Computer-Mediated Communication for Linguistics and Literacy: Technology and Natural Language Education

Computer-Mediated Communication for Linguistics and Literacy: Technology and Natural Language Education

Adams B. Bodomo (University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong)
Indexed In: PsycINFO®, SCOPUS
Release Date: July, 2009|Copyright: © 2010 |Pages: 394
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-868-0
ISBN13: 9781605668680|ISBN10: 1605668680|EISBN13: 9781605668697|ISBN13 Softcover: 9781616924324
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Description & Coverage
Description:

Due to the complex diversity and multi-disciplinary nature of computer-mediated communication, a reference source solely dedicated to the subject's direct influence on literacy and language becomes imperative among educators.

Computer-Mediated Communication for Linguistics and Literacy: Technology and Natural Language Education fills a void within research due to its clear and direct focus on the interactions between human language and communication technologies. Containing extensive research and analysis, this authoritative collection examines the practical implications and applications of how computers can be used to process natural languages for the design of communication systems and devices.

Coverage:

The many academic areas covered in this publication include, but are not limited to:

  • Computer-Mediated Communication
  • Digital Literacy
  • Educational Technologies
  • Interactive Learning Communities
  • Learning Technologies
  • Linguistics and literacy
  • Literacy in school curriculum
  • Mobile phone language
  • Natural language education
  • Technology-conditioned language
Reviews and Testimonials

"This book details the many issues of CMC and Human Language Technology, and guides the reader through the way language is used in various media of technology and the implications this has for learning to speak, read, and write languages."

– Adams B. Bodomo, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong (AUTHOR)

"Adams Bodomo's Computer-Mediated Communication for Linguistic and Literacy is a timely volume that addresses the important question of how language and literacies are changing in the contemporary society. Rich in empirical data, theoretical insights, as well as practical applications for education, this book will certainly benefit graduate students and academic scholars in the field of linguistics, education, computer sciences, literacy studies, or the interaction of all these.

– Carmen Lee, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong "

This is a well-written, clear and concise book by an expert in the field. This is clear from the structure of the book, the style of writing and the clarity of the argumentation. The book covers an important topic and provides useful insights as it builds upon case studies and empirical evidence to justify its claims. "

– Anonymous Reviewer
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Editor Biographies
Adams Bodomo is currently Professor of African Studies at the University of Vienna, Austria. Previously, he was an Associate Professor at the School of Humanities, University of Hong Kong. He obtained his PhD from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology after obtaining Bachelors and Masters Degrees at the University of Ghana with specializations in subjects as diverse as linguistics, computer science, French, Swahili, and African Studies. He has taught at the University of Ghana, Stanford University, and Santa Clara University (California,USA). His current teaching and research interests include formal theoretical linguistics, computer-mediated communication, and African Studies, particularly Africa-China relations. He has published more than 10 books and 50 journal articles in major publishing houses such as Stanford University CSLI Publications and IGI Global Publications, and in major academic journals in the fields of linguistics and computer-mediated communication such as Natural Language and Linguistic Theory, Linguistic Inquiry, Studia Linguistica, International Journal of Technology and Human Interaction, and the International Journal of Web-based Learning and Teaching Technologies.
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Preface

INTRODUCTION: CMC

Computer-mediated Communication (CMC) is an amazingly multi- and inter-disciplinary subject area that spans fields as diverse as computer science, information technology, communication studies, linguistics, literacy, education, business, ethics, and law. Given this vast subject-matter it would be practically impossible for any single volume to cover all aspects of CMC to any appreciable depth. There is thus the need to focus on one or the other of these component disciplines.

THE BOOK’S FOCUS

Within this wider, interdisciplinary arena, this book, titled, Computer-mediated Communication for Linguistics and Literacy: Technology and Natural Language Education, occupies an important position. It has a clear focus on the linguistic, literacy and educational aspects of CMC. The book investigates the way humans communicate through the medium of information technology gadgets. Based on extensive research on how we use natural languages like English and Chinese in media such as emails, MSN, and mobile phones, the book outlines new forms and ways of speaking, reading, and writing in an age in which there is a pervasive presence of communication technologies in offices and homes. This interaction between human language and technology has created new forms and uses of language and literacy the study of which has given birth to this exciting new field of Computer-mediated Communication (CMC) that we are about to delve into.

