Being quiet and cool

happy messagersThere are a number of studies that show younger people connecting more via instant messaging and SMS than other forms of communication. The Digital Chosunilbo reports that this transition has covered Korea under a veil of silence:

If in an age of near-ubiquitous communication people have become paradoxically quiet, it is because means of communication that replace the spoken word, like chat programs and text messengers, are cheap, convenient to use and accessible everywhere. There are people who say they could live comfortably without saying a word all day, and who send so many SMS and chat online so much that sometimes they find it awkward to talk.

There are also those who claim that the internet is making us withdraw socially from those around us, with communications that are less emotionally rich than face-to-face contact. This article provides one of the first theories of why messaging might be doing the same thing:

Yonsei University sociologist Kim Ho-gi says young-generation “cool” means a preference for writing over speech. “Speech is loaded with feeling, and because young people prefer communication styles that convey meaning simply and clearly while keeping their own emotions in check, they like communicating through text messages.”

Most of the research in this area suggests that those crazy kids are doing it because they can have multiple conversations simultaneously; if this article is correct, and indeed we message-to-be-cool, I’d have to agree that we’re headed in a socially scary direction. The emotional effects of messaging definitely warrent some more attention (via Smart Mobs).

Thesis: defended

IAMDEFENDERFor those wondering whether or not I’ve died in my apartment in a vat of sweet-smelling liquid that masked the smell of my rotting body, the answer is NO! I’m alive and well, just in the wake of one of the more excruciatingly painful periods of work-induced anti-social behavior. And as a consolation, I never have to defend my thesis again.

Unlike most Ph.D. defenses, the Media Lab counterpart is quite public, held in an auditorium-sized room, and can occur before the thesis document is finished. Last Thursday at 9am I went through this process presenting my thesis titled The structural determinants of media contagion, and I came through fairly unscathed. It was fairly well attended once people woke up (around 9:30 I guess), and my committee decided I was ready to enter the cloistered halls of academia… after I finish writing the document.

It’s unfortunate, but true. I can’t put Dr. on my credit card just yet, nor can I pretend like I have any plans after that. In the mean time I’ll be writing in limbo until my April 5th deadline. I’ll hold off on the results until then, lest I contradict myself in two weeks time. But I just wanted to thank everyone that helped me get here, and there are so many. If you’re reading this, I’m sure you know that I mean you, because just about everyone who possibly could have lended a hand did in some way (even if it was just by taking the survey).

So thanks. I’ll be filling in the details in a few weeks, but you can take solace in the mean time that I’m taking showers again and interacting with people other than the three friends I’ve developed in my brain over the past two months.