Who killed the art of conversation?

“Writing as a technology” it’s an interesting idea. And I think that really, it’s not that surprising. We covered in communications earlier in the semester that even a human being can be considered a kind of technology. Which is fair. Absolutely complex, we deserve recognition as intricate constructions beyond a biological measure.

Writing and literacy are not so different. Our ability to write, which I agree absolutely is a technology, is very closely linked to the complex nature of our minds and interactions with one another. Often writing can be formulated, there are dos and don’ts, there are combinations that work, and there are some quite concrete rules to which we are bound.

Indeed this applies to conversation as much as it does a written form. “Writing in any medium is an act of appropriation.” And isn’t it? Our development as writers, as literate by definition, is nothing but a series of ideas we come to understand. That we develop; join with other ideas, other words someone has explained the meaning of. I guess  somewhat like the internet. We, our minds, our conscious selves, are a network. A growing tree of thoughts, ideas, understandings, and reflections. Branching out, continuously growing in all directions and yet simultaneously interweaving amongst ourselves. We are complex, as are our interactions. Written and verbal language especially. Bolter covers this idea of a complex language in a few different ways. Economically, mechanically among others. But I was quite intrigued when Bolter made reference to the common expression, “The art of conversation is dead,” which was a very different focus to the rest of the reading. It’s an idea I’ve always found intriguing.

What is conversation anyway? Is it purely a verbal exchange between two or many people? Of course not. It can’t possibly be limited to just face to face, when right now, thanks to a global network, communication is the very identifier of our time.

I’ve heard, on too many occasions, adults of various ages, accuse those younger than themselves of destroying language – the very art in conversation. But have we really? I can’t understand how anyone can come to such a conclusion in this age of advancement, of instant message and live video streaming. The art of conversation is not dead. It’s in the very midst of growth – of a catalytic, exponential and rapid growth that is unlikely to be repeated.

Possibly, and very likely, the idea of texting is behind the perceived death of conversation. Texting, and other forms of instant messaging are not killing conversation. They’ve taken the art form and very smoothly allowed us to place it in a quick paced, and equally complex, virtual form. US linguist John McWhorter covers the topic nicely in his TED talk “Txting is killing langauge JK!!!” He covers the topic far better than I ever could. And with professional expertise that allow me to feel quite certain my own generations will not be responsible in killing the art of conversation, but rather helping it along into the new age of the virtual and the instant.