Space and time

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When we approach social media, the tool we most usually make use of is the keyboard. The use of video and voice recognition software (such as Apple’s SIRI) for online interaction and intercommunication, though ever growing, remains limited. Researchers predict that this is to change. They predict that a vast revolution will occur in which social media participants will lay aside their keyboards in favour of video and voice recognition technology. This revolution is to be even more dramatic that the previous one that brought the photograph to supremacy.

If this coming revolution is not immediately  imminent, it is probably because it will require a great deal of effort to be expended by users come-pulire-la-tastiera-del-cellulare_7373ee8cd4fec750de01567bfbc718cathemselves. That is to say, a vastly greater effort than the one  previously required to make the move from material keyboards to virtual ones. The virtual keyboard was itself created by Apple, who were able to achieve that feat – in the face of widespread  scepticism – with the result that virtual keyboards located on display screens have now become a habitual means of human communication. That initial  disbelief in possible utility and success of screens keyboards has proved to be no limitation on their success and adoption. However, the change from physical to touch screen keyboards has not, in and of itself, modified the way in which people communicate: we have still write emails and text messages on  keyboards. This said, while the advent of virtual keyboards itself has not greatly changed our means of intercommunication, the rise of social networks most certainly has.

Direct Communication

images (19)Different, or face-to-face, means of communication, both verbal and non-verbal, provide us with the ability to use a huge range of different cues that enable us to  decode messages being sent to us. Facial expressions, visual cues, para-language, body language, distance and speech rhythms all provide us with crucially important data. These elements give us  a holistic context in which to situation information that we have received, so as to better understand incoming messages from other people. Yet despite the help that all of these additional means of communication give us, we all know well that misunderstanding are far from inevitable. When it comes to communication, a great part of our knowledge and pattern recognition skills are invested just in trying to maintain a mutually intelligible framework for communication between  interacting parties.

Direct interaction is arguably the richest form of human communication, given that it is composed of linguistic, paralinguistic, nonverbal, kisenic and proxemic elements. Computer mediated communication, in contrast, divides all of these elements and attempts to reconstruct them digitally. This approach aims to enrich communication, but necessarily misses the holistic structure of face-to-face communication.

In the everyday interactions we unwittingly use complicated techniques learned and reinforced through years of social interactions that have been adopted by entire communities as a form of cultural capital.  human linguistic ability is innate

Human  linguistic ability appears to be an innate, essential element of our nature, transmitted through our DNA; though exact the form that it takes is far from being set in stone.  A person’s linguistic ability will develop in different ways depending on where they were  born. The form that their linguistic abilities will take depends largely on the language that they speak, and on the myriad more or less useful adaptations that they make in the use of that language as members of a shared linguistic community. This socially shared character of language is both a limitation on the use of language and a fundamental element of the knowledge that makes up the language itself.

The use of electronic means of communication

Direct social interaction has a further distinctive trait that influences the way that we communicate: space and time.1.-The-time-Traveler

These two elements are absolutely crucial. Every type of direct communication necessarily exists within a particular spatio-temporal framework.

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The invention of the telephone has made it possible for us to communicate in verb from between different places. However, this  method of communication is limited to the transmission of spoken messages and lacks the additional  aspects of communication previously described. McLuhan has described the telephone as “a cool media” by virtue of the fact that it requires significant active participation on the part of both users.

This active participation includes the perception of abstract patterns and simultaneous mutual comprehension that are required for both parties to  understand the message that is being transmitted. We are all aware of the effort required to imagine the person that we are speaking to on the telephone, but we take for granted due to the fact that we do it so often.  With the advent of TV in the postwar era and the move from black and white to colour –  and then high-definition, flat screen – television, communication has become increasingly data richwas enriched by a large number of data. Images have been added to the voice that was already present in broadcast radio, at first in films and then in television.

These images occupy all available bandwidth for communication, depriving the user of the active participation integral to the process of over-the-telephone and face-to-face interaction. Space and time no longer determine the limits of communication, despite the fact that they remain real restrictions on access to the means of production of content and thereby to the act of communication itself.

Social media

With social media, everything changes. Space and time are entirely wiped out of existence and all are granted immediate, direct access to the apparatus necessary for images (20)the “production of communication content.” With the digitalization of data, space itself becomes entirely irrelevant. Just as with the telephone, digital communication totally removes the need to be in a shared geographic location for interaction to occur. The problem of space has been solved.


With a 24 Internet connection, time no longer presents a barrier to communication. You can initiate or participate in an online conversation regardless of the physical context you may occupy at a given time.  Recipient and sender are on the same level, and you are quite free to decide when and where to participate in a conversation, by smartphone, PC or other means. You might choose to answer a question while lying on your sofa with an iPad, from your kitchen using a mobile phone or from your office using a PC. Apparently,  place and physical means of interaction have lost all influence over communication.

A new question arises: can we really be sure that the contextual factors that have always so influenced face-to-face interaction no longer reign over these new types of communication? Watching a political advertisement in bed cannot really be the same thing as seeing it at work or as watching it in the kitchen while ? This reality brings social media communication to the same level as traditional media, where a single sender broadcasts their message to plurality of indefinite others who are free to tune in or tune out where and when they see fit and to pay that communication as much or as little attention as they desire.

Moreover, even if space and time have been utterly removed from the domain of social media, what is to say that it is free from other influences? The recipient has regained control of feedback. That feedback might not immediate, as it is in the case of face-to-face communication,  but neither is it as passive as in the case of TV, nor as postponed as in the case of postal, or email, communication. Rather, communication through social media may take on any of these aspects, or none. But regardless of the form it takes on and despite the fact that social media communication takes place through virtual means, it still represents a message sent from one real world that is received in another.

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