#42: phatic communication eases interactions but lessens information

March 12, 2017

In “Snap Makes a Bet on the Cultural Supremacy of the Camera,” Farhad Manjoo writes: “The growing importance of cameras — of images rather than just text — is altering much about culture. It’s transforming many people’s personal relationships. It’s changing the kind of art and entertainment we produce. You might even credit cameras — or blame them — for our more emotional, and less rational, politics.”

“Most-tweeted emojis from anti-Trump protests,” Hamdan Azhar, Prismoji

Manjoo continues: “Gretchen McCulloch, a linguist who is writing a book about how the internet is changing language, said Snapchat lenses and filters were a form of what linguists call ‘phatic communication,’ which is communication that is meant to ease social interactions instead of to convey information.”

In my own, early (2011) work about YouTube, I called YouTube videos (which now seem downright old-fashioned in their cheeky claims to duration: 2 minutes long!) slogans: “pithy, precise, rousing calls to action or consumption, or action as consumption; bite-sized, word-sized, postage-sized cinema; strong, intense, interchangeable, and forgettable films.”

At that time, I argued that the internet platforms that we were being given for free, while allowing for more access to communication, hid their real costs behind spurious claims of commitment to democratic self-expression. The actual price, of course, was the pillage of our words and images (all hail web 2.0!), the auctioning off of our very selves through the mining and selling of our consumption habits, and ultimately, the diminishment of the shape and vernacular of our communication.

“All this focus on fake Facebook news obscures a much bigger story about the way social media—the endless public opining and sharing of information—is reshaping politics. Even if you’ve never given much thought to its meaning, you’ve probably heard someone say ‘the medium is the message,’ the famous dictum of media theorist Marshall McLuhan.” (Donald Trump: The First President of Our Post-Literate Age, Joe Weisenthal)

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One Response to “#42: phatic communication eases interactions but lessens information”

  1. […] cinema or images theoretically through semiotics #42: phatic communication eases interactions but lessens information; affect, #43: emotional+rational resonances needed and historically, #71: cultural myths often lead […]

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