Language And The Media

Communication between RCRs or within RCCs is largely non-linguistic, which is not the same thing as saying that's it's non-semantic. It is well established by now that language as such was preceded in human development by other ways of conveying semantic concepts, including sign language, song and facial expression.

In the early part of the 21st century it wasn't possible to be sure whether language was simply an interface, or whether it is involved in the storage of absolute meaning. Most people, however, probably thought that at least some types of meaning are stored in linguistic form, with a distinction between words which can be (and are) represented by non-linguistic cognitive contents, and words which cannot, corresponding to the distinction between concepts which predated symbolic language (eg the concept of a hill) which are adequately represented in images, and symbolic linguistic concepts such as names, the description of time etc, which are understood badly if at all other than through words. It is interesting that writers on consciousness have tended to see names, time words and other culturally advanced linguistic representations as having arrived very late on, as recently perhaps as the dawn of recorded history, for which indeed they are a necessary and perhaps sufficient condition.

A compound word such as the Acropolis carries within itself both the concept of a hill, presumed to be stored as an image, and the name 'Acropolis', which is stored in a lexicon. What wasn't clear in 2010 was whether that name storage is in some way photographic, or whether via reference to phonemes, or by some other as yet undescribed storage method. As it turned out, it was by a mixture of all of these.

The brain is rather amazing at storing linguistic concepts, whatever the method employed; but it has limitations, particularly for older people. The brain's current lexical capacity quickly turned out not to be a limitation; a complete set of currently used linguistic concepts and symbols can be contained in a bio-electronic or purely electronic lexicon which is available to all individuals (either external or implanted). This represents an extension of consciousness: not just Tower Hill and the Acropolis, but lots of other hills as well are available in the lexicon. Hills already assimilated into a person's psyche are tagged as such; other hills have contextual/keyword tags and are available as needed.

The types of word for which separate storage is needed in the brain are probably those which might as well be the same in all languages. 'Hour' or 'mercy' don't seem to carry a lot of separate national or other cultural significance. Interestingly, though, it is quite hard to think of a name-word which doesn't have extraneous resonances for particular cultures; think of 'Thatcher', 'Orinoco', 'Sahara', 'Rome' or 'Sirius'.

Language has remained in use to the small extent that some linguistic forms are necessary to the creation and expression of at least some types of conceptual ideas. Different languages however don't have a purpose in most adult communication because of the ease of machine translation between different languages; but it is still necessary for children to learn a language, simply to develop their 'acquis humanitaire'. The 'langue maternelle' sort of culture - nursery rhymes and so on - has therefore persisted in its variegated hues.

During the 21st century there was a prolonged period in which language-based cultures were preserved for speakers of individual languages, often involving affirmative action by national administrations while everyday social and business affairs were conducted via translation devices, and new forms were developed to contain, communicate and propagate artistic and philosophical content in which linguistic forms play a lesser role. Eventually, however, spoken language began to disappear, certainly within cyberspace, and there was of course no need for written language once direct 'brain to computer' communication became established, even if some types of word remain in use in the human cognitive space.

Much of what was said above about language also applied to the future of the media. That is to say, linguistic translation devices had a major impact on the form and content of media communication. This manifested itself in television and the movies (and their delivery through the Internet) before it affected printed newspapers.

By 2040, there was no further use for devices or auditoria that had screens to display graphical images or for loudspeakers to replay sounds. Images and sounds (and for that matter tastes, feelings and smells) were delivered directly to the brain's sensory input channels by wireless, magnetism or through bionic implants. This did not spell immediate doom for the movie industry. Cinemas had already converted themselves to offer entertainment experiences rather than just movies as such. And how wonderful to be able to take your foreign boy- or girl-friend to a movie and enjoy the experience in your own native languages (from 2020 or so when machine language translation had been perfected). There was a long period between say 2015 and 2040 during which the entertainment industry gradually adapted its products and delivery methods to the oncoming technologies.

On the Internet, there was an intermediate stage in which content is displayed in a language chosen by the user. At home, hybrid televisual/internet systems similarly used local electronics to display and voice content in an appropriate language. No more clumsy voice-overs or dubbing!

By 2030 national languages were starting to give way before the assault of instant machine translation, and this was the signal for the growing globalization of everyday experience in terms of sport, business, the arts and politics to be reflected in linguistic expression. By 2050 a high proportion of linguistic media content was created in English (but experienced in native languages). By 2100, language had become largely redundant for most types of human expression; and a common language developed for those few concepts that cannot be expressed or communicated as imagined images. Stores of historical data remained in linguistic form, of course, and researchers use language to study them. Some great literature and plays also continue to be experienced in legacy linguistic form; as mentioned above.

Words such as 'hill' have been substituted in movies by a non-linguistic representation of a hill, infinitely more shaded and meaningful than the word itself. Try imagining a hill, green perhaps, with sheep dotted around, a few copses clinging to the steeper ravines, and swallows wheeling overhead. Now, be honest, do you really need words to describe that to yourself? Why then would you need words to communicate it to a fellow human being, once the mechanisms of expression and communication have been understood? On the other hand, it is not so easy to form a picture of love. Perhaps one could communicate the feeling of love without words, even so. But then try imagining (imaging) mercy. You might be able to picture an example of mercy, but the concept? It is not exactly a feeling as such. So there has come to be a residual use for conceptual linguistic symbols - evolutionary biologists now agree that it was the invention of symbolic thought (not just words) that marked the great cognitive leap forward for early humans.

Newspapers and magazines were the spiritual home of national print languages and as long as languages continued to be learned and used in a country, newspapers survived in that language. The extinction of newspapers at the hands of the Internet was frequently prophesied; they were expensive to produce, dirty to handle, bulky and carry much material that is redundant for any given reader. But all this was outweighed by their convenience. It was not until national languages were supplanted by non-linguistic communication that newspapers disappeared, although paper as such was supplanted by an electronic version of itself by as early as 2020. Between 2050 and 2080, however, as effective direct delivery of cognitive content began to bypass visual and auditory sensory channels, they faded away, and by 2100 they had gone, along with all paper or non-electronic representations of media content.

Another characteristic of early 21st century media which changed rapidly was that they were typically highly standardized. Movies, books and television programs were mass-market products in 2010. This was partly a result of technological limitations, and partly a reflection of mass cultural similarities, in which of course national self-stereotypes played a large role. Globalization and the Internet however combined to offer individuals access to a far wider range of cultural possibilities than most people were currently experiencing, leading to an explosion of 'niche' interests which could be served by new forms of media using sophisticated content management and distribution techniques. Needless to say, this is a highly 'groupish' phenomenon: when say 50 people can not only identify a common set of interests even when they have never met before, but can readily and cheaply obtain media feeds of various types accurately tailored to that set of interests, it was evident that the old model of standardized content and distribution would quickly die.


Back to previous chapter
Back to Contents page
Copyright 2011-2016 M G Bell. The material contained on this site is the intellectual property of M G Bell and may not be reproduced, transmitted or copied by any means including photocopying or electronic transmission, without his express written permission. Contact the author.