“Immediacy”, is it too quick?

I will be brief. In fact, some studies suggest that most will read only the first four lines of text of this post before moving on. So I may only have “two more lines of your time”. What we are dealing with is “Immediacy” – a relatively new use for a term that has generally meant (are you still with me?):  to occur or accomplish without delay; in an instant.

What those using the term are attempting to express is that we are living in a communications milieu counted in seconds and sound bites and 140 character maximum communications called “tweets”. This genre of communications is becoming more and more prevalent and more and more the norm.  I have previously addressed a somewhat related issue, see: https://communicatorsandcommunications.com/2009/04/10/quick-takes-social-network-fatigue/

Whether the consequences of “Immediacy” are  positive or negative depends upon a number of factors. If the purpose is finding a specific answer to a specific question then certainly there is merit in accelerating the process. But when the “short-cut approach” becomes the one and only recognized approach much can be lost such as clarity,  thinking things through, reflection; decision making on the basis of a “quick pick” is quite different than decision making based on more deliberate consideration of any given matter. There is a concern that those engaged  primarily with media and messages configured to satisfy “Immediacy” will have capacity to concentrate and stay on task only in short bursts. There is no stopping and smelling the roses  in an immediacy mediated world. So we gain some things, we lose some things; the trick may be  in learning to control rather than be controlled by the technology that makes this all possible.

We certainly need to be conscious of the potential impact of “Immediacy” on the interaction between communicator and  audience. Latest studies indicate a trend of less and less “time spent” on news websites. While “time spent” may not be the optimal index regarding “engagement” with a website, this trend tends to support a probable consequence of a culture focused on “Immediacy”. For further reading on the subject check out The Culture of Speed: The Coming of Immediacy by John Tomlinson, Professor of Cultural Sociology at Nottingham Trent University. It’s only 192 pages.

https://communicatorsandcommunications.com/2009/04/29/immediacy-is-it-too-quick/

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Boy do we need a Chief Technology Officer!

I have been absorbing the news for the past few days. It’s really true. President Obama, in his weekly radio and internet address on Saturday, April 18, announced that Aneesh Chopra will be the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer. Chopra currently holds the CTO position in the state of Virginia. Why is this appointment meaningful?

First, a little background. The Obama administration’s agenda as regards technology is summarized this way: “President Obama and Vice President Biden understand the immense transformative power of technology and innovation and how they can improve the lives of Americans. They will work to ensure the full and free exchange of information through an open Internet and use technology to create a more transparent and connected democracy. They will encourage the deployment of modern communications infrastructure to improve America’s competitiveness and employ technology to solve our nation’s most pressing problems — ” http://www.whitehouse.gov/agenda/technology/

This nation has a lot of work to do to bring technology, particularly information and communication technology (ICT) into balance with societal needs. Yes we’re tweeting away, and faithfully updating our Facebook profiles, but we have no where near harnessed existing technology to make a difference in the lives of many in meaningful ways, or organized our public functions, governmental and otherwise to take optimal advantage of what technology can do.

This is only part of the task ahead. The nation’s first Chief  Technology Officer will need to be forward thinking about what the future demands. This is an important part of the job description.

There are many parts to this puzzle. The Obama technology agenda document identifies a number of  areas of interest, I will note just a few: “preserve the benefits of open competition on the Internet.” – “Encourage diversity in the ownership of broadcast media, promote the development of new media outlets for expression of diverse viewpoints, and clarify the public interest obligations of broadcasters who occupy the nation’s spectrum.” -” Use technology to reform government and improve the exchange of information between the federal government and citizens while ensuring the security of our networks.” – “America should lead the world in broadband penetration and Internet access.”  For the complete document detail go to: http://www.whitehouse.gov/agenda/technology/

The CTO position will officially be that of associate director for technology under the administration’s Office of Science and Technology Policy office. Hardly a cabinet level position. But it’s a step in the right direction. A step into the future.

https://communicatorsandcommunications.com/2009/04/23/boy-do-we-need-a-chief-technology-officer/

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Pulitzer Prize, what’s it all about anyway?

