General Question

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

What does this map of global social networking mean for humanity (link in details)?

Asked by Hawaii_Jake (25804 points ) August 5th, 2011

At 15 minutes and 9 seconds of this TED talk, there is a fascinating map of the globe as connected by Facebook. There are white patches and dark ones. Arcs of light connect distant areas.

Will the light areas push into the dark?

Will there be more concentration of light instead?

What do you think this means?

(If you listen to the whole talk, what do you think it means for the development of language?)

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23 Answers

jrpowell's avatar

Here is a direct link to the image.

linguaphile's avatar

Unfortunately, I can’t access these amazing TED things because don’t come with a caption option. If you look here, wow… look at all the languages that got a nod and how many English translations there are for folks like me: zero. How ruuuude. anyone want to help my letter writing bombardment campaign?

Aside from that, I saw the picture you were referring to and I do believe there will be a globalization of language, which means the nuances and smallest (and most beautiful, imo) parts of language will disappear. I am referring to the unspoken parts of language that come from constant and frequent interactions, the silent cultural rules that define a group—that disappears when the flat form, or the most superficial form of the language is used, especially by non-native speakers. They are dangerous in that they know enough about the language to use it fluently, but not enough to use it innately or intuitively. It becomes a very dispassionate and disconnected way to communicate when you’re awkwardly using the surface meaning of a language.

I’m watching the most natural parts of my language slowly disappear right as we speak, and I have seen dialects disappear in my lifetime, so I’m speaking from experience. I know there have to be dialects and manners of usage that have disappeared in the US because of the media and greater mobility between communities. I am fascinated with the connection between language and perception—so I do get upset when dialects and manners of usage disappear because that means an unique linguistic perception, no matter how slight, has also disappeared.

Language is not just the surface meaning, but the community and people that support the most fundamental part of language.

If I’m way off this TED talk, I apologize, but like I said, I can’t access it :D

Nullo's avatar

“I shoulda taken that left at Albuquerque.” :D

It means that now, more than ever, we can talk to people that we’ll never even meet. Expect language and culture blending to follow. Or not, since nobody will ever leave home again.

Blackberry's avatar

There are so many implications I can’t name them all. This will have an effect on political processes, it will bring people together, improving understanding and helping people see that we’re just animals on a rock that need to look out for each other, it will help expose fraud and injustice around the world, it will bring attention to things around the world people never knew about allowing them to open their line of thinking, etc.

Or…it will just create more international trolling and ignorant debate.

the100thmonkey's avatar

It means that either there is no data for China, or China is totally dark.

@linguaphile – what a load of bollocks. Sorry.

Language is the people that use it. If you think that people can’t use the tools they have to do the jobs they want, you seriously underestimate people and their unintentional, thoughtless inventiveness.

The relationship between language and perception is tenuous at best. The data in support of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is nowhere near as strong as you would suggest.

Language is the canary in the mine; it is not the jaguar in the rainforest.

Nullo's avatar

The light areas are a product of relatively high-tech societies, which require a lot of energy. Energy is one of those things that needs sorting out soon or else we’ll lose it.

jrpowell's avatar

@the100thmonkey :: China and Russia have clones of Facebook that are not run by Facebook. And South America leans towards Orkut.

gorillapaws's avatar

I think sites like Fluther have much greater impact on bringing together people of the world than more superficial sites like Facebook. For one, it forces you to contemplate the experiences and perspectives of a diverse community, as opposed to self selecting a small network of acquaintances and sharing baby/vacation pictures.

For computer programming and other technical fields, stackexchange.com is a fantastic model for generating, preserving and distributing individual knowledge to the entire globe.

linguaphile's avatar

@the100thmonkey I will probably never be convinced it’s bollocks, sorry. I’ve seen too much.

If I was just a spoken language user, I might totally agree with you, but I use ASL as my primary, daily language and I guarantee you that the world is perceived differently by people who use different modes of communication. For example, Navajo speakers use contextual language that can NOT be understood in English translations because English is almost too different from Navajo. Navajo also can’t be adequately written because of the multilayered context. Along the same vein, ASL is visual and spatial, multilayered, has a completely different grammatical and usage structure from English, and can not be adequately translated. I interact with ASL users everyday and have had plenty of interaction with English users—how the world is perceived and interpreted by fluent, innate users of both languages IS different.

My entire life is devoted to different aspects of the study of language and I started studying as a hobby when I was 12, have immersed myself into different sub-cultures and studied the different ways language is used. I pay attention all the time to language exchanges- even while conversing. I do not make my statements with no basis, but from what I’ve read and documented. The Sapir-Whorf is very rudimentary, I agree, but… There hasn’t been adequate research into the perceptual differences between visual-spatial and contextual language users vs. spoken language users—so you see bollocks, I see a huge untapped region in language-cognition research.

Unfortunately, considering society’s unsavory perception of ASL users, and that innate, fluent Navajo users are “dwindling,” I don’t see how money will be put into this type of research.

morphail's avatar

@linguaphile you write “Navajo speakers use contextual language that can NOT be understood in English translations because English is almost too different from Navajo. Navajo also can’t be adequately written because of the multilayered context.”

I’m afraid I just don’t believe you; there’s no evidence that a concept that can be expressed in some languages can’t be translated into any other language. All languages are spoken by humans, and any human can learn any language. Also: Navajo can’t be adequately written? But it is written. It’s been written since the 1800s. Does the language have magic sounds that can’t be represented by symbols?

linguaphile's avatar

It is written, but the written form was not created by Navajos but the oppressors and I find that to be significant. The written part doesn’t include the morphemic vocal information that the native Navajo speakers hear when they speak it. Their language is very verb-based and does not translate easily or completely into a noun-based language like English. Tthe most simple explanation I can find is the grammar section of this wiki

There’s a reason the military used Windtalkers—their verb-based language was impervious to codebreakers

My mistake in one area- the users of Navajo are increasing nowadays. That’s different than when I first studied this. I’m thrilled for them.

