Thursday, October 27, 2011

Chomsky on twitter

Say, how come this isn't all over the linguablogs? Nathan Jurgenson at Salon has written a piece called this:

Why Chomsky is wrong about Twitter

When the linguist claims that social media is "shallow," he isn't very deep or convincing

Maybe the uproar is among journalism folks rather than linguists here?


Monica said...

Noam was having a "get off my lawn" moment, I think.

Mr. Verb said...

So, the uproar is among grandparents?

Anonymous said...

I love it. An on-line journalist calling Chomsky 'shallow'! We got your deep structure right here, kid.

Anonymous said...

I read the original interviews. It seemed like all he was saying that twitter is shallow in comparison to 19th century literature or face to face conversations. All I can say is duh.

The whole point of one interview was Chomsky talking about how out of touch he is with pop culture. He talked about how his favorite word processor only runs on DOS. So of course he is going to be unappreciative of current social networking fads. He said nice things about Wikileaks.

And this quote from the Salon piece is completely over the top:

When he defends his form of communicating (printed books and periodical essays) with claims that tweeting/texting lacks depth, he is implicitly suggesting that nonwhites and those in the Third World are inherently communicating less deeply than their white and first-world counterparts. He doesn’t seem to know enough about the reality of social media to examine his own assumptions.

I feel like the author of the Salon article was once some type of poststructuralist English major before they took up sociology. Yup, Shakespeare and LOL Cats, basically both are just as deep and meaningful. Don't think so? Racist!

Bill Idsardi said...

I think this is completely consistent with Chomsky's previous remarks on "sound bite" culture. He has said repeatedly that some topics and positions are too complicated to be articulated in 30 seconds; this is extending that remark to say some issues are too complicated to be summarized in 140 characters.
(The text above is 307 characters.)

Mr. Verb said...

Thanks to both of you. So, sounds like it makes sense. Chomsky is emphatically not into 140 characters.

Q. Pheevr said...

Twitter is just not the kind of minimalist program Chomsky is interested in.

But I'd be happy to see Jurgenson try to make his case by translating a deep and complex work of scholarship into 140-character bursts. Maybe Tweets on Government and Binding?

Alon said...

I guess this hasn't been all over the linguablogs because, as Chomsky has said many times, his pontifications on politics, the media and the public sphere are completely divorced from his linguistics.

Given Chomsky's lack of sensitivity for and interest in actual language, the triteness of his crotchety remarks is anything but surprising. (I don't think he's ever had anything meaningful to say about the media, in fact; his famous "propaganda model" adds nothing to the good work of media sociologists like Tuchman or Gitlin, and completely misses the chance to address the contribution linguistics can make to these analyses.)

The sarcastic comparisons of LGB or Shakespeare with Twitter are mere straw hacking— unless the commenters sincerely believe someone would actually write an academic textbook that way, in which case they're simply evidence of lunacy. Different media have different and only partly overlapping affordances, and people are quite well aware of this in practice if not in theory. The invention of the telegraph does not seem to have impaired our 19th century ancestors's ability to write lengthy and florid prose.