Texting is Whispering

Its taken me a while to sort out what is so socially interuptive about texting.

It’s not fattening, not a carcinogen and not physically addictive… So, why is it so annoying when the person you’re talking to at a party, or the person next to you in a meeting whips out their phone and starts typing?

Many scholarly studies are beginning to delve into the individual affects of time spent using social media, from feelings of isolation through anxiety and withdrawal when unable to “connect” to delusions of interpersonal connection where there is little or none actually happening, my query is more social psychologically oriented: what’s the affect on the group or individuals observing the activity.

It occurred to me after careful observation of both the activity in numerous circumstances that what may be going on from the perspective of the observer is equivalent to when someone in a room full of people cups their hand to a confederate’s ear and whispers something. Everyone knows it’s going on, but no one knows what’s going on.

As George Washington said in his 77th “Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior“:

  77th Treat with men at fit Times about Business & Whisper not in the Company of Others.

And, with good reason.

When someone whispers, or otherwise takes a conversation into private, there can be suspicion that they are up to a nefarious purpose, perhaps having a conversation about, or affecting, one of the people present; why else would they not make their comments publicly?

Now, granted, this might go to the observers sense of self image, and that would be an interesting study in itself.

I think this may be part of why I like twittering: most anything I’m seen typing on a device is available for public view. Not 100%, but the vast majority. I primarily post to two places: my Twitter page at https://www.twitter.com/joetennis or My Facebook music page at https://www.facebook.com/joe10music . These are pretty public venues, and if you want to see what I’m typing, it’s all out there. For the most part.

So, something to think about. I’m sure my 6th grade teacher Mr. Provosaro would have some written punishment tantamount to writing out 100 “GWs”, or George Washington Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior… Maybe even just repurposing old #77, that people got stuck with for whispering in class.

iOS hidden scroll thumb masks user progress

In the days of CD-Rom “multimedia” we often talked about the “thickness of the book” factor; how much was there to read, do, watch, etc.

When you pick up a physical copy of “War and Peace” you know you’re about to commit to an intimidating pile of reading. When you popped a copy of Myst into your CD-Rom you really couldn’t tell how long it would take you to enter, acclimate, reach catharsis, and get out of whatever experience the author had created for you… We came up with ways to telegraph “how much is here” and ” how much is left.

The scroll bar of a scrolling pane in an application or web site serves a similar function to the careful user who understands that its relative placement within its sliding axis is an indication of where you are, and it’s relative size compared to the dimension of the track it slides within is a relative indicator of the overall size of the content.

But, in iOS they made that affordance hidden except while your a scrolling, must frequently by swiping/flicking. The problem with this is tha then i’m reading a long treatise by Paul Bryon or Luke W I have no idea how long their well thought out diatribe will continue, whether I can finish before my train stop, if I need to save it off to Instapaper, or what without occasionally doing a mini-flick to activate the slider thumb…

And, thus my reading flow gets interrupted and a little bit harder.

And, now it’s my stop. gotta run.

Is a dictionary like a slide ruler?

I’ve often heard people, myself included telling their kids “don’t look that up on the computer – use the dictionary… The process of looking it up is as important as knowing the word”

Is it?

Reading on my Kindle (ok, Kindle for iPad, really) on the commute train this morning I tapped a word and was instantly delivered the definition. For that instant need, in that in setting, that was perfect. A dictionary – especially a separate app dictionary, couldn’t have served me better.

On one hand I think the seeing of the words that surround the word you’re looking for, the free exploration of words with similar prefixes makes the physical dictionary a wonderful thing. I remember long afternoon’s as a teenager with my friend Jim trying to stump one another as we traded back and forth with a dictionary, and think that game served me well.
But, what I wonder about, is as with all things interactive, is the context question. Context, and the nut that hasn’t been cracked: form factor. The 2D screen is pretty good for reading, yet very linear for exploration. Why hypertext made free form exploration of relationships seems like the ultimate place for branching and exploring a conceptual matrix like a dictionary, I think there must be a form factor more optimal than a 2D screen.

Like, the very physical nature of a slide ruler made relationships obvious to the budding math wizard , what electronic gizmo could make word relationships come to life.

Well, it’s my stop, gotta run!