The ‘gap’ in meaning – what is meant and what is actually understood by the person who receives the information – is a fascinating one. How often in our lives do we misconstrue what is said to us? By over-analysing maybe a look or a shift in tonality, what someone is saying can take on a whole new meaning. The same goes for text. It got me thinking. I’m an avid fan of dry, often sarcastic humour. With the delightful advent of emoticons in social networking, often humour can be more easily conveyed, and less easily misconstrued.
For example, take this phrase:
‘Your mum is a hot piece of ass.’
Unless you know someone very well, and they’ve only shown absolute respect for your mother in the past, you are going to take a moment to wonder, astounded, ‘wait… are they serious?’
But add a winky face at the end – ‘your mum is a hot piece of ass ;)’ – and you’ve got yourself a cheeky, if outrageous, little joke.
I’m pretty sure I overuse smileys, though, so I think their meaning might be a little diluted for the people who talk to me.
With text, though, in more formal, solid structures – a book, a story, a news report, a blog – meaning is more fluid and less easily justified. In two different sittings, I can take a book two entirely different ways, depending on my mood, whether it’s early or late, etc. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott was one of my favourite books when I was younger. But I remember, depending on how I was feeling, I either thought Beth’s dying scene was either the most beautifully tragically lovely thing I’d ever read, or just plain miserable. It changed every time.
Another point of Adrian’s I found fascinating. I’ve mentioned before that I collect CDs. Well, I like hard copies of books as well. I agree with what Adrian said here. The value of literature is not in cracking open a book of high-quality parchment over flicking on an e-book, but part of my reading experience has always been in turning pages; creasing the spine, dog-earing. It’s part of how I enjoy reading. I will now refute what is undoubtedly being thought – that I’m anti-e-book: I own an e-book. I understand its practicality. I love its practicality. When I’m on a plane for 36 hours, having a whole library at my disposal in my carry-on is indisputably fantastic. I don’t mind e-books, but I love books.
I’ve never thought that the novel could fade. That it might not be the most prominent way of communicating stories is a real surprise to me. And, although I’m trying to be open-minded, a blow. I know it won’t be a bad thing if this happens: people will not accept a new medium of entertainment and communication if they do not enjoy it or find it superior to more archaic mediums. But… we’ll see. It’ll be interesting, seeing how it develops and grows at any rate.