At 3:00 p.m. , Monday, April 20, at Columbia University the 2009 Pulitzer Prize winners and nominated finalists were announced. In journalism, there are 14 separate categories of the award. They are: Public Service; Breaking News Reporting; Investigative Reporting; Explanatory Reporting; Local Reporting; National Reporting; International Reporting; Feature Writing; Commentary; Criticism; Editorial Writing; Editorial Cartooning; Breaking News Photography; and, Feature Photography.

The intent of the Pulitzer prize is to honor excellence in journalism and the arts. Besides the journalism awards there are prizes in Biography or Autobiography; Fiction; Drama; History; Poetry; General Non-Fiction; and a Pulitzer Prize for Music. Pulitzer originally specified only four awards in journalism, four in letters and drama, one for education, and four traveling scholarships.  the prizes now include 21 separate categories.

The awards were originated through the will of Joseph Pulitzer (1847-1911). Pulitzer, who had come up through the journalistic ranks to prominence in newspaper publishing, and who, in his “newspaper wars” with the Hearst organization became associated with adding “yellow journalism” into the annals of journalism’s history must be otherwise regarded as a keystone figure in that history as well.

In a piece in The North American Review, written in 1904 in support of his proposal for the founding of a school of journalism he wrote the following: “Our Republic and its press will rise or fall together. An able, disinterested, public-spirited press, with trained intelligence to know the right and courage to do it, can preserve that public virtue without which popular government is a sham and a mockery. A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself. The power to mould the future of the Republic will be in the hands of the journalists of future generations.”

Starting in 2006 online content in all 14 journalism categories was allowed. For this year’s awards the competition was expanded to include online-only news organizations. Both of these steps, granting the background of the Pulitzers, are not to be taken lightly. More than 2400 entries are submitted each year.

A word should be mentioned about the Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal awarded each year to the American newspaper that wins the Public Service category. On one side of the medal is the profile of Benjamin Franklin, and on the other side, a printer hard at work at his press. The sculptor, Daniel Chester French later did the seated Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial. The images used have much to say about what and who we ought to value in terms of our journalistic heritage.

There is an  on-going discussion and debate about the place of traditional journalism in a 21st century society. There can be no debate about the merit of those who have been granted this award.

For complete information about this year’s awards go to: http://www.pulitzer.org/

https://communicatorsandcommunications.com/2009/04/20/pulitzer-prize-whats-it-all-about-anyway/

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Quick Takes: Earth Day is coming

(This is a Quick Takes post; very brief posts on very timely topics with more detailed discussion to follow as warranted.)

April 22nd. Earth Day. What’s it all about? Time to visit: http://ww2.earthday.net/ and while you’re at it now’s a good time to read the Earth Hour post on this blog devoted to considering the event as an example of nonverbal communication: https://communicatorsandcommunications.com/2009/03/29/earth-hour-nonverbal-and-symbolic-communication/ Be sure to cast your vote while there regarding the event’s effectiveness. I’ll be reporting my observations about Earth Day’s impact after the event in a follow up post from a C&C perspective.

https://communicatorsandcommunications.com/2009/04/20/quick-takes-earth-day-is-coming/

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John Madden quits the game

I cannot let the retirement announcement by John Madden yesterday pass without mention.

This blog has a category for “noted communicators” for a reason, and Madden is in that category. For those that may not consider the name a household word (and many would) John Madden has been the face of pro football in broadcasting for some thirty -wait numbers matter in sports, let’s make that “30” years, maybe even put it on a jersey.

Even non-sports fans recognize the guy from his shall we say dabbling in commercial endorsements such as for Ace Hardware – for those who can’t understand why Madden is a perfect spokesman for Ace, I’ll explain: for the same reason he was a perfect game analyst with all four networks, CBS(1979-94), Fox (1994-2002), ABC (2002-05), NBC (2005-09); he was as they say in sports “a natural”, down to earth everyman who just happened to know how to communicate about the game in such a way that it made sense, or in some cases nonsense. He did indeed have a unique way with words, and his enthusiasm for his sport was apparent and infectious. He knew the game started in the mud and dirt and that’s what he caught, the essence of it all.

