Writing, Learning and Social Media (1)

Passion is an overused word these days, but its use reflects a cultural shift in the meaning of writing and learning in the context of work and everyday life. To varying degrees, writing is THE mode of communications in the digital world. Writing overlays everything and is built into the structure of the Web as much as it is at the heart of every form of messaging. Twitter represents the most condensed form of this intense use of language, but even the most trivial of marketing campaigns tries to use words and sentences with impact and functionality. 

In fact, thinking through the use of words as descriptors and as image makers has become one of the most important parts of strategic planning. All those sticky notes that appear in workshops on vision, reflect a desire to match ambition with expression and representation. And, it is rare these days to see an image without a caption or some other linguistic means of identifying its purpose or place.

This is in part why passion is used as a motivator. Make your words as meaningful as possible. Link your intentions to what you say with enough passion so that readers will quickly and efficiently understand what you are trying to say. Dense language is out. Intellectuals who fiddle with words that are not direct are also fiddling with their readers. All texts have to reflect this move towards a populist form of expression.

Except that, sometimes and perhaps more often than not, writing and the use of language is not as easy as that. In fact, there is an inherent ambiguity in our use of words. For the most part, we rarely are able to say or write exactly what we mean. The gap between intention and communication is a broad one. The minute you go beyond a few words, you are essentially in a murky world where what you say and what you write is not only open to misinterpretation but almost always is misinterpreted. The reason we often spend so much time trying to understand each other is that it takes more than just a few minutes to clarify what we are saying. That is even more difficult in writing which does not lend itself directly to interlocutors and where readers can only 'comment' on what is said, but cannot as in a verbal conversation directly challenge the writer.

This suggests that what we describe as social media relies on the relationships among a variety of voices and forms of expression. No one message communicates in the absence of many others. This array of words, sentences, expressions and outlets creates and sustains a mosaic of potential messages and meanings. The transformative change here is in how we navigate through all of these elements, that is how we engage with the many layers of communications or better put how well we understand the layers and how we navigate through them. Part Two will appear next week.