Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot
Container City: Shipping containers, indispensable tool of the globalized consumer economy, reflect the skyline in Singapore, one of the world’s busiest ports.
Texting, which has become an enormously popular form of communication among teens, has its own form of shorthand—a combination of acronyms (LOL), shortened spellings (wanna), and emoticons (ツ). Among professional worriers, this has led to concern that the next generation will have difficulty learning how to write in standard, proper English.
Newly published research—we’d call it NPR, but those initials are taken—suggests they can relax. Studies conducted in two countries suggest university students, at least, have a clear sense of when this often-clever shorthand is and isn’t called for, and can adjust their prose style accordingly.
The popularity of “textisms,” a research team led by Australian psychologist Nenagh Kemp writes in the journal New Media and Society,“has not undermined university students’ ability to write words using conventional spelling when appropriate.”
In an attempt to get beyond anecdotal evidence of creeping text-speak, Kemp and her colleagues conducted two studies. In the first, 86 Australian and 150 Canadian undergraduates were surveyed regarding the appropriateness of “textisms” in various contexts.
Participants in both countries (there were no significant difference between the Australian and Canadian samples) considered them most appropriate while texting a friend or a sibling, or during online chats with people in those categories. Few considered their usage appropriate when texting an older family member, and even fewer when communicating with a stranger.
That same pattern was found for emails. Regarding classwork, text-speak was considered moderately appropriate for use in lecture notes, but strictly off limits for assignments or exams.
OK, but do those guidelines reflect their actual usage? To find out, the researchers turned to a different group of 153 Australian undergraduates. They examined 303 final-exam papers in various courses that had been completed in late 2009 and early 2010, looking for examples of texting shorthand.
They found almost none.
“Only a very small percentage of words written in these exam papers could be counted as textisms,” the researchers report, “and 43 of these occurred in a single student’s paper.
“Overall, the proportion of textisms of all words in the written exams by all participants was a tiny 0.02 percent, and, with the outlying student’s results excluded, was reduced to only 0.01 percent—an average of approximately one textism in every 7,200 words.”
Specifically, they found only 39 examples of texting-type contractions, such as using ppl as an abbreviation for people. There were 26 omitted apostrophes, although some of them may have been simple mistakes that were unrelated to the tendency to skip over apostrophes while texting.
The researchers concede that it’s possible that young adults who are not in college “may be more susceptible to the influence of textism use on literacy skills.” They also note that the feared influence on formal writing could show up in coming years, “as children begin texting at earlier ages.”
For the moment, however, “the current study provides real-world evidence to address past media concerns that textism use is somehow damaging English literacy.” At least among university students, they found, it’s just not happening. So NTW (not to worry).
Man Covering His Mouth: A shepherd by the Yellow River cannot stand the smell, Inner Mongolia, China
Angry Crowd: People jostle for food relief distribution following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti
“Black Friday” Shoppers: Aggressive bargain hunters push through the front doors of the Boise Towne Square mall as they are opened at 1 a.m. Friday, Nov. 24, 2007, Boise, Idaho, USA
Suburban Sprawl: aerial view of landscape outside Miami, Florida, shows 13 golf courses amongst track homes on the edge of the Everglades.
Toxic Landscape: Aerial view of the tar sands region, where mining operations and tailings ponds are so vast they can be seen from outer space; Alberta, Canada
Ice Waterfall: In both the Arctic and Antarctic regions, ice is retreating. Melting water on icecap, North East Land, Svalbard, Norway
Satellite Dishes: The rooftops of Aleppo, Syria, one of the world’s oldest cities, are covered with satellite dishes, linking residents to a globalized consumer culture.
Child Brides: Tahani, 8, is seen with her husband Majed, 27, and her former classmate Ghada, 8, and her husband in Hajjah, Yemen, July 26, 2010.
Megalopolis: Shanghai, China, a sprawling megacity of 24 Million
Big Hole: The Mir Mine in Russia is the world’s largest diamond mine.
Clear-cut: Industrial forestry degrading public lands, Willamette National Forest, Oregon
Computer Dump: Massive quantities of waste from obsolete computers and other electronics are typically shipped to the developing world for sorting and/or disposal. Photo from Accra, Ghana.
Oil Spill Fire: Aerial view of an oil fire following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Gulf of Mexico
Airplane Contrails: Globalized transportation networks, especially commercial aviation, are a major contributor of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Photo of contrails in the west London sky over the River Thames, London, England.
Fire: More frequent and more intense wildfires (such as this one in Colorado, USA) are another consequence of a warming planet.
Pacific Standard is a bimonthly print and daily online magazine that highlights the best thinking in the social sciences, technology, health, and policy, and grounds those ideas in real stories—entertaining, accessible, urgent. We are of the West, but not strictly about the West.