Tone indicators and the ever-evolving quest to make clear what we’re saying on-line | Boing Boing

Tone indicators and the ever-evolving quest to clarify what we're saying online | Boing Boing


The New York Occasions has a piece on “tone indicators” — a rising pattern on the Intertubes to make use of short-forms that clarify the emotional tone of an utterance.

This tweet by @CosmicSky0_o, cited by the Occasions, has abstract of a few of the more-common tone indicators …

Tone indicators are, the Occasions writes, fashionable notably amongst people who dislike the tonal murkiness of a lot on-line posting — a few of the neurodivergent, for instance, or on-line cultures the place inclusivity and readability about intent is a powerful worth:

“Tone indicators are actually used to point the tone of what you write, since written dialog will be more durable to get by individuals who have communication points or simply aren’t used to a sure approach somebody speaks on-line,” wrote Michael Guazzelli, who’s 21 and identifies as neurodivergent, in a direct message on Twitter. “There’s loads of completely different typing kinds and if somebody is just not acquainted to another person’s, the tone indicators make every part extra easy as a result of nobody has to ask what the particular person is speaking about or what they imply with what they stated.”

Granted, even amongst followers of tone indicators, there are rollicking debates about how and when and why to make use of tone indicators, and whether or not they kill humor and textual wit (i.e. by successfully saying “I am joking”, “I am talking rhetorically”, and so on.)

Me, I am typically an fanatic for these types of linguistic experiments! I can see issues, in fact. One large problem with tone indicators, I believe, is that they presume good religion in declaring one’s intent; however we have lengthy seen how right-wing trolls and President Trump deploy “I am simply joking” as a solution to say one thing (say) straightforwardly racist or misogynist whereas additionally making an attempt to dodge accountability for his or her phrases. (My spouse Emily Nussbaum wrote a fabulous essay about this dynamic back in 2017.)

However amongst good-faith wielders, tone indicators strike me as one other pleasant instance of the Darwinian evolution of language on-line — our infinite experiments in communication by means of the digital aeth’r. There is a lengthy historical past of this experimentation — from emoticons (which Vladimir Nabokov envisioned in 1969!) to early-Web Dagwood-sandwich-style acronyms like ROTFLMAO, to the formal introduction of the smiley in (as one story tells it) in 1982.

Sarcasm, specifically, tends to be a tone that — even when deployed in a good-faith, literary approach — is misinterpret on-line, so there’s lengthy been dialogue of whether or not there’s any easy solution to point out it. One instance, cited in the Times piece:

In a 2001 post, the blogger Tara Liloia proposed that tildes is perhaps used to point sarcasm.

“The closest factor to a sar­casm mark is the wink­ing smi­ley — and he’s­n’t actually a professional­fes­sional software. You’ll be able to’t write a missive to a busi­ness as­so­ci­ate with little cutesy ASCII faces in it. It is simply not accomplished,” she wrote. “And nobody can declare that sarcasm is not skilled. If the quantity of sarcasm within the American office is any indication, sarcasm is nothing however skilled!”

“My solu­tion,” she concluded, “is the tilde. ~”

The frequent drawback that each one these innovations try to handle is, actually, emotional stance. The linguist Gretchen McCulloch talks about this a bunch in her wonderful book Because Internet. As she notes, in F2F communication we every radiate a myriad of indicators that emotionally disambiguate our phrases — physique posture, vocal tone, and so on. We do not have these indicators that on-line; all we have got is phrases and pictures, principally. And haven’t got very many phrases, and so they normally haven’t got a lot context. If you learn novels, these issues go away: The authors have a ton of phrases and a very long time to determine their stance, and the novel gives a ton of context for any particular person sentence. This isn’t true of the tweet. Usually you are single quick sentence by somebody, with little context of different issues they’ve stated.

However even amongst intimates — individuals who know one another effectively — it is easy to misinterpret tone and stance, in emails or texts or DMs! This is the reason emoji have turn into so fashionable. Individuals are “making an attempt to resolve one of many large issues of writing on-line, which is that you’ve the phrases however you do not have the tone of voice,” as McCulloch told me when I wrote about emoji a few years ago for Wired.

It seems we’re even growing an emoji syntax, because the linguist Tyler Schnoebelen informed me …

Certainly, individuals are even growing syntax and guidelines of use for emoji Schnoebelen discovered that once we use face emoji, we are likely to put them earlier than different objects. In case you textual content a few late flight, you will put an sad face adopted by a airplane, not the reverse. In linguistic phrases, that is referred to as conveying “stance.” Simply as with in-person discuss, the expression illustrates our stance earlier than we have spoken a phrase.

It is not possible to inform whether or not tone indicators will ever turn into as widespread as, say, emoji. But when they did, they could develop some equally attention-grabbing syntatic guidelines. I am fascinated to look at it evolve.





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