Sunday, July 01, 2007

Text Life

I’ve been watching Nerds FC. Last week we learned more about the interests of one of the Nerds, Rochy. In a small bio-piece, Rochy revealed that he is keeping a record of the text messages he sends and receives on his mobile phone. He is keen to make exact copies of the sms, complete with the abbreviations and spelling shortcuts, because, as he explained, they are integral to the communication and they impart some of the character of the persons sending the messages.

I am fascinated by Rochy’s self-appointed project. I think there is much merit in his archival activities, and I’m guessing that it’s the kind of project that only an individual might undertake of their own text messaging practices; at an institutional level the ethical clearance process for such a project would surely—and properly—be difficult to pass. I imagine that in the future, libraries and museums will seek out donations of the records of amateur archivists like Rochy to gain an insight into the way mobile phones and sms, in particular, affected a range of human communication practices.

Not least is the way sms adapts language. There was a section in the Melvyn Bragg documentary and book on English about the influence of sms technology on this ever evolving language. Some would say for the worst, and I am more than likely to be one of the first to complain in this vein, particularly when I encounter ‘4’ ‘2’ ‘u’ and ‘yr’ in essays submitted for academic assessment. But since I’m a great believer in the possibilities of different genres, I have no problem with the same kinds of abbreviations in text messages, even if I’m yet to fully relax into using the more extreme manifestations of them myself—and I always refrain from commenting ‘lol’ on students’ essays.

Aside from this meta-historical fascination with Rochy’s project, I admit that it dovetails nicely with a post I’ve been thinking about doing for some time now around my own use of text messaging (Hey, it’s a blog! You didn’t expect self-obsession?) Often times, I will flick through the store of messages in the Inbox and Outbox of my mobile phone and as I read I realise that I have a small record of the past month or so of my life.

Now there will be some argument about whether anyone else needs to witness the last month of my life in text messages—some will argue with a certain tone in their voices about the proliferation of sites for confession and the rise of therapeutic discourse afforded by blogging (they used the same argument about the advent of daytime television talk shows), while others will point joyously to the influence of feminism in breaking down hierarchies of knowledge and the transformation of the public sphere into an increasingly democratic place.

Anyone holding the latter viewpoint can rest assured that I’m only presenting a selection of the Outbox text messages, because I care to protect the innocent who sent me messages for my eyes only—my own ethical clearance process, if you will. Those of the former opinion will be glad to know that the selected messages will be linked to observations about, and activities in, the world at large, including events that I wish I had more energy to blog about. (Okay, there might be some self-indulgence too. See earlier comment re: the nature of a blog).

This was June:

There was a bit of black fabric embedded in one knee and some slightly rubbed off skin, but I’ll live 2 fight another day… *hum the Superman theme here*
Sent: 1-Jun-07 23:06

This is the day I found out that when I trip over in the gutter, I do it ‘elegantly’. Or so said the friends I was with. I will add it to my store of embarrassing situations that I have apparently executed in a similar manner, including, you should know, throwing up after imbibing too much alcohol. It might also be pertinent to know that twice in my life, friends have bought me perfume. Both times the perfume has been called ‘Woman’, the first by Hugo Boss, the second by Versace. There’s a side of me that I couldn’t otherwise have told you about.

It sounds great. 4 doors 2 huh? Went 2 Sally’s paper yesterday. My goodness she’s an amazing public speaker. G— said no prob re desk in centre. He said I shouldn’t put up with accommodation issues.
Sent: 2-Jun-07 21:24 2 pages

A good friend has just bought a car; she is so chuffed she speaks fondly of traffic jams.

I went to see a paper given by the curator of an exhibition by the Lockhart River Gang at the University of Queensland Art Museum. Extraordinary art. A youth-led Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art movement is creating their people’s tradition.

My supervisor is the best. I think it’s a universally agreed upon fact by those who know him. He has an extraordinary ability to restore my faith in my own ability.

Sent: 4-Jun-07 20:48

I’ve stopped watching Big Brother now, mainly because I think Emma had a polarising effect on the house. Even now she’s gone, I guess I lost the viewing habit while she was talking about other people behind their backs, saying she hated it when people talked about other people behind their backs. I remember the days when I couldn’t think of anything worse too. I was about fifteen. I’m glad I’m over that self-destructive obsession. Life is much more relaxing.

U watching Supernatural? Think a lot of fun was had writing this one.
Sent: 4-Jun-07 21:10

I spend a lot of time discussing Supernatural via sms. This episode was particularly brilliant. Is there such a concept as intra-textual references? It would be slightly different, I think, to the noted development of television that has a memory, which is opposed to soap operas where things are forgotten and so repeated.

