Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Twitter as conversation

Via Stan Carey (whose post is worth your time, too, this insightful post on Susan Greenfield's latest sky-is-falling-read-my-book alarum. It's by Sophie Scott at UCL's Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and she notes:
I know we all know that she’s promoting a book, that she’s not on twitter nor does she research it or publish in the area. It may therefore come as absolutely no surprise that there are some really essential points that she’s missing about human communication. I work in human communication, and I need to get this off my chest.
One of those things is
Humans use language overwhelmingly to have conversations. We learn to speak and to understand speech in conversation, and wherever people share a language; they use it to have conversations. It’s been suggested that humans use conversation to replace the social grooming seen in other primates (http://www.springerlink.com/content/m56626627867t471/), and conversation does fulfill many of the same roles of social grooming. We can maintain social links based on very few shared words. And it’s really important to us: there are examples from the deaf literature of people walking for a day to see someone who also signs their language, just so they can have a chat. In this light, much of what goes on, on Twitter, is people using a slightly different medium to do what they’ll do any way they can, which is to converse, to talk to others. For humans, conversation is an end it itself.
As Stan says, read the whole thing; it’s well worth two minutes of your time. (oh, and follow her link to neurobonkers, too. Great stuff there.)

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