by Gerry McGovern
Author, New Thinking
People are writing and reading more than they ever have. From websites to mobile phones, we are witnessing a second text revolution, where the power of the word is again dominating our culture and economy.
Because so many words are written every day, it is easy to forget the potential power of words. I'm reading a book at the moment where Bill Gates' conversion to the Internet is discussed. It is accepted that Gates 'got it' about the importance of the Internet in 1995, then wrote what would become known as 'The Memo.' This eight-page document set out a new strategy for Microsoft.
Everyone that mattered in Microsoft read it, and made sure they got it. Eight pages turned a super-tanker around.
The Text Generation is all around us. Billions of text messages are being sent over mobile phones. Nobody predicted it. It just happened. Young people took to words and created a new fashion and craze. How could words become so cool?
Words are cool because they are intensely human. In so many areas, computers are doing what people do in a more efficient and cost- effective manner. Numbers have long been better manipulated by calculators. Anything that is logical, that has a process that can be automated, is being automated.
Words, on the other hand, are still more an art than a science. A quality sentence is always a challenge. Twenty people see the same event and they will all write different versions of what happened. Our sentences and paragraphs will be the last thing to be truly automated, which means that they will be an area where humans will and must continue to excel.
The irony is that technology for most of the Twentieth Century greatly diminished the power of words. It was only with the emergence of the Internet and text messaging on mobile phones that words have surged forward again as the principal way by which we communicate.
Humans are essentially sensory. For millions of years we lived with our eyes, our noses, our ears. Our ears did not hear languages, but rather sounds. Language is only a recent invention in human evolution. Written language is even more recent. The majority of people, given the choice, would prefer the sensory over the written. This is why television triumphed. This is why film stars are the new royalty.
While bandwidth constraints remain, the Internet returns us to an almost 'pre-television' world, where text rides high. The Internet and the mobile phone are in many ways 'primitive' tools. Certainly measured against the 'high bandwidth' delivery of television, video and film, they are hugely restrictive.
That's why words work so well online. You see, words are in themselves compression techniques for communication. They are compressed even more by teenagers who squeeze the maximum communication out of the minimum number of letters.
We have found ourselves, if only temporarily, in a low bandwidth world, with new opportunities to communicate. Those of us who wish to succeed need to become better with words. We need to be able to write better so that our words have more of a chance to rise above the massive traffic jam of words that the world has become.
We are living through a Text Revolution. In such a revolution, it is worth keeping Benjamin Franklin's words in mind: "Give me 26 lead soldiers, and I will conquer the world."
� Gerry McGovern, New Thinking. All rights reserved.
Gerry McGovern is the
author of New Thinking, a weekly column which has received numerous accolades and a book, THE CARING ECONOMY
The Caring Economy, by Gerry McGovern, is published by Blackhall Publishing of 26 Eustace Street, Dublin 2, Ireland. ISBN 1-901657-61-2 Price _27.50 or US$35.95
It is also available in the United States from Irish Books & Media, 1433 East Franklin Avenue, MN, USA 55404-2135. Call toll-free: 1-800-229-3505.
Email Gerry McGovern at [email protected]
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