Sam and Dean were on the set of a supernatural-themed film being directed by McG (producer of Supernatural). This was an episode for the fans who knew the series well enough to get the self-allusions.

(RE: Suspected terrorist I saw filming at) What makes u think so?
Sent: 6-June-07 14:54

I didn’t really know what to say when I got this photo. In this day and age these things can’t be discounted, but then the fear and paranoia about these kinds of things can’t be discounted either.

That girl who we all had 2 stay back 4 was just so disrespectful. She complained about how tired she was. I said we were staying back 4 her so she should thank us. She declined. Her presentation was terrible too. I wanted 2 slap her.
Sent: 6-Jun-07 20:58 2 pages

A note to students: if you’re going to cancel your presentation, via email, 1hr 15mins beforehand, with the lame excuse of a stomach ache, for which you can produce no medical certificate, and the tutor rearranges the schedule for the following week, especially for you, which involves the class and her staying behind an extra (unpaid) ½ hour, then the least you can do is stop surfing the internet on your laptop while other students are presenting, stop complaining about the perfectly fine air-conditioning (we need the air because you’re sucking so much energy from the room) and your perception about the lateness of the hour, as well as every other damn thing you can think of. You might also have spent the intervening week of your dishonestly acquired extension actually working on putting some content into your f’n’ lame Powerpoint presentation. As they say/said in television: ‘Content is King’.

These boys are way too pretty for prison.
Sent: 11 Jun-07 21:20

More Supernatural talk. Lovely, gorgeous close ups. (Hello Prison Break!).

Hmm. Well we’ll have 2 see 4 ourselves won’t we? If they’re the same fans who watched for the topless dancing scenes, I’m not too worried.
Sent: 12-Jun-07 19:37

I also like to discuss The Sopranos. I sent this text in response to the news that some fans weren’t happy with the outcome of the series when it was screened in the US. When I first started my PhD I did some reading of Sopranos fans’ chat lists and discovered that some people thought there weren’t enough scenes shot in the main bar at the Bada Bing! At the time I was shocked; that’s what they get out of The Sopranos? If they don’t care about the wonderful scripts and the extraordinary acting—I could go on—they might as well hire a pawn video.

Really? Why would they spoil it? U.ll have 2 keep that 2 yourself.
Sent: 12-Jun-07 19:40

This is the curse of being in Australia and having to wait for episodes of The Sopranos to screen on Free-to-Air television that have already aired in the States. Everybody wants to spoil things for you. Not sure what that’s about, a demonstration of greater knowledge perhaps?, a serious misunderstanding about the etiquette of not revealing the ending of a cumulative narrative that has been over seven years in the making? At least SBS gave some warning, but I heard the national daily just slipped it, without signal, into an editorial. Is it the title of a Raymond Carver short story that implores “Would you just be quiet, please?”?

No i’m at UQ. Did you hear about Gary and John, suspended without pay 4 six months? All the women in film and tv are thrilled.
Sent: 13-Jun-07 13:30

Enough said.

I wondered out into the world looking 4 lunch and just thought if u were free…
Sent: 13-Jun-07 16:26

I often wonder while I wander.

Not sure if u use yr phone but if u do then the ferry arrives at new farm park at 817 so will arrive in foyer shortly thereafter
Sent: 15-Jun-07 19:46

The ferry was late and I ran through the door of the Power House just as E was getting ready to leave my ticket at the box office. We rushed to our seats and were well settled before the lights came up on British-based American expatriate Amy Lamé as she told her tale of being kidnapped, along with her siblings, by Mama Cass and put into service as a touring child star Hilarious! Convincing! Free ham sandwiches!

Just confirming that it is a 2pm start, so all is according 2 plan.
Sent: 16-June-07 8:40

As TimT has recently pointed out, buying tickets online and weeks ahead can lead to all sorts of confusion about the times and dates of the shows you’re going to see. Thankfully I have an organised friend who confirmed that we were going to see Bangarra on the 16th of June for the matinee session.

True Stories was comprised of two separate works. The first, choreographed by Elma Kris, told the story of daily traditional life in the Torres Strait. Dr H. noted that the lead dancer in this piece had a wonderfully expressive face, ideally suited to story telling. I felt a pang for childhood holidays at Cape Tribulation when I saw the stylised mangroves of the stage design. The second story was choreographed by Frances Rings. It was about the nuclear tests at Maralinga. I wish I could speak from a more informed place about the dancing. It was moving. I was breathless from watching. Bangarra is extraordinary.