Sports broadcasting will not be the same without him.

https://communicatorsandcommunications.com/2009/04/17/john-madden-quits-the-game/

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“The Elements of Style” is missing

I am in full panic mode. My 1972 edition of  The Elements of Style often just referred to as “Strunk and White” , “S&W”, or just plain “Strunk” has gone missing. It sat proudly on a shelf of my office bookcase for as long as I can remember. But not too long ago I moved my office and someone packed it away, unbeknownst to me , and I had forgotten about it – perish the thought – until I went looking for it prompted by my noticing the publication of a 50th Anniversary Edition by its present publisher Pearson/Longman, who herald the small tome as “the most widely read and employed English style manual”. Who am I to disagree?

The bibliographic history surrounding the work is fascinating in and of itself. In brief, the manual was first written by William Strunk, Jr. in 1918 for his students at Cornell, one of whom was E. B. White of Charlotte’s Web fame. Just as I have, White apparently had lost his copy by the time he was encouraged by Macmillan to revise Strunk’s earlier work (Strunk died in 1946) and the new edition was published in 1959, with later editions in 1972, 1979, and 1999. In 2005, The Elements of Style Illustrated was published, a unique rendering with illustrations by Maira Kalman, and now, the 50th Anniversary deluxe edition, 2009. Of the numerous obligatory quotes from notables printed on the back cover of this new edition, there is this from the Pulitzer Prize winning author Richard Ford: “S&W doesn’t really teach you how to write, it just tantalizingly reminds you that there’s an orderly way to go about it, that clarity’s ever your ideal, but — really — it’s all going to be up to you.”

Now here’s exactly the point. Regardless of your opinion of S&W, and it has its detractors for sure, if someone suggests to you that they are going to simply disregard it, without ever having even perused it, move away quickly in the opposite direction, for you are surely facing a wild writer. There is an immense difference between this foolish judgment and that of consciously deciding to disregard S&W for creative purposes as an experiment, knowing full well what the rules are – and that you are breaking them.

Consider Wynton Marsalis, certainly one of the top jazz trumpet players of our times; but Marsalis is classically trained. Every time he does a jazz improvisation it is informed by an understanding of the “elements of style” of music; musicians call this “knowing the changes”.  As applied to writing, for example, Strunk, in his original 1918 work wrote this about use of the active voice: “The active voice is usually more direct and vigorous than the passive:” but he also made it clear that “This rule does not, of course, mean that the writer should entirely discard the passive voice, which is frequently convenient and sometimes necessary.” I think Strunk, though thought of as a “rule maker”, would have agreed with the Duke (Ellington that is) that: “It Don’t Mean A Thing if It Ain’t Got That Swing!

https://communicatorsandcommunications.com/2009/04/16/the-elements-of-style-is-missing/

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The Nipmuc Language is not dead

As has been referenced on this blog previously, I am an avid listener and unabashed promoter of the NPR program All Things Considered. It has “opened my eyes” more than once, and now again. The very title of the program says it all. Communicators, and those who strive to be communicators,  need to be open to learn and explore because expanding  horizons and awareness broadens our understanding of the world at large and this provides the kind of perspective that facilitates the communicator’s role as a transmitter of knowledge, information, and ideas, and All Things Considered  exposes the listener to many “things” we would never “consider” at “all”. But I digress.

So, If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? This is a philosophical query, and it applies aptly to the question of the demise of a language, in this case a Native American language spoken by the Nipmuc people , the subject of the All Things Considered segment I found so engaging.

Today, fewer than 10 people speak it. David White, a member of the tribe, swore to a dying elder that he would teach Nipmuc to ensure it was perpetuated. He has been steadfast in his commitment. There are many lessons to be learned from “White’s last stand” which impact matters that matter from a communications standpoint, but for the purpose of this post, I simply want to emphasize the core concept exemplified by his efforts, which is that language, any language, is precious and needs to be treated with the utmost respect, and saved for posterity if at all possible. Afterall, a culture is kept alive through its use of language.

NPR has aired David White’s story in conjunction with the PBS television series We Shall Remain which premiers today. This five part series asserts that Native American history must be seen as an essential part of American history.

For the full transcript of the NPR segment and more information about the PBS series We Shall Remain go to: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=103028551

https://communicatorsandcommunications.com/2009/04/13/the-nipmuc-language-is-not-dead/

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