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Numbers never lie. The people who wield them, however, often do.
This is the most intense game of manipulation ever played by humanity and one that will continue until humans are extinct. We love numbers. We covet their honesty and hold them in higher esteem than their shady counterparts, words. While words inherently have the ability to be deceitful, numbers, we often think, ride on high moral horses. They can't lie to us because they're mathematical progeny; results born from formulas and algorithms that work. How could someone possibly twist an honest integer into an interpretation? How could they use an individual of such strong character for their evil ends?
We've seen it before. In video games and movies, comics, novels, and generally any form of artistic expression. People bend numbers to do their bidding with trickery, not with corruption. Like the epic White Knight, numbers are incorruptable, but, they are not the brightest of the bunch either.
Dropping the metaphor for a moment, numbers have no intelligence. They are tools to be used, not individuals who provide services. The intelligence in numbers comes from the human source. The one doing the manipulating.
And back on the metaphorical track, let's explore how the White Knight (numbers) can get totally pwnd by an evil witch named Israndi (say, Pollsters and Retail Stores). The White Knight is, as usual, on a quest for his love who happens to be, as usual, trapped in a castle. Along the roadside he spots an old woman and asks her, because he's lacking in the mental department, where the next castle is. The old woman, seeing potential in this 'hero', tells him the castle where a princess is held is straight up the road, atop a high cliff. She tells him he must not tarry in slaying every individual in the castle, because at nightfall they will all turn into hungery beasts and tear him limb from limb. He must get them while they are vulnerable.
And so off the knight goes, racing the sunset. He pulls up to the castle in his white ride and dismounts. Casually, he asks for entrance into the castle. The guards, suspecting he is of the highest moral standing (he is the White Knight) bow graciously and unlock the door.
At which point, the White Knight, driven by the old woman, stabs them in their necks.
And so he enters and a vicious killiing spree ensues until there is but one individual left in the castle, the King. The Knight approaches the King and asks where his princess is being held. The king, clearly perturbed by all the violence, says that there is no princess there. That his only daughter, a hideous maiden, was stolen from him by an old witch only days prior. He informs the White Knight of the search party that went out and found only the remains of his beloved (and hideous) daughter. They found an old woman, and after questioning her, realized that she was the witch. Not wanting to give away their knowledge, they sought to leave and return with more men. The witch, however, had other plans, and killed all but one of them, who was quite the runner.
And so the Knight learns of his misdeeds. His high moral walls were breached by the witch's trickery. She prodded in all the right places to make him do evil when he thought he was doing good.
This is the way it is with numbers. Pollsters know that if you ask the right questions, you'll get the "right" answers. That's why they're paid to craft surveys in such a way as to give the result a biased outcome.
But Pollsters aren't all evil. And they aren't the only ones who do it.
Numbers are used for determining value. Prices, therefore, tend to be a good indicator of the quality of a good or service. The price of a good or service will generally determine its value to the consumer. However, prices can be misleading.
Jack up the prices on a nice-looking but terrible tasting beverage, and you may find that demand for the product actually goes up. Why? Because when something is pricey, people have a hard time psychologically sorting the actual good from the chunk of change they used to purchase it.
In other words, does that sandwich taste better because it is of superior quality? Or does it taste better because it cost you 35$?
Keep your eyes open for what people try to do with numbers. And remember, numbers don't lie.
You know that I know as well.
Why? Because we're gamers.
We know that in any given videogame situation, especially these shiny new MMORPG's, there's going to be a party structure. This is not the kind of Keg-Stand party structure you use to partake in in college, either. This is a party united by a common goal aching to get some phat loots.
The 5-Man party system is the go-to for efficiency in gaming. It has a Tank, a Healer, and 3 people who are bent on causing damage.
Is this the brilliant invention of one of the first game developers? Or is it, simply, a reflection of real life situations, augmented by absurd levels of power?
Refer back to the thought of a college keg party.
Generally, when you go to a party, you go with a group of friends. The size of your friend group may differ on any night, but, on average, there will be 4 to 5 people in it (I make this assumption for ease of argument).
