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Always On: Language in an Online and Mobile World [Hardcover]

Naomi S. Baron
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: 22.62 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

17 April 2008 0195313054 978-0195313055
In Always On, Naomi S. Baron reveals that online and mobile technologies - including instant messaging, cell phones, multitasking, Facebooks, blogs, and wikis - are profoundly influencing how we read and write, speak and listen, but not in the ways we might suppose.

Baron draws on a decade of research to provide an eye-opening look at language in an online and mobile world. She reveals for instance that email, IM, and text messaging have had surprisingly little impact on student writing. Electronic media has magnified the laid-back "whatever" attitude toward formal writing that young people everywhere have embraced, but it is not a cause of it. A more troubling trend, according to Baron, is the myriad ways in which we block incoming IMs, camouflage ourselves on Facebook, and use ring tones or caller ID to screen incoming calls on our mobile phones. Our ability to decide who to talk to, she argues, is likely to be among the most lasting influences that information technology has upon the ways we communicate with one another. Moreover, as more and more people are "always on" one technology or another - whether communicating, working, or just surfing the web or playing games - we have to ask what kind of people do we become, as individuals and as family members or friends, if the relationships we form must increasingly compete for our attention with digital media?

Our 300-year-old written culture is on the verge of redefinition, Baron notes. It's up to us to determine how and when we use language technologies, and to weigh the personal and social benefits - and costs - of being "always on." This engaging and lucidly-crafted book gives us the tools for taking on these challenges.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: OUP USA (17 April 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195313054
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195313055
  • Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 16.4 x 2.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,030,901 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Review

thought-provoking... a fascinating account of new on-line and mobile technologies; not so much about language as about behaviour... (Judges of the Duke of Edinburgh English-Speaking Union English Language Book Award 2008)

a convincing argument (Times Higher Education Supplement)

About the Author

Naomi S. Baron is Professor of Linguistics at American University in Washington, DC. A leading authority on language use in the age of the computer, she has studied instant messaging, text messaging, mobile phone practices, multitasking behavior, and Facebook usage by American college students. She is the author of six books, including Alphabet to Email: How Written English Evolved and Where It's Heading, and she has been interviewed on "Good Morning America," "20/20," Fox 5, CNN, Fresh Air, All Things Considered, Morning Edition, The New York Times, Wire Magazine, Boston Globe, Washington Post, and more.

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4.0 out of 5 stars Very good read 5 July 2011
Format:Paperback
If you are interested in the potential effects technology is having on language then l would recommend this well written and informative book. It is easy to read, well researched and looks at an area of language that linguists have not really delved into yet.
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but Opinionated 23 Mar 2012
By Chameleon_Girl - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Always On, by Naomi Baron, was primarily focused on how the transformation from a print culture, into a more digital culture, is affecting text. She placed a lot of emphasis on how language has changed, and how gender differs, in the digital world. However, the most interesting topic Baron discussed, in my opinion, was how digital communication leads to an altered presentation of the self. Erving Goffman, who is actually mentioned in Baron's text, wrote The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life about how individuals engage in impression management in their daily lives.

Baron's book begins with discussions on how the transition from print to digital culture is affecting language and making us worse writers. She defines a lot of vocabulary and gives a historical outline of how "netspeak" first came to be. She even analyses a research study she performed on IM conversations to discover if they were more like speech or formal writing. Throughout the book, Baron describes several other research studies that have been preformed on digital culture. One of the more interesting topics in the book was "controlling the volume", which explained how digital culture allowed people to control the amount and content of their social interactions with digital culture. The most interesting chapter, in my opinion, explains how Goffman's impression management plays out even in digital culture. She describes away messages and profiles as a type of selective self presentation.

Ultimately, the book reaches the conclusion that digital culture is destroying language and people are losing their ability to spell and use proper grammar. She glamorizes writing and threatens that digital culture will mean the disappearance of literature. She blames technology for the "me" generation's lack of morals. Overall, this book was interesting, but the conclusion is the least scientific and grounded part. She remains neutral throughout most the book, as a good scientist would do, and then loses it in the end. Her biased perspective comes off a frustrating and elitist. At times she seems to be lecturing her readers. In the end, this book is very much worth the read for anyone who is interested in how text is changing as we transform from a written to a digital culture.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Online and mobile technologies have a profound effect on how we read and write, speak and listen. 10 Mar 2010
By And Then Some Publishing LLC - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Review by Richard L. Weaver II, PhD.