Just turned my phone on after battery died. To answer yr q re student, nothing much I guess. But u knew that. Everything’s Victorian 2 them.
Sent: 17-Jun-07 17:51

Yes, you heard it here first: Shakespeare was a time traveller, often visiting Queen Victoria’s court. He must have snuck into the Tardis.

It’s 2 cold. I’m in bed with flannel sheets, 2 hot water bottles, a quilt, a rug, wearing a track suit, a singlet and bed socks. I’m warm. Just. Except my nose.
Sent: 20-Jun-07 22:09

For a while in Brisbane, we thought winter would never arrive. Then it did. Let’s just say it’s been all freezing wind assisted walking lately.

I was convinced yr msg had been a dream. Now I’ve just checked I can see it wasn’t. I’ve had a very lazy morning. Must continue marking.
Sent: 23-Jun-07 12:54

How else can one respond to an early morning weekend message about the merits of one of the French newsreaders on SBS?

I thought about junior. Excitement. I wouldn’t need 2 stay with u the whole time. Maybe a week in total over the 2 weeks. I’ve got a few mates in Melb. I can annoy too.
Sent: 23-Jun-07 15:10 2 pages

I’m going to Melbourne in November. My sister-in-law will have given birth to my brand new nephew. My brother will be a father.

(RE:Self portrait I took last night) Wow! Stunning. Is it on flickr? I want 2 see it bigger. Sent: 25-Jun-07 10:54

No there was an explanation of the gothic frm E— and some talk of metaphors from me. Sent: 25-Jun-07 19:29

I’m trying to convince another friend to come along to one of the book clubs. I’m not sure she’s the book club type. She doesn’t like Oprah’s Book Club and she doesn’t like the Tuesday Book Club show on the ABC because in her opinion they only talk about the books in a limited way, mostly through the lens of emotion. I was trying to convince her that we’re very high brow.

He got that frm u u know.

Sent: 25-Jun-07 19:33

Parents are to blame when their children join online chat groups that believe Tarzan should be King.

Just watching last night’s ep of Torchwood. Tried 2 buy Deadwood yesterday. No luck at JB Sent: 26-Jun-07 21:14

Monday night is a dilemma of unmanageable proportions when it comes to television viewing. Who thought it was a good idea to put Torchwood, If the Dead Could Speak and Brothers and Sisters on at the same time? I need some of that illegal download action. Who says you can’t like SF, psychological thrillers and melodrama? I’ve had to make choices and I’m not happy.

Yes I was watching it. Looks like Catherine Tate doesn’t hang around. Bummer. A— wants 2 know when we’re coming 4 a visit.
Sent: 28-Jun-07 21:44

Oh, how we loved The Catherine Tate Show! And now here she pops up on Dr. Who. I suppose the show might have become a bit overcrowded with excellent comic talent if she’d stayed around as David Tennant’s side-kick. And Tate is no side-kick. Her character of Nan was my favourite in The Catherine Tate Show. It may have confirmed every criticism that Ricky Gervais ever made about catch-phrases in Extras, but who didn’t love it when Nan Taylor paused, after people whom she had been perfectly pleasant to, left the room, only to turn to her grandson and hiss ‘What a fucking liberty!’ before recounting some imposition she’d noted on their part? Watching Dr. Who, it also became apparent that there was a bit more in Tate of her belligerent school girl character who had another eminently usable catchphrase: ‘Am I bovvered? But, am I bovvered?!’

Goodness. Yr eager. Suppose u have 2 b tho. When they were riding those wheelie things I was laughing so much. Pure Dr Who.
Sent: 28-Jun-07 21:53

Already preparing for next semester. Another pure Dr. Who moment was when after his sonic screwdriver gave up the ghost, the Doctor resorted to … turning the lock on the door to slow down the creatures chasing him. One recalls other similarly brilliant moments, such as the time when the solution to an insurmountable problem was to pull a plug out of an electrical socket--


lucy tartan said...

This is the only thing I've ever read that made me feel like I might be missing something by not having a mobile phone.

Re Melbourne in November - there's a spare room here. It will most likely be occupied during the Jane Austen conference 28th to 30th, but you're more than welcome to it the rest of the time.

Kirsty said...

As someone who lives by herself, I really think text messaging--along with blogging--has been a kind of lifeline for me. I don't think I've ever had so much social interaction.

The occasional photos sent by my brother are very nice too. You should see the works of art I'm carrying in my pocket.

I just might take you up on the offer of a room for a couple of nights. That's very kind of you. It would be great to 'meet' more blog people, especially my fellow Sarsaparillans.

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