In this example, I will use Steve, Seth, Gideon, Jacob, and Ashley as our theoretical 5-Man team.
The epic and phat loots you are after on this night of debauchery are:
Your group of 5(ish) merry travelers was formed to retrieve fun, some socializing, and, if it happens to drop, a phone number from a certain 'boss' type.
Now, it is also the case that some members of your group don't need some of the drops from this event. Seth, for example, cares not for phone numbers, as he already has an epic-quality girlfriend. Jacob already has a girlfriend, but is looking for an upgrade. He may pass on phone numbers, but only if someone needs it more. Provided a new phone number drops tonight, Jacob will be forced to pawn off his 'vendor-trash' girlfriend in order to make room for the new-comer. Ashley has all the phone numbers she could ever want, and as such is only grouping with her friends for the fun and social aspect.
One friend, Bill, was unable to join tonight because he was busy farming materials for a Corvette (so he could get more phone numbers).
And so our group enters the party scene. This particular party is rather difficult to infiltrate, as the members of the group know little about the people that reside there. After making their way to the center of the living room, they break off into their distinct specialties.
Ashley, the tank, gets the attention of all the men in the room by doing some wicked dance moves. After building up enough aggro, she kites the men around, confusing them and causing them to bump into one another in search of a conversation with her.
While the men are confused and otherwise occupied, Steve, Gideon, and Jacob are free to test their abilities on the ladies in the room. Gideon, the highest DPS (delight per second) individual in the group, begins charming a young lady who was moments ago standing idly in the corner. After dropping a few one liners, and even using his signature dance move (which can't be used more than once every 3 minutes), Gideon finds his DPS is plateauing, and then falling. This woman has used her best defense, the Cold Shoulder, to stop Gideon in his tracks. His advances do nothing but reflect back to him how useless they are. Gideon retreats, emotionally hurting.
Seth comes to Gideon's aid.
"Gideon, cheer up man, it's just one girl!"
"Yeah, but, man, it's like I wasn't even there. God, my DPS is so low tonight. Must just be an off-night or something."
"Man, you never have an off night. Look at it like this; that was the warm-up round. We don't know what these people are like since Ashley is the one who got us an extended invite. They're all new! Just give it some time until you figure it out."
"Alright. I'll give it another go."
Seth is, of course, acting as the healer. His words brought Gideon back to life after a crushing defeat. More than that, Seth has given him a buff by inflating his ego.
Steve, the member of the group with the lowest Delight Per Second, has actually been doing well this evening. His unique Keg Stand Jig has given him the most attention and, consequently, the best chance for getting a phone number to drop.
It has also caused him to grab threat off of Ashley. One of the largest males in the room approaches Steve, a confrontational tone in his voice.
"What are you DOING?" groans the man.
"Uh, I was just, uh, I, uh..." Steve is noticably shaken by the threat he has produced. His jarred state doesn't allow him to use his Buddy Maker threat reducer. Ashley, finally noticing the trouble, makes her way through the crowd in hopes of getting the man's attention back on her.
"Hey, man, we don't want any trouble." says Seth, diffusing the situation.
"WELL, YOU GOT YOURSELF SOME." says the large man.
"Wait, you should know, Steve is a black belt in Jujitsu," says Seth.
This, a gamble and a half, is Seth's attempt at healing the situation. It has a 50% chance to repair everything and, sadly, a 50% chance to end in Steve's death.
"Hey! Want to dance?" asks Ashley, clammoring for aggro.
"I...uh, yeah. Just don't kick the ceiling again, okay?" says the giant man.
Crisis averted. The team successfully used its specialties to diffuse a dangerous situation and, most importantly, get what they came for.
At the end of the night, Steve leaves with a handful of phone numbers and no broken bones. Ashley had a lot of fun and saved her friends, while Seth enjoyed himself and pumping up his buddies. Gideon and Jacob remain slightly bitter because of their failures (Gideon was lowest on the DPS meter, and Jacob not much higher). However, when they look back, they all remember a fun night full of shenanigans and awesome.
