The (r)evolution of communication

The way we communicate and write has always been influenced by technology: although we do not notice it, the communication evolves over time and the language adapts to the medium to which we entrust it. Speaking of which, there is a popular anecdote about Victor Hugo: in 1862, curious to know how his book Les Misérables was selling, he sent to his publisher a telegram consisting of a single character (“?“). The publisher’s response was similar (“!“) and indicated it was selling very well. This is a clear example of effective communication, even with just two punctuation marks.

In this case, the conciseness of the message was due to the fact that when you send a telegram you pay for every single character, therefore the communication adapted itself to the medium used. The ways of communicating, therefore, have changed shape over the years, also on account of the different instruments used. Telecommunications, SMSs, emails and chats have greatly influenced the ways of communicating in the last decades: we have gone from long response times of the letters to the verbal communication of phone calls, through SMSs (with many abbreviations to save on the cost) to the chats. We used synchronous (phone, chat) and asynchronous (letters, SMS) forms of communication, with all the inevitable influences that these means of communicating have had on the content of our conversations.

fast-communications

Communication today is instant and personal: instant messaging apps allow us to bring the conversations directly where we are and enjoy them when we prefer. From this point of view the im communication is both synchronous (we exchange messages in real time) and asynchronous (the message is delivered, but sometimes we read when we are most comfortable), it is written (chat) and verbal (voice messages, which we use always more), it can be both succinct and verbose (messages can be as long as we want, without the restrictions imposed by the SMSs price) but above all, it is fast.

For this reason, the syntax and the vocabulary we use today are very particular: when we write emails and chat, for example, we tend to be brief and to shorten the words but, at the same time, we use a lot of punctuation, much more than the one we use in other writings. We do it to clarify the tone of the sentences and avoid misunderstandings. We increase the use of exclamation points and question marks, we resort to emoticons and, for some time, also to emoji, icons or even animated gifs. Several research studies show that the human brain “reads” the emoticons in a similar way as it “reads” facial expressions and interprets them as non-verbal communications.

animated gif

All of these new tools and ways of communicating, therefore, bridge the gap between verbal and written communication, gradually break down the barriers between people and broaden the horizons of the future communication. Softwares and mobile apps are radically changing our approach to communication: automatic translators are just the tip of the iceberg, we now have apps that interpret the images and help the blind quickly identify objects or apps that allow deaf people to make phone calls and call a taxi. Enable people to communicate more and better is a goal we set ourselves too. All we can say now is: follow us in our journey, because we are just getting started.