@morphail, if I remember correctly, from a few previous discussions, we’re not going to agree on this. It’s honestly very rare for me to be stubborn, very rare, and this is one area I won’t change my mind on and it’s about the language-culture-perception connection. I can’t just let go of something I’ve seen all my life just because some vaulted researcher says this and that, when they have done no research whatsoever in perception-cognition in visual-spatial languages. Linguistics is still a baby compared to other fields of study and so much has not been discovered. For example- just 25 years ago visual-spatial and click-based languages were not even considered authentic languages. Also, Chomsky’s philosophies are still relatively new and already have been proven to be inadequate to explain some linguistic areas. I won’t be able to conjure enough evidence up to satisfy you and I can’t agree with the arguments you give me. I’d like to agree to disagree until we have something new to offer each other, deal?

linguaphile's avatar

@Morphail I missed this one from your post: Does the language have magic sounds that can’t be represented by symbols? I want to answer that…
Are inflections, meaningful pauses and prosody represented by symbols, and are they “magic.” If they’re not represented by symbols, does that mean they don’t meaningfully exist?

gorillapaws's avatar

@morphail Here’s an example that might explain. I’ve heard Eskimos have over 100 words for the word snow. We might have dry or wet snow, packing snow or sledding snow. Maybe 20 variations on the theme at max using English. But Eskimos have many more times that. This means that Eskimos will actually perceive snow with a more detailed granularity than someone who doesn’t speak that language. This would be an example of language shaping perception, at least as I understand it.

I’m not a linguist, and have only studied this subject a bit many years ago, so I might have my facts mixed up.

morphail's avatar

@gorillapaws The thing about Eskimo snow words isn’t true

@linguaphile Sure we can disagree, but there are some things you’re saying that are just inaccurate or at least misleading. You wrote that Navajo can’t be adequately written, but the reason you give for this is that the writing system doesn’t represent the tones. Would you agree that it could be adequately written if the writing system was changed to represent the tones? – at least as adequately as any other language’s writing system.

You say that Navajo is “verb-base” and English is “noun-based”, whatever that means. The wikipedia article on Navajo grammar is very interesting, but there’s nothing there that suggests that Navajo can’t be translated into English. I mean, every Navajo example in that article is accompanied by an English translation!

All languages have inflections, meaningful pauses and prosody. Writing doesn’t represent inflections, meaningful pauses and prosody very well, but this is a problem with all writing systems, not just Navajo’s.

linguaphile's avatar

It could be written, but it’s multimorphemic, which means one utterance has several morphemes attached, so it can’t be written in a linear manner like English. It might have to be written much like music is to show the different concurrently existing morphemes. Spoken languages usually have morphemes occurring in a linear manner (/un/ /happy/ is two morphemes, one word) not 3 or 4 morphemes attached to one utterance.

The only way I can explain it is—English gives morphemes in a string. You have to travel along the sentence in sequence to get the meaning (and might not get the whole meaning until the end of the sentence). It’s sequential. Some other languages, meaning/morphemes are given concurrently not sequentially. If I could give examples on Fluther, I would.

You say I’m inaccurate—I’m sorry but until you spend 5 years gaining some fluency in a multimorphemic, visual-spatial language, we really can’t discuss whether I’m accurate or not.

You’re right- none of the prosody, inflections and pauses have symbols. Does that make them meaningless? I’m getting the impression that you believe language that can’t be written or translated doesn’t exist.

morphail's avatar

@linguaphile That makes no sense. All spoken languages could be said to consist of a sequentially ordered series of morphemes. You imply that Navajo is non-linear or something, which is meaningless.

Here’s an example: adisbąąs “I’m starting to drive some kind of wheeled vehicle along” – it consists of the morphemes ʼa- + di- + sh- + ł + -bąąs

Navajo isn’t special. It’s written in exactly the same way any other language is written.

linguaphile's avatar

That’s where you need to do some research—not all spoken languages are sequentially ordered series of morphemes, and not all languages have sequentially ordered series of morphemes.
Navajo is different. Read the articles I sent you and if you can, find an expert in Navajo languages and we can talk to that person. Just for this, I’ll contact my friends in the U of Texas linguistics dept. and double check.

morphail's avatar

I have read the article. It says that Navajo is an agglutinating, polysythetic language. Polysynthetic languages, like Mayan, have a high morpheme to word ratio. Agglutinating languages, like Turkish, add a sequence of morphemes to a base. Navajo also has qualities of a fusional language, like Latin, where two or more morphemes are combined into one.

There is nothing unusual about any of this. I see nothing about how Navajo “can’t be written in a linear manner”, whatever that means.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

The OP asks @morphail and @linguaphile to stick to the original question.

augustlan's avatar

[mod says] So do we. Let’s get back to the actual topic, folks. Thanks!

mattbrowne's avatar

I’m a bit surprised that the relatively densely populated Spain looks like empty Wyoming.

Otherwise I think there’s a clear correlation between bandwidth and number of knowledge workers. Not GDP. China is big in manufacturing but not networking.

Another correlation might be level of democracy. That would also explain why India is doing better than China.

gorillapaws's avatar

@morphail thanks for the link on the Eskimo thing. I always appreciate it when someone corrects an erroneous fact that I was taught.

the100thmonkey's avatar

@mattbrowne – I think tuenti is the ‘default’ social networking platform in Spain.

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