Category Archives: instant messaging

sloppy speech acts

I was conversing with a friend on my Sidekick when we got into a discussion about speech acts. I was trying to explain Derrida and Searle’s seminal tiff over Austin when i got frustrated. It was not the actual topic that made me upset but my inability to convey the significance of their disagreement. She was on her computer typing at normal speed and i was trying to peck out shorthand on my Sidekick. I got frustrated that i couldn’t get across what i wanted to.

I’m fascinated by the kinds of speech that suit the Sidekick and which kinds don’t. Anything that requires debate or nuanced speech fails on the Sidekick because i try to type fast and end up with sloppy, shorthanded text that is easily misinterpreted. And then i get frustrated, type faster and thus more sloppy to try to correct the conversational path quickly. Spiral to uh-oh quickly ensues.

Today, i was writing an email to someone about something that was emotionally charged and i realized that i was using super staccato speech patterns. I took a look at some recent IM exchanges and saw more staccato – they had blurred… emotional speech had the same pattern. Yesterday, i ran across old zwrite debates from 1997 and when i looked back today, i realized there was a big difference in language patterns. No shorthand, more articulated speech. I was also thinking about how Tom Coate thought that his blogging speech had really changed when he switched from Blogger to MovableType. I was also noticing that i often fail to use complete sentences on my blog now.. just thought bursts with lots of ellipses. I wonder how much a switch to AIM and then to the Sidekick changed things.

And then i started thinking about how sloppy my speech has been lately. I speak like i IM on my Sidekick – short, curt, coded… My speech has gotten super sloppy in recent years and i use my hands even more when i’m talking. I use whatever word comes to mind even if it doesn’t fit well and i speak through impressions rather than using sound bites. I realize that my writing has gotten sloppier too and i find it far far far more painful to write now than before. I’m not particularly proud of either of these manifestations.

I’m not sure where all of the cause and effects are but i am definitely wondering if my always-on IM life is affecting my speech elsewhere. I certainly see this with students’ writing but i’d always dismissed it as them not having learned to write yet. But if my writing and speaking is starting to look all IM like, what does that mean? What if this is the root of my frustration with writing these days? How do i get back to being able to write 10 page papers in one night in a jam session? What on earth is going on???

AIM Fight

One of my favorite articles is Cobot in LambdaMOO: A Social Statistics Agent. After people complained that the robot was learning about the community but not giving back, it was programmed to answer questions about the statistics it gathered. Things spun out of control because people found out that they were less cool than their friends. Competition ensued. It’s a classic case of why statistical information about social hierarchy is not always so good for community or relationships.

I thought of Cobot when i saw AIM Fight, a service that lets you put your AIM account in against your opponent’s to find out who has a higher score (a.k.a. popularity rating). So what are you going to do about your coolness score?

(Tx Joe)

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damn AIM caps

As i’ve mentioned before, i think that it’s *ludicrous* that services cap the number of people that you can and should know. I’ve hit the AIM cap – 200 buddies. I keep removing people but there are not enough people to remove anymore – there are only 10 addresses that i can’t associate with someone. I tried to remove anyone who hasn’t logged in in a while or who i don’t actually talk to, but the reality is that AIM is my primary form of communication for work colleagues, for social connections, for geeking out. I never login without there being at least 30 people that i know online (even now at midnight in the interim period). Although i talk to only a fraction every day, i rely on the presence bits to be in contact with people regularly and have the ability to reach out when appropriate. As more people get on AIM, work interactions switch to AIM and folks like my brother start maintaining one IM address per device, the caps are going to get more and more problematic. I honestly don’t know what to do.

How are other people handling conversation caps like the AIM cap? I cannot even imagine having a cap on my addressbook, but that’s what this feels like.

teens bullying via IM and blogs

Internet Gives Teenage Bullies Weapons to Wound From Afar is an article in the NYTimes today about how teens are using IM and blogs to bully other teens. The whole article focuses on the psychology of teen bullying, about how it’s so much easier to engage in such cruel behavior from a distance.

One thing that caught my eye was the gender differences in bullying: “Online bullying had a particular appeal for girls, who specialize in emotional rather than physical harassment and strive to avoid direct confrontation.”

There’s something about this behavior that is not really explained, something very psychological. The closest explanation we have comes from Milgram’s obedience experiments where he noted that people are more comfortable executing cruel acts when they don’t see the ramifications. But i really want to have a clear psychological explanation for emotional distance and digital behavior. Nothing that i’ve read gives a full explanation for this phenomenon.

That said, i really love NYTimes articles like this that don’t try to explain everything, but just open up a situation and explore it through anecdote.

presence in IM

I’ve seen this kind of post before.

E said that her instant messaging program lets her know when J’s computer has been idle more than a certain number of minutes, this being information she uses in her speculations about whether J is talking to, emailing, or having sex with the other woman.

I suggested the obvious: Delete him from the program.

She responded with the obvious: This is her only remaining connection to him.

But even the second time around, it’s really important to think about this relationship between two people and a technology. Presence changes behavior, allows new ways of interacting with people. Yet, what are the psychological and sociological consequences of this? Fascinating.

life without IM

Although i spend a lot of time researching social communities, i tend to avoid meeting new people online. It’s not that i don’t trust people online (because they usually come via friends or via interests), but that i am dreadful at maintaining virtual or long distance relationships, let alone building them. At the same time, i was thinking how essential virtual connections are for me to maintain my real life friendships. While cell phones are essential for maintaining face in teenage culture, i definitely find IM pretty crucial for my life. I’m far more likely to ping my IM friends for dinner and see them more often simply because i can reach out to them with ease. I keep up with my IM friends on daily life activities and they end up being my trusted network. I become friends far more quickly with friends i’ve met offline who have IM than those who do not. This was definitely true in college, but i’m surprised at how much it has persisted to this day and been impacted by the fact that many of my friends have stopped using IM and have fallen off of my daily radar.


OK.. I gave in and put my data into BuddyZoo (solely because it is a project being done by a well intended CalTech student). BuddyZoo is another game at social networks.. this time, they are looking at AIM buddy lists. And this time they are doing a visualization (although very limited). Let’s see where he takes this puppy…