Alternative names for this focus on the linguistic and literacy aspects of the field of CMC include Human Language Technology (HLT), Language and Computation, or even Internet Linguistics. CMC, HLT and their allied fields have as a subject-matter the theoretical study of this interaction between natural languages and communications technology but also a study of the practical implications and applications of how computers and other communications technologies can be used to analyze and process natural languages for the design of communication systems and devices like automatic translation devices, mobile phones, voice recognition devices and all kinds of computer systems involving a human language component. This book takes a closer look at many of these issues and guides the reader through the way language is used in various media of technology and the implications this has for learning to speak, read, and write languages.

FURTHER ON THE ROLE OF CMC

The era in which we live has often been referred to as the Information Age or even the Knowledge Society. In this age and society we constantly witness a massive explosion of new types and styles of communications gadgets such as computers of all types (including desktops and laptops), PDAs, mobile phones, Blackberries, etc; and media like the internet, emails, ICQ, chat, text messaging and others. We can expect that new ones will be invented.

In this book, I will discuss how these different types and styles of information and communication technologies impact the way we communicate. In particular, I will examine the nature and uses of language in what may be described as a revolutionary environment for information and communication. As these communication technologies bring us closer together, we are forming a global village, and indeed, this era has also been referred to as an era of globalization. We will find that in this global village our everyday communications may involve not just one language, but several languages. In fact, it is hardly ever sufficient to operate in only one language anymore. Bilingualism/multilingualism is now an essential part of this information communication revolution. I will examine how these combinations of technologies and languages affect the nature and structure of each language and whether this leads to changes in language structure and language use.

Not only are these technologies creating an environment of multiplicity of languages, they also have an impact on the way we read, write, and process information. I will examine the different ways in which we are called upon to speak, read, and write in these different technological environments. We will notice that we are called upon to juggle different ways of reading and writing in these different environments. Literacy is no longer a mono-modal practice but very much multi-modal; various kinds of literacies are needed to function well in the information society.

This ecology of languages, literacies, and technologies will be shown to be very dynamic, and in this ever-changing ecology many issues about human nature will be discussed. In particular, an examination of these interrelationships helps us understand some important aspects of our culture and society. Throughout the book I will examine some consequences for learning and knowledge acquisition in this complex ecology, and attempt to show how we can harness these languages, literacies, and technologies to improve education for our future generations.

DISTINCTIVE ASPECTS OF THE BOOK

Case Studies

One of the most distinctive aspects of this book is that most chapters incorporate a case study to anchor the issue being discussed within the sphere of actual empirical data. This is possible because it is a book that is the outcome of funded competitive research projects as diverse as Linguistic Features of Mobile Phone Communication, The Use of Computers in Teaching Languages and Linguistics, and Communication in the Age of Information Technology: New Forms of Language and their Educational Implications. It is thus based on current research results and discussions that would lead the reader to valuable insights to the sort of issues that experts in the field are currently grappling with.

Addressing Everyday Issues

While the book is grounded on top-notch research, it still addresses everyday issues. The main theme and purpose of this book is to analyze and explain everyday linguistic and cultural dynamics triggered by new communication technologies. This is an important theme and a cultural issue that has the potential to impact most, if not all, citizens of the 21st Century society. Books such as this are thus needed by not just only academics and other experts but also the man on the street to help explicate these linguistic, cultural, and communication dynamics surrounding our everyday lives.

More Than One Medium

A third aspect of the book is that it touches on many media. There are a number of valuable books on this important theme of CMC but my book is distinguished from them in the sense that it treats contemporary themes surrounding language and literacy dynamics in more than one medium. Many books on CMC either concentrate on email, or some single internet system or the other but my book treats all these linguistic, literacy, and communication innovations on email, MSN, mobile phone texting, and even video-based CMC media like YouTube and online games. All these media are treated with data based on actual university-level academic research by myself, my students, and other members of an informal research group that I head: The Linguistic Theory and Technology Group (LTTG).

READERSHIP

Each chapter in this book takes up comprehensive treatments of the frequent themes on the interaction between languages, literacies, and technologies; it is based on facts and figures gained from actual research projects on how the youth use language in the new media, it is international in scope, and it does a rigorous survey of the literature in the area. Therefore this book will be useful for undergraduates, postgraduates, and scholars in computer-mediated communication fields as diverse as Linguistics, Literacy, Education, Computer Science, Information Science, and Human Language Technology. It would also be of interest to the general public.

