In my previous post, I reflected on the opportunities for and implications of participatory knowing through the many new digital, online tools available to us. A major potential difficulty, especially with tools that often rely on the written word such as Facebook and message boards, is the possibility of misunderstandings due to the limitations of writing. When we speak, we can use verbal and non-verbal cues to help illustrate the intent of what we're saying. We might use hand gestures or facial expressions, or raise or lower our volume or pitch...it's the stuff that we do almost unconsciously to create meaning. When we write, so much of that just isn't available to us.
While the issue itself isn't a new one, some of the implications are still things that we're living into as people who are figuring out what it means to cultivate relationships online. In a hyper-connected environment like Facebook for example, it's easy to make a comment that some of your Facebook friends will understand in the way you intend, but others may not have the contextual background information needed for the meaning you mean to imply, or may just misunderstand your tone...it happens all the time. It's more significant in these online communities specifically because of the very word "community." For those of us using an online presence as a tool for helping cultivate faith communities, there's even more at stake as there's the very real possibility of a part of the body unintentionally causing injury to another.
So...the thing about the punctuation marks. I ran across this funny article, but as with much humor, a large part of why it's funny is because it deals in the reality of who we are. The author makes a "modest proposal" of introducing 8 new punctuation marks to written English, to help alleviate some of the problems I've mentioned. It's definitely worth a read, and can be found here.