Sunday, April 19, 2009

Having a txt life, and being a txt worker

Being without a social life as a part time PhD student, FT academic, and most time human being, I was enticed into a conversation with an elderly article (its all relative but in communication studies 1996 was a long time ago).
The social life of documents by John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid had me considering how such a document might now be written upon; writing in the margins superseded through hyperlinked blog.
Their article predates blogs, wikis, wikipedia, text messaging, twitter yet still carries a knowing wisdom;
fixity is not as limiting as might be thought. The document, they note, changes by virtue of staying the same. This paradox draws attention to interactions between fixed documents and flexible social practices.

There is a lot worth commenting on here, and which deserves better treatment than i will be giving it. However, my task is not to write or right the world but to get a phd done, so I try not to structure, edit or wordsmith it (much), and I'm just going to blog; an al2gether more liber8ing way 2 live with txt :)

I was pulled into this acquaintance via another blogger, google alerts told me of someone in the blogosphere writing of Bruno Latour, so I tripped upon this article and was brought up by the reference to 'qualifiers in writing.' What delineations are made as to what's in and what's out. One of my earlier phd writing forums had required me to consider such qualifiers for placing ones work in the world, and this one's hard to beat:

Art and eternity are beyond the scope of this essay.

And so enticed with such frivolity I was enticed into a really good read.
In its entirety, the qualifier, which btw comes near the end of the essay, states:
Art and eternity are beyond the scope of this essay. Nonetheless, the idea of an interchange between the immutable and the transient, the fixed and the fleeting seems central to understanding documents and their many uses.

The article begins with the exaggerated rumours of death; what lives or dies when a new technology is born.
Documents as darts brought made the transport notion of documents more lively. Important here, these writers claim, is that the conduit notion of message bearer fails to observe that what is observed as written typology also underwrites social relationships; that text becomes evidence of performed social interaction, a way of being with others. The article draws in both Bruno Latour and Anslem Strauss in support of the idea that documentation is so much more than type on a page, that it also is community, if not social world building.
(And this is where life is surely breathed in; for i think- and yes there it is, another of my fav authors Susan Leigh Star links to Anslem, and a colleague Antoinette via Anslem & Glasser...and so the social wold is made smaller, a bit more of a community is built).

Brown and Duigan also point to the community and nation building quality of documents, such as with establishing treaties which they see as being as much about the words on the page as about meeting. A sense of community is built through circulation, where documentation creates the audience for community to occur.
Similarly here, I make the claim that txt is more than an immediate message of pixels on a screen, even without consideration for the content of the message; it is a catalyst for, and evidence of, connection and of engagement.
The life of the message goes on, there's an ephemeral quality where even in the absence of the message, there is memory of its existence.

Txt provides a context for finding meaning.

This can be manipulated further in text messaging for counselling. As much as there is a lot of press on text bullying, and that erasing the message does not 'make it go away' so too is there possibility for affirming messages where a counselling centre can also counter such messages, acknowledging difficulties, affirming actions taken, demonstrating empathy of it being tough, and reinforcing strengths the person has in seeking assistance. The anywhere anytime nature of the message carrier, a cell phone, supports choice for maintaining affirmative messages, allowing for a tangible positive message that transcends time. There is potential through text to connect with supportive counsellors and agencies such as Youthline for assistance, and through this connection to be aligning more strongly with one's inner strengths. The cell phone becomes the conduit in assembling and strengthening both interpersonal and intrapersonal relating.
Being txtually active is undoubtedly linked with both positive and negative possibilities, and neither outcome is inevitable. Given that having a txt life is a wide spread activity, then its more useful to think of such technology as enabling and to actively foster the conditions supporting positive outcomes. Such work is not determined by the technology itself but by those who invest creatively, negotiating and working the medium for connecting with young people in the places of their choosing.

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