And so it goes, translated into the videogame world.
This, my final bit on internet language, is the actual research paper I did after my rant and observational stage. The goal is to use a scientific source of some sort, and apply the knowledge to your existing paper and then, with rude enthusiasm, to rewrite your paper.
Dealing with internet language, I needed a source on linguistics, and, I hoped, language's effects on culture. I lay it all out with metaphors and what not so it should be easily readable and HEY! You might even learn something.
So, here it is.
Language Shock, written by Michael Agar in the early nineties, presents an anthropologist's approach to decoding the bond between culture and language. Though the book was written at the beginning of the technological boom of the internet, the theories presented in it have a bearing on the evolution of language that has been catalyzed by such changes in communication. Culture and language are so intertwined that Agar proposes the creation of a new word, languaculture, to more accurately describe their relationship; "The langua in languaculture is about discourse, not just about words and sentences... the culture in languaculture is about meanings that include, but go well beyond, what the dictionary and grammar offer" (p.96). Agar's discoveries, often presented in anecdotal evidence, lend significant scholarly weight to the notion that the language we see on the internet today reflects a deeper aspect of our changing society. As technology has advanced over the past few decades, our society has witnessed an increase in demand for instant gratification. According to Agar's argument, the ties between language and culture are so strong that we should also see a change in response to this new cultural emphasis within our language. This change has been realized through the advent of internet language. Internet language is full of abbreviations, acronyms, and truncation which, I will argue, is due to the bond between language and culture that Agar highlights in his book.
Language and culture exist as two separate, though highly interdependent, entities. Language can be seen as a lens through which we form our vision of the world, and the shape and contours of this lens are the "distortions" determined by culture. With this metaphor as our basis for understanding languaculture, the ramifications for a change in either entity become clear. Changes in either result in a change of the vision of the world. To emphasize this, Agar uses the language of the Hopi tribe in comparison with modern English. The Hopi language has no tenses. Time exists as an entirely separate element of the world and tenses are reflected through the way an event was observed – i.e. eye witness, second hand account, etc. English, as we all know, is very concerned with time, down to its smallest measurable quantities. The question then becomes, with the language constructs being so different and thus the lenses being so incomparable, "are the two ways of seeing the world that go with the language the same at all" (65). Such drastic differences in the way thoughts are organized must make an impact on how individuals within the languaculture are able to construct their reality.
Though the reality constructs are widely separated in the case of Hopi language versus English, the concepts can be applied to the recent "lens distortions" of internet language. Whereas in the previous case we were analyzing two distinct lenses, this time we are analyzing the same lens with different distortions.
As our technology has advanced over the past few decades, we've been hearing lamentations from older generations about the new "instant gratification" generation that has slowly been coming to power. In reality, this focus on "instant gratification" represents not impatience within the new generation, but a different set of values in relation to how people communicate. This value shift does not represent a downgrade or regression of any sorts within the new generation, but rather an entirely different approach to the way people share information. In past written language, a person often showed their wanting to communicate and their level of involvement with someone by taking the time to write a long, hand written letter. This mail would take days to reach its recipient. Nowadays, with our technology speeding up the process, the best way to show someone you care about what they are saying is by responding as quickly as possible. The length or content of the response does not matter as much as its timing. It may still be nice to receive a handwritten letter in the mail, but this represents, to the newer generation, a step above and beyond what it takes to effectively communicate. We've moved from an era where responses were indicative of personal investment to one where response time has become the main indicator.
We live in a world where time is a highly valuable commodity. Our technology not only reinforces this idea, but allows us to become more efficient and thus get more out of one hour than in years prior. However, with so much to be done in every single hour of the day, we've had to speed up our lives, and our language, too. Internet language represents a transformation from a world where standard English was more than enough to get the job done, to one where a shortened, much faster version of the language is an absolute necessity. As I addressed in my rhetorical analysis, usage of words like lol, rofl, lmao, hai, bai, and pwn has become prevalent in society today. There also exists dozens, if not potentially hundreds of others, which allow more to be said in less space – brb, ttyl, gtg, 2, 4, l8r, l33t, to name a few. This increase in acronymization and truncation of existing words and phrases rises out of the need for efficiency in internet language which has been brought on by our culture's continuing focus on the value of response time.
