Wesch speaks of the separation of form and content that gives people license to express themselves freely. This extends the social media phenomenon, linking people in ways never before seen, and completely unpredictable.
We can get a completely false sense of an event, place, activity or a person based on a tweet, a post, a sound bite or a video snippet. The advent of mechanized travel disturbed naturalists, including Henry David Thoreau, but it also expanded people’s spheres by enabling geographically separated people to connect more frequently. As the world changes, and civil liberties such as privacy collapse, people need to be more mindful and purposeful when using a combination of language and technologies, especially mobile devices that can evolve into an appendage to one’s self. Having conducted nearly 500,000 interviews over decades, Putnam finds that we sign fewer petitions, belong to fewer organizations that congregate, and have fewer, less intimate interactions with our neighbors, friends and our families. One goal of my work is to further weaken barriers to interaction by building systems smart enough to accurately interpret speakers’ intent in multiple languages, shrinking cultural and linguistic gaps, and enabling new patterns of relationships that are not constrained within current geo-cultural limits.
In all media, and all communication, context is essential to understanding (Video). Los Angeles Clippers Owner, Donald Sterling was stung and surprised by the fact that his recorded statements indicted him as a racist in the very racially mixed National Basketball Association.


In this way, web-deployed media may mediate human relationships by expanding conversations, sometimes creating global dialogs, and connecting like-minded people who would never have met otherwise. Knowing about the identity of both the author (speaker) and audience of a linguistic act is necessary to fully comprehend the intent. The democratization of knowledge leads to more independence, and the more independent we become, the more we long for authenticity. In todays mobile-media saturated society, information like this can go viral on the internet (something not possible when I began writing Understanding Context) and result in international scandal. This is an amazing and liberating opportunity, and should be encouraged and expanded, but it has its weaknesses. And although the depersonalization of connections to bits and bytes can lead to dissociation, there is evidence of significant human benefits in the proliferation of technology.
Before mobile social media, probably the damning conversation would have never come to the attention of more than a few people, and would have amounted to nothing.


In his book, Putnam shows how these declines in social capital result from changes in work, family structure, demographic distribution, neighborhood gentrification, mass media, the internet, women’s roles and other factors. The nature social interaction patterns, especially those mediated by technology, leads to new types of relationships. Context collapse has been escalating for many years as the 24-hour news cycle has spewed too much unanalyzed information that vilifies some, and deifies others far beyond reason. The picture at right suggests tele-medecine: a huge boon to travelers needing specialized care. Media worship of athletes and other entertainers infects society as a whole with horribly skewed perspectives on the relative heroism of individuals and their successes and failures.



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