Always On : Language in an Online and Mobile World: Language in an Online and Mobile World

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In Always On, Naomi S. Baron reveals that online and mobile technologies--including instant messaging, cell phones, multitasking, Facebook, blogs, and wikis--are profoundly influencing how we read and write, speak and listen, but not in the ways we might suppose. Baron draws on a decade of research to provide an eye-opening look at language in an online and mobile world. She reveals for instance that email, IM, and text messaging have had surprisingly little impact on student writing. Electronic media has magnified the laid-back "whatever" attitude toward formal writing that young people everywhere have embraced, but it is not a cause of it. A more troubling trend, according to Baron, is the myriad ways in which we block incoming IMs, camouflage ourselves on Facebook, and use ring tones or caller ID to screen incoming calls on our mobile phones. Our ability to decide who to talk to, she argues, is likely to be among the most lasting influences that information technology has upon the ways we communicate with one another. Moreover, as more and more people are "always on" one technology or another--whether communicating, working, or just surfing the web or playing games--we have to ask what kind of people do we become, as individuals and as family members or friends, if the relationships we form must increasingly compete for our attention with digital media? Our 300-year-old written culture is on the verge of redefinition, Baron notes. It's up to us to determine how and when we use language technologies, and to weigh the personal and social benefits--and costs--of being "always on." This engaging and lucidly-crafted book gives us the tools for taking on these challenges.

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An excellent study on the impact of our constant connection via communications technology. Though a linguist by trade, Baron presents a comprehensive study of the issue. It would be difficult to read ... Read full review

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This is a highly informative exploration of the impact technologies and systems built for communication have on language and social interaction. With her background in linguistics, Baron assesses the effects digital communication devices have on language and how technology has often either altered the use of language or created, as the need arised, for new vocabulary. Throughout the book, the prevalence of historical vignettes present a historical context in which to assess the impact technology has had in the past from the advent of the telephone to the current (at the time of the writing) communication technologies. Though by today’s standards the contemporary technologies discussed seem out of date, Baron realizing the ephemeral nature of technology, attempts to assess the potential for technology not only affecting language’s functionality, but human behavior as well.
Baron pioneers a topic of which determinations cannot as of yet be fully realized. Culling from empirical data gathered studying American college students with some reference to foreign cultures such as Japan or the Philippines in which the use of electronically mediated devices have a higher development, Baron is able to speculate authoritively the potential tribulations such technology is capable of and open a discussion for the possibilities digital communication has for altering fundamental aspects of human social and cognitive behavior.
Without exclusively focusing on the negative aspects inflicted on personal, cognitive or sociable behavior, Baron tenuously concludes with the pondering as to whether technology is to blame or is the ability to be “always on” a conscious decision. All in all very important research and it is a safe assumption that Baron will be at the forefront of the investigation as only time and introspection can reveal the true consequences, if any, as to the effects the digital age will actually have on humanity at large.
Anton Chavez


Language in an Online and Mobile World
The Basics
Everyone a Language Czar
The World of IM
Managing Buddies and Friends
Blogs and Beyond
Cell Phones in Context
Is the Internet Destroying Language?
Challenges to Written Culture
The Cost of Being Always On

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