The switch from standard English to a widely truncated and seemingly foreign version of internet language may seem to be a difficult affair, considering it implies a shift in our notion of what reality is. However, Agar notes within Language Shock that there exist two theories for the general understanding of language and the ability to switch between languages. The first, rather unpopular, belief is linguistic determinism. Linguistic determinism states that the language one speaks in is like the construction of a room around oneself, from which the world can be viewed and explored. However, this room also acts as a prison, and becoming languaculturally bilingual is an impossibility. The second, language relativism, stresses that although language is the room in which one explores the world, it is simply a comfortable place for doing so and that learning a new language essentially allows for movement from one room to another, seeing the world in a different way with every transition (p.68). As we discuss internet language, it is essential to note that we are dealing not with an entirely new language, per say, but a new dialect of an old language. The jump from "room to room," per Agar's example, is not nearly as difficult as jumping to a fully foreign language. The rooms have the same layout and construction, but are filled with different amenities and perhaps differently sized windows. The switch is therefore not a drastic one, but does allow for a different view of the world. As Agar remarks, "Language carries with it patterns of seeing, knowing, talking, and acting. Not patterns that imprison you, but patterns that mark the easier trails for thought and perception and action" (p.71). Arguably, a world viewed from a hardcore internet language speaker's room is one in which a larger portion of reality is able to be made more efficient, or otherwise truncated. When one speaks, or writes, in acronyms which contain three to five letters but project an idea based on three to five words, it can be assumed that one's thought processes partially revolve around making other, non-language based things in the world more efficient, shorter, or easier.
This presents us with a linguistic challenge. When the constructs of one's reality are based on both culture and language, and the culture and language continue to stress the importance of speed and efficiency, it would appear that we have entered into a positive feedback mechanism for continued acceleration of communication. That is, because the culture demands more speed, the language adjusts to be more expedient, allowing the culture to stress speed even more, and therefore continuing to force language, and our view of reality, to become more efficient. Despite Agar's emphasis on language as the lens with which we view our world, his response to these kind of positive feedback, or vicious cycle, mechanisms is nonexistent. Whether or not the "lens" of language eventually focuses reality into a single, burning beam remains unaddressed. Though not covered by the text, it seems less possible for a language to change its course after cultural momentum carries it in one direction, and I have a sneaking suspicion that the further a language goes stressing one attribute over another, the more apparent and irreversible its effects on the culture that employs it becomes.
In the case of internet language, this acceleration has become more and more apparent in direct relation to the prevalence of internet usage. It is no logical feat, then, to conclude that an increase in internet usage on a massive scale can lead to a change in language which we have seen thus far. From ORLY and YARLY to OMGHAIWTFZORZ, we are witnessing an unstructured and free evolution of language on a scale which, to my historical knowledge, is largely unprecedented. This is not a situation where certain individuals are changing a language in an effort to simplify it – as in China – and forcing their language constructs onto the rest of the populace. This is the epitome of a change from the bottom up. Large numbers of interactions online have spurred the general occurrence of truncation and acronymization which is so characteristic of internet language. We are therefore witnessing a rebuilding of language done quicker than ever before and involving the minds of the masses like never before.
To say that this change is not occurring, or to challenge it as a corruption of our language and a degradation of our society, is to be ignorant as to the nature of the beast we are dealing with. As discussed before with the lamentations of the old, this change represents not a shift in morals or quality communication, but a shift in values. What is important now, in an age where we are, as a species, largely connected, must be drastically different from what we use to deem salient. Responsiveness is now the value of the day. Though a languaculture which values response time above all else may seem insincere, the reasons for fast responses and, on a micro level, the words themselves still reflect people reaching out to interact personally with others whom they care for. The word LOL for instance, comes in various degrees and is used with varying frequencies to show genuine delight, and yet it is also a staple of the internet language, functioning as a full replacement for real-life laughter. Extensions of simple words like "hi" and "bye" to "hai" and "bai" represent a quick way to respond while simultaneously boosting sincerity. This all simply goes to show that while internet language may seem blunt and overly reduced, it is actually a form of language that has evolved because of our culture and the pressures placed on individuals in an internet setting.
