital are explicitly intertwined and mutually constitutive, but maintain unique properties
Strong Augmented Reality: Physical and digital, though maintaining separate properties, are deeply intertwined, mutually constitutive, and inseparable
Pure Integration: An Ideal Type in which the physical and digital are one in the same.
Davis then goes on to explain some manifestations of this (examples including disability narratives, biometric technology, the significance of avatars, and MMORPG playing) which range from disembodied states to hyper-embodied states, with each rooted in various conceptions of her material typology. It’s a short article, but a great read to really get one thinking!
In another recent article posted on Cyborgology, “On the Political Origins of Digital Dualism,” David Banks takes us back through time, exploring some of the conceptual groundwork that led us as a society toward these ways of looking at “real” vs. “virtual”. He starts with the more recent (and fundamentally problematic) view of technological determinism — the idea that technology shapes and influences our thoughts, actions, identities. This idea is annoying and pervasive, e.g., “the internet is ruining English”, “nobody talks to each other anymore because of Facebook”, and on and on. Banks cites evidence of technological determinism (and therefore digitual dualism, albeit not with the modern trappings) going all the way back to Plato’s Phaedrus and his concerns over the dangers of the written form. But not before mentions a bunch of delightful (i.e., amusing) concerns in the centuries since — public access to novels and plays poisoning the youth, the telephone as homewrecker, etc. He manages to follow the thread there and back again, including asides on Derrida, masturbation and the Kindle…you probably should just read it.
(Banks’ article links to an earlier piece he wrote, “Sherry Turkle’s Chronic Digital Dualism Problem” in which he highlights some basic problems with digital dualism (and technological determinism) and explains how “the augmented reality perspective demands that we look at root causes.” It’s another interesting read, so thought I’d give it a mention, too.)
I’ve realized now that this post is going to be much, much bigger than I’d originally anticipated. It’s incredibly late here, and I’m staving off a mild headache. So I think what I’ll do is make this post be a Part One of [number to be determined after sleep and coffee]. So therefore, a Part One that really is a backgrounder of terms and perspectives, which is necessary I suppose (and can standalone, yes? Yes.). Part Two will get into the current debate.
Until the next post, I wanted to add one more article on Digital Dualism. I liked this recent piece “Welcome to the Grid: How Living on the Internet Changes Everything” by Christopher Hutton. While I have some minor quibbles with some of the framings, I thought his summary and quote of Jurgenson was very nice. What made me feel that this article was particularly necessary to include here were his thoughts on communities. Very often in this debate the focus is on individuals, or on society as a whole, but community exists in between and is integral to both. Also, online communities tend to be marginalized or invalidated through digital dualist creeds and it’s really unfortunate, taking a swipe at both the micro (individuals) and the macro (societies) at once. I think that Hutton gets at this simply, personally, and effectively.
That’s all for tonight, folks. Tomorrow, all the digital dualist feels and more…
It is shameful how long it’s been since I’ve updated this site, but to rush to my own defense it’s been a ridiculously busy time. I’m teaching, presenting, job-hunting, moving, writing my PhD and all manner of other things. I hope to get back on this posting, as I have lots of exciting MeFi-related things to catch up on and share.
This last week I’ve been refining my data from the two MetaFilter surveys. In March 2010, 2,521 participants submitted surveys about their pronunciation of MeFi & MeFite. In August 2012, 1,957 participants submitted surveys (in a new and improved version!). 769 MeFites took both surveys, leaving 3,709 unique MetaFilter users taking either survey – that’s still well over 10% of the active MetaFilter user base. It’s very exciting…to me it’s akin to walking into a town and getting 1/10th of the living population there to contribute to the ethnography. Like, totes amazeballs, IYKWIM.
One thing that has intrigued me is the amount of other language experience MeFites have. I do not yet know how these results compare to other internet communities, or different geographic populations across the globe, but I can say that in and of itself these data are quite fascinating. We are a linguistically diverse bunch!
I’ll be making some charts soon (need more time…where does it all go??) but for now, here are some neat lists.