ORGANIZATION OF THE BOOK

The book comprises 12 chapters. Chapters 1 to 4 may be regarded as constituting part one of the book, covering the foundational aspects. Chapters 5 to 8 may be considered as part two, the technological and linguistic empirical base of our study, where I focus on the various CMC technological environments like email, msn, and mobile phone one at a time. Chapters 9 to 11 may be seen as focusing on the educational and pedagogical aspects of the link between ICT and language. Chapter 12, the final chapter ties together many of the issues discussed, and points to emerging themes and emerging CMC tools and media that will surely shape the future of CMC.

In chapter 1, Definitions and Basic Conceptual Notions, I introduce fundamental conceptual terms, such as communication, language, literacy, computer science, IT, and of course computer-mediated communication. I do this by providing short definitions and explanations of these key topics that constitute the subject matter of the book.

In chapter 2, titled, “Is Technology Changing the Way We Communicate? ” I present the main theme or thesis of the book in the form of a discussion. I present different positions, indicating how different scholars approach these issues. On the one hand are works of scholars like Adams (1986), Baron (1984) and Crystal (2001), and on the other side are those like Kress (1998) and Luke (2000).

In chapter 3, titled “Digital Literacy: Reading in the Age of ICT” I focus on the changing patterns of reading in the environment of new technologies. I first show how technology is affecting the way we read, both in terms of the choice of media and in terms of the strategies we employ to read. More importantly I focus on the surveys of reader preferences, as it is evident that given a wide choice of media that technology provides us, we have developed preferences. Preference surveys have become an important way of measuring changes in reading communication due to changes in technology.

In chapter 4, TELCU: A Model for Technology Conditioned Language and Literacy Change, I shall build on this discussion by proposing a model in which we can capture and conceptualize these perceived new forms of language and new ways of speaking. Indeed, I go further as to present a particular study of the way some bilingual speakers of Chinese and English create new forms of language through mobile phone texting (though the concept of mobile phone texting is taken up more comprehensively in chapter seven). I shall present and discuss concrete examples throughout the chapter.

In chapter 5, Insights from an MSN Corpus, I look closely at one type of Computer-mediated Communication, Microsoft Network (MSN) instant messaging. MSN instant communication is quite popular among the youth in most parts of the world. In Hong Kong, it has fast replaced I-seek-you (ICQ) and QQ (in mainland China) as one of the primary instant communication tools among the youth.

In chapter 6, Insights from Mobile Phone Voice Communication, I will be looking particularly at the linguistic features of this kind of communication. More specifically, Hong Kong being a trilingual and biliterate society, we will see how participants juggle these languages within the medium of the mobile phone instant messaging and what linguistic features are thus produced. As is usual with most chapters our observations are based on a case study. A distinctive feature of this chapter from some others is that I present and describe a comprehensive corpus as an example of an actual CMC exchange. This will give us insights into actual communication sessions of young people who use mobile phone in Hong Kong and worldwide.

Chapter 7, The Grammar of Mobile Phone Written Language, is dedicated to the grammatical analyses of language produced in the environment of mobile phone texting or communication through Short Message Service (SMS). SMS has quickly emerged as a frequent daily linguistic, literacy, or general communicative practice in which two or more people exchange messages by coding and decoding texts received and sent from their cell phones. In this chapter, I focus on the relationship between communications technology and language change with evidence from the peculiar nature of the grammar of mobile phone texting.

Chapter 8 is titled, New Forms of Reading and Writing: Cell Phone Novels. In this chapter I discuss a radical consequence of the new forms of reading and writing on the literacy and literary world that would have been discussed in earlier chapters: the cell phone or mobile phone novel. Instant messaging, such as text messaging, is taking the idea of a novel to new heights. While the traditional novel as we know it, is a product of, presumably, many years of laborious writing and imagination by a single individual, the author, and delivered to the reading public as a carefully edited and published product by editors and publishers, the “novel” as produced through computer-mediated instant messaging is a radically different sub-genre or even a different genre altogether. It is interactive and instantaneous. In this chapter I present the outlines of the cell phone novel, including how it started, and what its main features are.