Michael Agar's book Language Shock provides solid theoretical ground for leaping into the newly created world of internet language. His anthropological and linguistic knowledge provides a secure basis for the premise that our language, our culture, and our reality are all largely intertwined, and that our resulting perspective can be traced by delving deeper into our languaculture. With specific regards to internet language, however, Agar's theories acquire some slippage in the sense that they do not cover our culture's recent foray into digital space. Application of his theoretical science may therefore not be entirely suitable for internet language at the micro level, but is great for drawing inferences from internet language at large. By taking his theories and applying them to the general circumstances accompanying internet language, I have used his arguments as suitable framework for outlining the seemingly inevitable acceleration of our language and our culture. The phenomenon of internet language can be described in part by the work of past linguistic and anthropological theorists, like Agar, though a synthesis of these old theories with a new understanding of the pressures of technology and modern culture is needed to grasp the extent of the changes that are taking place in this digital world.
Agar, Michael. Language Shock: Understanding the Culture of Conversation. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 1994.
As always, here is my meta-commentary. Read for your own enjoyment at my mind's ability to fight with itself.
METACOMMENTARY (of death)Michael Agar standing on the rain-slick precipice of rage
Michael Agar (slightly enraged):
ORLY? SAM? My work is so dauntingly incomplete to you that you have to declare "slippage" of my theories between technological advances in the last decade and a half? LINGUISTIC THEORIES STAND THE TEST OF TIME, you sad sack of undergraduate potatoes. And I apologize, oh, wait, sorry, I DEEPLY apologize for filling that voluminous book that I wrote with anecdotes. I didn't realize you'd be summarizing 200 pages of brilliance down to three quotes in a five-page paper you wrote in two weeks. NEXT TIME I'LL BE MORE CONCISE. I would also like to state my sincerest of apologies for attempting to attract the attention of an ever more ADHD afflicted American audience with exciting stories of anthropology on the road. I swear to GOD you crazies have grown so attached to your machines that they're more of an extension of yourselves than tools for multi-tasking. PAY ATTENTION TO ME. ON THAT NOTE.
However. I suppose I should commend you for your clarification on what has happened to our culture these last two decades or so. We "old" folks may indeed be so entrenched in our positions that we don't realize there is a new way of thinking to be had these days. As much as you youngsters disrespect me with the constant *click-ing of your cell phone key pads, I must say that there are some spectacular feats of organization and time wasting being accomplished by your devices.
Wait. What am I saying!?
SAM. I WASN'T AROUND FOR WHEN THE INTERNET WAS WIDESPREAD IN ITS USE AND ADDICTION. HOW DARE YOU DECLARE MY PIECE INCOMPLETE WHEN I WAS COGNITIVELY UNABLE TO APPROACH THE MATERIAL FROM SUCH AN ANGLE. This is like telling Mozart he failed because his musical theories didn't take techno music into account! TAKE YOUR PAPER AND BURN THE DAMNED THING FOR ALL I CARE! (utters a primal roar, lightning strikes a tree in the background)
….... (disoriented by Michael Agar's apparent command of the elements)
But I digress (tree in the background sinks into the earth). You may have throughly misconstrued my cognitive abilities by using an anachronistic argument to label me as ignorant...but (tree is replaced by a statue of all twenty-six letters of the alphabet), you did apply my theories of linguistic determinism and relativism correctly, and your metaphor for languaculture as a lens is actually rather spot on. However, your paper avoided my entire section on speech acts in the book, one which I would find rather applicable though probably difficult to weave into your findings. That actually reminds me of this one time when I was in Greece studying a...
OH COME OFF IT ALREADY!(Michael Agar then disappears in a flash of light, and several trees in the background ignite simultaneously.)
Yes, I did turn this in to my professor.
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