Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The Voice in Speech and Writ

After my brief post about titles, I found myself thinking about communication, given what I was saying about how my odd choice of titles is partly intended to help me express myself properly.
And I came to a thought I've had before - I've talked in other posts about youtube, and vlogging, and how I'm unlikely to end up doing it, though it's possible I might. And all this leads on to communication and expressing yourself.

Now, of course when I blog, and indeed when I post on forums, I do my best to sound like myself, as it were. Of course conversely, the way I speak has also moved closer to the way I write things online, so it works both ways. But the point is, I imagine people who know me will be able to imagine me saying these things I've written - I know that I can, since I'm often turning them over in my mind, listening to myself talk within my own mind, for some time before I actually get them onto a computer. Similarly I believe I mentioned in my meetup post that for a little while after a meetup I tend to hear people's posts in their voices. This effect lasts longer the more I hear those voices and get used to them.
And even if this is read by people unfamiliar with my voice, I'm pretty sure they will be able to recognise a certain consistent idiom running through the various things I write.

An odd addition to this is the fact that one inevitably is influenced by one's experiences - I pick up mannerisms to some extent from people around me if I've been spending time with them through any means - which can include more than just interacting with people. It's certainly true that my mannerisms are influenced by my friends, but they can also be influenced by things I've been watching. I think I mentioned in my Vlogbrothers post that having been watching their videos I found myself thinking to a certain extent in their voices and trying to model my own video performances on them, which was difficult given differences in accent. Similarly, before writing the title post last night I'd been watchng David Mitchell's Soapbox, and consequently found myself subconsciously imitating him to some extent, and particularly I think the last paragraph of that post I was thinking in his voice rather than my own. As a sidenote, I do feel a certain kinship with David Mitchell in this regard, because while he is a successful comedian and I'm not, we share the fact that we are opinionated (Many of our opinions seem to be the same as well), and use the internet to broadcast some of those opinions to the world at large, albeit through different means. Likewise the moment of "Blah blah blah," you may ask, to which I respond, etc owed a certain amount to the start of Yahtzee's Zero Punctuation review of Duke Nukem Forever (For real this time). I doubt anyone would notice these if I didn't point them out, but it's an interesting observation to make, I feel.

Now, communication, and expressing oneself. Essentially, in general, all forms of communication are attempts to mimic face-to-face conversation, because that's the most direct form of communication. I've considered this carefully in the past, in deciding how best to communicate something to someone where I really felt the communication should be as direct as I could make it - however I make a distinction between direct and immediate communication, which we'll come to a little way down.

Now of course the most direct and immediate is face-to-face, as I've said. You're actually there with your interlocutor, you can hear the tones and inflections of their voice, see their expressions and actions, there are immediate responses, and you can even interact physically with them should it be relevant.
Next down the hierarchy is video chat. No possibility of physical interaction, but it retains the immediacy and you can still see them and hear them, so it retains all those points, as if they were actually there. You can treat them as if they were actually there even if they are in fact several hundred miles away and you're actually just interacting with an image in a small box on your computer screen.
Now here is where it gets debatable as to how much immediacy counts for directness. Sometimes directness is important but immediacy is not. Sometiems the opposite is the case. While there is a relation between the two, it's difficult to decide how strong a link.
In any case, my next choice for direct communication was phone - immediate, still has directness of the vocal communication, which is the most important aspect, you're only missing the visuals.
And then, well, my next option is valuing directness over immediacy. If one doesn't care about getting an immediate response - indeed under some circumstances you might want to allow someone to think about what you're asking them before responding without feeling pressured - recording a video can potentially work very well. Of course, this was the idea behind Brotherhood 2.0, which spawned the whole Vlogbrothers youtube phenomenon. But it makes sense. You have the experience of saying what you want to say to whoever you're talking to (although granted you're actually saying it to a camera and just imagining it to be the person you know will eventually watch the video), and they get the experience of you saying it to them, just the same as in video chat but without the ability to respond immediately.
(As a sidenote, the whole 'pretend the person in the box on your screen is actually there talking to you' led me onto a tangent about suspension of disbelief in relation to films and so on, but I think I'll put that in a different post)
Next down is text chat, be it MSN, Facebook chat, or any of the myriad other such options. No tone or inflection, but you have the immediacy. And then texting I suppose comes in slightly above email and other forms of private messaging because your phone alerts you to texts making an immediate response more likely. But this is basically the bottom of the hierarchy. If something is important, it might well be more effective to retain some of the directness by recording a video (Oh, you could record a voice clip, forgot that as an option, that would come in above MSN, but again no immediacy, like video), and more people should consider that as an option. Granted I've only done it once, but it worked that one time.

So, the thing is, I've just acknowledged here that text is an inferior form of communication than video, and inevitably the question now arises of why I choose in general to blog rather than vlog?
I thought I'd answer that question in a video:


So that should explain my views on the matter. Of course some might argue that forcing myself to fit into a shorter period of time would help me be briefer, less long-winded, mroe to the point, but I like being as I am, and the fact is I have a lot to say, and a restriction would simply result in me saying less, rather than saying the same in less time, as you might think. If I did somehow manage to compress my thoughts into a shorter period of time, well then perhaps I could say the same thing in less time, but more importantly, it would also be less me. And I couldn't have that.

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