Beginning with chapter 9, New Languages, New Literacies, and the School Curriculum, I focus on the educational applications of linguistic practices within CMC media for the next three chapters. In previous chapters I would have undertaken a quite detailed analysis of the features of language and literacy practices within the medium of communication technologies, including email, MSN, mobile phone speech, and mobile phone texting. This has given us the opportunity to examine carefully new or peculiar linguistic structures, and new ways of communicating and expressing oneself within these new technological environments. Of course, it is not everybody who is comfortable with these new ways of using whatever language it is by experimenting with these new structures and strategies of encoding such as shortening words and explicitly disregarding standard grammatical encoding. In particular, parents and teachers have been quite critical about these new languages and new literacies produced within the context of new communication technologies by their children and students. To address these concerns, I draw on a case study based on a funded project whose aim was to do a focused and careful analysis of email, ICQ and mobile phone practices among young people in Hong Kong with a view to examining if there are any consequences of these language and literacy practices on the way they learn and use language in the classroom.

In chapter 10, Learning Technologies: Creating Constructivist and Interactive Learning Communities, I continue this theme of education by discussing how to take advantage of youth interests in these new technologies that have been discussed at length in previous chapters. I show how we can turn them into learning and pedagogical technologies, leading to a model for language learning using these media – the Conversational Learning Community. Two main concepts, constructivism (Bodomo 2005b, 2007) and interactivity (Bodomo 2006, 2008, will be highlighted as important concepts in the area of using learning technologies to create good pedagogical environments for teaching issues of linguistics and literacy, and for that matter any other subject. The empirical basis for this chapter is a series of studies undertaken in the context of a teaching development project at the University of Hong Kong led by me, the author. I will be particularly concerned with how we can achieve interactivity in the learning environment I term Conversational Learning Community (CLC). CLC is based on a constructivist theory I term Conversational Learning Theory (CLT).

In chapter 11, the penultimate chapter of the book titled, Evaluating Learning Technologies, I continue with our discussion of how we can take advantage of these youth interests and practices with ICTs for enhancing learning and teaching by actually evolving ways to evaluate these communication and learning environments. As with most chapters in the book, I focus on a case study as a way to give an in-depth study to the subject matter. In this case, interactivity is the subject matter. Interactivity, discussed at length in the previous chapters, leading to the creation of a new learning theory, the Conversational Learning Theory, and a new learning model, the Conversational Learning Community is even further emphasized here in terms of how to evaluate it.

In chapter 12, Computer-Mediated Communication: Emerging Media and Themes, I point to emerging media and new themes that will shape the future of CMC. About every month a new technology is introduced by one company or the other that has the potential to impact the discipline in profound ways. So much so that it is hard for a research academic to pretend that at any one moment in time one can capture a representative snap-shot of the discipline that can stand the test of time. New technologies - new media, new issues - new themes are constantly emerging. In previous chapters, I would have focused mostly on what may be termed text-based Computer-Mediated Communication, which may be defined as interaction and transfer of information through the medium of the computer and related digital devices mainly in the written word. One emerging trend to be pointed to in this chapter, however, is that a new theme has emerged from text-based CMC to video-based CMC. Video-based Computer-Mediated Communication may be defined as interaction and transfer of information through the medium of the computer and related digital devices mainly in the form of dynamic image streams. Most contemporary social networking tools like Facebook and YouTube are implemented with video-based CMC. Of course, Video CMC still contains the written word, but the written word is mainly meant to just express talk around the main issue, the Video event. Young users of the internet have radically moved away from communication through the plain written word to communication in the medium of video clips and voice-image interactions through video-based media such as Facebook, YouTube, video games, and skype. It is this emerging paradigm shift from text-based to video-based CMC that this last chapter addresses.

SUMMARY

Taken together then, the chapters in this book address many aspects of the vast field of Computer-mediated Communication. I do this with a particular focus on linguistic or natural language and literacy aspects of the technology that is the basis of CMC. Each of the 12 chapters reveals some new facts and insights, or outlines the various positions surrounding some discussion or the other and then takes a position based on the results that I have obtained from my research. It is hoped that students and scholars of computer-mediated communication will find in these pages facts, figures, insights, theoretical positions, and practical solutions that can only make our field even more exciting.