The New Language Within Digital

Communication today is all about imagery


The Oxford University Press (OUP) adds around one thousand words to its dictionary each year. The OUP is happy to validate words made famous by popular culture, the most notable being Snoop Dogg’s ‘shizzle’, which got its official status this year. While adding such phrases will always attract naysayers, it demonstrates the OUP’s belief that the English language is always evolving.

Not a trend confined to English, many, if not all of the world’s prominent languages, are being added to all of the time. In French, for example, the Le Petit Robert dictionary recently added the verb ‘clasher’. Derived from the English verb ‘to clash’, it refers to a feud between two people, normally rappers.

While digital is not a traditional language, the way we communicate online has become a dialect in its own right. And like English and French, it’s developed. Think back to MySpace, and even Facebook’s early days - we rarely communicated using imagery, relying strictly on the written word. A decade later and visuals have become the dominant form of communication online, with companies like Vine central to the evolution.

Abandoning the written word in favor of imagery has made communication much easier, but arguably less expressive. It has, however, brought people closer together and removed language barriers which once inhibited us all. Even in our native tongue we can be restricted. Ad Week, for example, states that although our vocabularies have increased over time, we are still only able to express emotions that we possess the words for. This isn’t the case with a picture.

Imagery - in the form of hieroglyphics - was the dominant form of communication in Ancient Egypt. But it seems we’ve come full circle since then. The golden age of books forced us to improve our ability to converse in the written word, but also confined communication to specific countries and regions. Moving back to imagery changes this. In an article on Social Media Today it states: ‘We’re not simply returning to the earliest, most primitive form of communication; through technology we’ve bettered it, enabling increased nuance, detail and clarity of expression so we can create an improved version of our global language, transcending the barriers of literacy.’

Phi Tran points to the success of Japanese app ‘Line’ to illustrate the importance of imagery. But it’s also impossible to forget the emergence of Snapchat, Pinterest, Periscope and GIFs, which are all clearly interlinked with the trend as well.

It seem that some pictures are funny in any language. 


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