This first is a list of the native languages of MeFites from the 2012 survey, ordered by most common. Again, the total number of surveys in 2012 was 1,957. However, only 1,904 MeFites actually answered the native language question…so this list includes only them. Also, some MeFites were a bit vague about their description of their native language, and eleven of them stated that they are native bi- or tri-lingual speakers, so the total count will be a bit off from 1,904).
6% of MeFites surveyed in 2012 stated that they are native speakers of a language other than English (including native speakers of English + other language(s)). Here are the languages (roughly 35 different languages) and counts:
MeFites’ Native Languages:
Spanish (Unspecified Variety) 8
5 or fewer native speakers (alpha-order):
Arabic, Bengali, Cantonese, Catalan, Chinese (Mandarin), Chinese (Unspecified Variety), Estonian, Greek, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Kannada, Korean, Lithuanian, Luxembourgish, Malayalam, Norwegian, Persian (Dari), Polish, Portuguese, Serbian, South Asian Lang (Unspecified Variety), Spanish (Latin American), Swedish, Taiwanese, Tamil, Telugu, Turkish, Urdu
This second list is similar in calculation and format, but consists of the languages MeFites from the 2012 survey state that they are fluent in, or have advanced experience with. There may be some overlap with the numbers from the first list (as there should be, in a sense). 85% of MeFites ignored this question or did not have fluent/advanced language experience, leaving 15% of those surveyed who state that they do. Here is a list of languages (and counts) that these MeFites state they have fluent or advanced knowledge of (roughly 47 different languages):
MeFites’ Language Experience (Fluent or Advanced)
Chinese (Mandarin) 12
5 or fewer experienced speakers (alpha-order):
Afrikaans, Arabic, Armenian, Bahasa Malaysia, Bengali, Catalan, Chinese (Cantonese), Chinese (Unspecified), Croatian, Czech, Danish, Estonian, Farsi, French (Canadian), Gaelic, Greek, Greek (Ancient), Hebrew, Hindi, Hokkien, Hungarian, Indonesian, Irish Gaelic, Kiswahili, Malay, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (Brazilian), Programming Language, Romanian, Serbian, Sign Language (American), Sign Language (British), Slovene, South Asian Language (Unspecified Variety), Swahili, Tagalog, Ukrainian, Urdu, Welsh
Thinking about this all…I’m impressed with the amount of native Dutch speakers on MetaFilter. Also, that the number of French-speaking MeFites is double that of Spanish-speaking, and triple that of German-speaking. Interesting. Looking at the other ends of these lists…some rarer languages represented, how cool!
More observations later…I must go view some flats now and finish up a job application.
A fellow MeFite tweeted the following earlier today:
“When did trigger warning/alert become nearly as common as NSFW?”
This got me thinking, so I dug into the MetaFilter Corpus and pulled out the raw counts and parts per million (PPM) for both of these words, as found on “the Blue”, and sorted by year. Here are the results:
I didn’t do a chart by word rank, but I should’ve (it’s a bit labor intensive with my current setup).
The word frequency gives you a sense of how much these words were actually used (number of instances), whereas the PPM tells you more about how those words measure up to the rest of the corpus for that year.
“nsfw” (meaning “not suitable for work”, as a warning to other readers when clicking on links) was coined sometime during 2001, but didn’t hit MeFi consciousness until sometime during 2003 (where we see a big jump, from less than 100 instances to just over 300). It spiked again in 2006-2007 and then has seemed to found it’s place with a PPM somewhere between 20-35 million.
“trigger”, already having another sense from the one we are interested in (specifically, “trigger” as a type of warning to other MeFites that the content may be disturbing for PTSD or other trauma survivors) was found in the corpus from the very start*. “trigger” sees a spike in 2005, and then again in 2009. However, it’s remained relatively stable as compared the rest of the corpus (maintaining a PPM value between 13-17). This suggests to me that “trigger” is noticeable to others perhaps not because of its frequency, but rather it’s saliency as a new form with a somewhat contentious use and meaning on MetaFilter.
