The Second Eclectic

Technology changes how we relate to God and each other

"I'm just kidding," Places like Detroit, and Movies like Avatar

In the spirit created by the telegraph, here are a number of unrelated items. If you'd like, suggest a unifying thread.

Lance Strate had some interesting things to say about the popular claim that 93% of communication is "nonverbal."

I appreciate the discussion of "I'm just kidding" as metacommunication. The fact that we use words to communicate on multiple levels intrigues me. Earnestness and irony are part of this proximity to open communication.

In the last paragraph of this excerpt, he mentions paragraphing, which is something I wrote about recently.

The Mehrabian myth about nonverbal communication only makes sense when you include an understanding of metacommunication. To use a verbal example, if I call you a jerk, that's communication, that's content. If I then say, I'm just kidding, that's a verbal form of metacommunication, telling you something about how to interpret the content, and also about how we relate to each other (on a friendly basis). If I just said I'm just kidding, though, without the content, it would have no meaning, it only works when it modifies a content-level message. This is the point that the video makes when it shows you the cartoon guy talking without hearing his words.

But we should also recall that animals communicate entirely through nonverbal communication. If a strange dog growls at you and bares his teeth, there are no words, but I think you get the message. Babies also communicate in this way. When a baby cries, we know that he or she wants something, and then we proceed to see if it's milk, or a diaper change, or just some company.

This all relates, in media ecology terms, to McLuhan's saying that the medium is the message. Animals and babies communicate through the medium of nonverbal communication, and so do we as adults. The medium of language is also the content of speech, and writing (McLuhan noted that the content of a medium includes another medium), the medium of spoken language is the content of our bodies (produced by the human body), and in this sense our words are powerfully influenced by the nonverbal.

The technologizing of the word means that other nonverbal factors play a part as well, such as the choice of writing system, use of spaces between words, line breaks, paragraphing, punctuation marks, capitalization, handwriting, typeface and font, type of writing surface, other physical characteristics of the print medium, and other display, transmission, and storage characteristics of the electronic medium. This aspect of the nonverbal goes far beyond the issue of snazzy PowerPoints, or dramatic delivery.

Elsewhere, I read Andy Crouch's Culture Making. He describes the city "the place where culture reaches critical mass" (116). As such, one could argue that cities are the most visible expression of our humanity. (Detroit? Yikes.)

Lance Strate talks about cities as "container technologies." Thus, they are environments. He goes onto to liken computers to cities. I wrote more about that back in January.

Over at Ask the Mediatrician, Dr Michael Rich talks about how our brains process 3D images, as in the recent case of Avatar. Apparently 3D is more involving than two dimensions--no surprise there.

Or, if you don't care about any of that, then you can watch this.
Your mom taught you well