Baron, a professor of linguistics at American University in Washington, DC, suggests that online and mobile technologies --- instant messaging, cell phones, multitasking, Facebook, blogs, and wikis --- Always On: Language in an Online and Mobile World As a result of focusing on contemporary language technologies, Baron pursues the answers to two questions: What are we, as speakers and writers, doing to ourselves by virtue of new communication technologies, and do our linguistic practices impact the way we think and relate to other people? Baron looks specifically at language in an online world. Of particular interest to me, because of my background in speech communication, was her Chapter 4, "Are Instant Messages Speech?" Her answer is no, even though there are speechlike elements, and the informal medium of IM assumes some of the dimensions of more formal, written language. Although written for everyone, this is a sophisticated book full of history, studies, quotations, examples, and evidence for her observations and conclusions. If you want a serious book that examines contemporary language technologies in a serious manner, this book has some excellent insights and observations.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Review for "Always On" 22 Oct 2012
By Teuta - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Naomi Baron's Always On: Language in an Online and Mobile World is a response to the digital age's communication technologies that are influencing and changing our language, and the ways we communicate with each other. Baron's book's genesis lies in two questions: What are we, as speakers and writers, doing to our language by virtue of new communication technologies, and how, in turn, do our linguistic practices impact the way we think and the way we relate to one another?

Baron goes through the different forms of communicative technology through the internet and mobile world to show us how we're in control of what's happening. She seems to take a sort of humanist approach to this discourse, as she consistently reminds us that the change is in our hands. All the technologies mentioned are always brought back to how people respond and use the technologies. Some of the technologies mentioned are: IMing, Blogs, Facebook, MySpace, Google, Spellcheck, Caller-ID, Blackberry, Texting, etc.

Some of the key terms and ideas that Baron discusses are `volume control', which refers to the technologies both internet and mobile used to control communication by people. She uses the example of how a teenager can block their mother's IM's or how anyone can let a phone call go to voicemail by screening the caller ID to avoid or control their communication `volume'.
Another important term and concept she dives into is the `end of anticipation', which refers to technology such as Facebook beating face-to-face reunions to the punch of asking `how've you been?', because we've already heard. Baron says that people save up stories to share and invested psychological energy in anticipating the next reunion. This fundamental social tradition impacts our daily lives immensely, and more importantly changes our communication with each other.

More importantly, Baron coins the `Whatever theory of language' or `Whateverism', as the new attitude towards language and its usage. In chapter 8, she says that poor writing is not just an issue of devolution, but a quiet revolution in social attitudes toward linguistic consistency. One of her main arguments is that technology isn't at fault for the change in language, the fault lies either in us or the global `whatever' attitude regarding regularity in language. Technology only magnifies the ongoing trends, which predate before the digital age. She explains that language and writing standards have changed because of the combination of the `whatever' attitude and personally expressive, culturally accommodating, and clock-driven language users.

Always `on' means that we are always connected through some medium of technology. Baron explains how this affects us in our everyday lives and how it translates into how we relate to one another. She's warns us about the consequences in her final chapter 10 about being connected or always `on' 24/7, but also offers solutions like controlling `volume' for moderation of technology. This portion of the book was my favorite and most involving because of her suggestions, continuous discourse, and statistics. She truly grabs the reader and shakes them with her unavoidable questions that remove them from the connectivity that clouds their awareness. She asks what kind of people we will become if our friends and family have to compete for our attention from digital media.

I found Baron's book to be pretty refreshing in her stance on communicative technology, and her approach to her argument. She draws upon historical references as well as other authorities on the subject matter and studies. Her writing is easy to read and she seems to have a great sense of fluidity when transitioning from one point to another. I enjoyed reading the book because above all, I felt like the book took a seminar form. It's a book that converses with you while making you feel involved, as opposed to reading a book that talks at you instead and keeps you at an un-involved distance.

She uses cartoons and comics that are both aesthetically pleasing and helps aid her argument. On the negative side, her own research seems to be a bit dated even though she does acknowledge that technology is constantly in flux as is our language. The book is also published in 2008, but I believe she could have involved the most recent studies before publication. Another downside to the book which she mentioned in chapter one, was that her argument really lies in the last three chapters of the book. Other than this, I would recommend this book for anyone interested in learning about communicative technology and how it affects us in our everyday lives.

If the book had been more recent, I wonder what she would've made about people blaming Facebook for ending relationships and how Facebook has transformed relationships between friends and couples in more notably negative ways.
4.0 out of 5 stars I used it for a research paper and ended up really being fascinated. 23 Nov 2011
By General - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was pleasantly surprised by this book and how it reads. If you are interested in the subject, it's great.
5.0 out of 5 stars OMG! A thoughtful look at txting! :) 16 Oct 2008
By Lynn S. Clark - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book offers a helpful entry point for those interested in how new media are changing the ways in which we communicate with one another. It moves deftly from close-up linguistic analysis of online exchanges (text messages, acronyms like LOL and BRB, away messages on Facebook) to more weighty subjects, such as what happens as we can increasingly assert control over the ways in which we communicate with others, and what kinds of people we are becoming as a result. I especially liked the chapters on talk radio as a precursor to blogs and wikipedia, and the terrific concluding chapter (which I'll be citing in my own work).

For grad students and junior scholars, the book also serves as a great model for how to write on digital media - a subject that's constantly changing, yet one that evokes questions that are timeless and important. Baron is a colleague of Rich Ling, who's well known for his work on young people and mobile phone use in Norway and the U.S.. Both are good at providing insights into how mobile phone use is being used among young people (in Baron's case, college age students) today.
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