I do find it interesting that in 2010, both wordforms are relatively equally frequent in count and PPM. I’d want to look into this further and see just how similar they are to each other in these respects. The word rank would be very useful here as well. As would 2011 data. Perhaps I’ll ask around and see if that’s been generated yet.
All of this is not very rigorous…I’m just throwing some quick charts up here, describing what I see, and giving some sparse thought on it. If I had more time, I’d love to delve into the qualitative data and see how these words are actually used in context. And run some stats. But for now, it’s getting late and I had very little sleep last night (went on a roller derby zombie recruitment raid in York, as you do).
Any thoughts y’all have on this would be cool. I’d love to hear ‘em.
*The 1999 results for “trigger” were set to zero for that year, as the corpus was very small and therefore the PPM results unreliable. I really should have just left that year out, but I wanted to be thorough.
Speculative Grammarian is the premier scholarly journal featuring research in the neglected field of satirical linguistics.
This study provides one of the first published accounts of sociophonetic variation in which the speech community under investigation exists online and text-based communication is the dominant mode of interaction. The abbreviated name of the Internet community weblog — MeFi, from MetaFilter.com — has at least eight recognized pronunciation variants. Quantitative analysis of surveys from over 2000 MetaFilter members reveals statistically significant variation in the distribution of members’ preferred pronunciations for MeFi across four English-speaking countries. These results reflect dialectal and socio-cultural differences in naming preferences in spite of the fact that the speech channel is limited or non-primary.
Here is the link to the content of Volume 60, Number 4, December 2012; my article is here. The post-print of the article can be viewed by clicking here (automatic PDF download). Please note that the post-print is the version that has been accepted by the journal, prior to Maney’s copyediting, typesetting and proofing process; there will be differences between this PDF and the final published version. If you have Institutional access to Names, please view that version.
I hope you enjoy reading this. Please don’t hesitate to send me some feedback. Thanks!
Preferred citation: Witten, K., 2012. Sociophonetic Variation in an Internet Place Name. Names: A Journal of Onomastics, 60(4), pp.220–230.
With AVML being a success and accomplishment, and Portugal vacation sadly in the recent past, I’ve finally forced myself to turn to data crunching my way through this endless flood (York is turning into a giant waterhole). It was slow going at first, but in the last few hours I’ve really made some progress.
After weeks of tinkering with Google Refine, I finally have the data in an analyzable state. In the database to boot! I started playing around with the variables and ran a few chi-squares. The results are encouraging! Not only are there significant changes between the 2010 and 2012 surveys, but there are some consistencies (that are also significant) as well. I even found a few things that I hadn’t checked on the 2010 data, which I will go back and do.
Gender is still insignificant; age most certainly is not. Geographies have shifted. Heat maps are needed (and thanks to AVML and some helpful MeFites, I know where to start). Also interesting is the relationship between strength of what I call “MeFi conviction” and pronunciation outcomes. Basically, MeFites who feel very strongly about their chosen pronunciation tend to fall more strongly into a few popular pronunciation groups; MeFites who don’t care or are unsure are pretty much all over the place. This may seem obvious or uninteresting, but it is actually quite relevant to the process of enregisterment in that emerging standards and awareness of those standards are aligned with people’s attitudes and investment in their own pronunciation choices.
That’s all I’ll say for now. There’s loads more, but I’m tired, it’s late and I need to have a real think about things. But later.
I’ll probably work on this again a little bit more tomorrow. Then I’m switching gears to work on updating and submitting my paper about dogwhistles to a journal. I want to make some changes, then include data from next week’s presidential debate. Keep your ears open for those pitches, people!
Friday kicks off a MetaFilter meetup weekend with trips to the Superhuman exhibit at the Wellcome Collection, a night of Turkish BBQ and jazz music, a Saturday at the Science Museum, a trip to what I hear is passable Mexican food at Taqueria afterwards, and finally a pub crawl in Clerkenwell. Then I shall spend Sunday at the International Tattoo Convention, adding to what has so far been a 50+-hour investment. Good times.