Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Married texting & woman doctors

A couple of things that crossed my screen today that might be great starting points for thinking about projects.

Married texting
Alice Zhao analysed the texts between her and her now-husband in 2008 and 2014, looking at what changes as a couple goes from courting to marriage. She noticed things like they no longer greet each other. Seems like a lot could be done with this kind of thing--how does texting change between parent and child as the child moves away? How does it change from fresher's week to knowing people very well in year 3? Or, how does it change in other romantic relationships--would anyone have found what Zhao found?

Woman  female (etc.)
This piece by Maddie York in the Guardian style blog argues that woman shouldn't be used as an adjective as in woman doctor or women writers. She notes that people talk about male doctors not man doctors.  What's going on here?  Has it to do with the connotations of man/woman/male/female? Is something that's changing? What are the prescriptions, who's making them and why when it comes to these kinds of things?

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Wonderings on evaluation

Two things today, both to do with evaluation:
  1. I (Charlotte) was talking about variation with the first year students recently and we tried out a few data elicitation methods including brainstorming alternative terms for everyday concepts. The interesting one for me was ‘pleased with yourself/about something’ because they drew an absolute blank and couldn't think of anything, except perhaps chuffed which they said they knew but wouldn't use. In contrast, when we looked at alternatives for terms like amazing etc. they had a huge number of candidates. So, it got me wondering, was this just a one off or, to use the appraisal terms, could it be that we are shifting towards expressing evaluation more in terms of appreciation (it was amazing/epic etc.) than affect (I was so happy/thrilled etc.)?
  2. The second thing was inspired again by something I was talking about with the first years, in this case an article by Charlie Brooker on hyperbole, and his argument is that a) this is something new and b) something that people do online but not in face to face interactions. You could test that…

Monday, 6 October 2014

A couple of things I've (Lynne C) been thinking about.

  1. A few years ago a student did a project on duplication of letters in CMC (e.g. sooooo). It occurred to me that this kind of thing should be used less on Twitter, where every character counts. Is that the case? Do Twitter users still use duplication when they use other forms of CMC?
  2. I'm not quite sure what might make a doable project in this area, but I'm intrigued by the increased use of writing without spaces. We had to start getting used to it when we had web sites named with phrases or sentences without their spaces (e.g. and it can lead to some hilariously unfortunate ambiguities (kidsexchange, for example). But now people are doing this in sometimes very long twitter hashtags. Before the days of Windows people using computers used to use the underscore _ to replace spaces in, for example, filenames. Why don’t Twitter users do something like that to avoid ambiguity? (There are two separate issues here – the restricted number of characters, which applies to spaces and underscores equally, but also the requirement that a hashtag has no spaces.) Or another way to look at it would be to ask whether the space is overrated – how often do we actually have trouble reading phrases without spaces? 

Colour names

I enjoyed this Slate article about the explosion in Crayola crayon colours since 1903, and it got me thinking about the names of those colours. I feel like I learnt a lot from the colour names on the sides of my crayons when I was a child, since they often were words I didn't know ('burnt umber', 'cornflower'), which led me to knowledge or beliefs about the things that those names are for. (I've never knowingly seen a cornflower, but I have strong opinions about what colour they are.) There was also a tendency then to have a crayons named blue-green and orange-yellow and others in the (big) box named green-blue and yellow-orange, and I (little word-nerd that I was) liked to think about what those combinations and orders meant.

There's an interactive chart of  (US) Crayola crayon colours and names here. Some of the old names are there, some have died out, but there are also colour names like 'Mango Tango' and 'Atomic Orange'. (The big set of Crayola markers we have at home seems to have a different set of names from the crayons, and they have a more modern sound.) 

So I'm thinking about various things like:
  • What can/do children today learn about colours and the world from the names of their crayons? 
  • How do insitutionalised specific colour-names like this affect different generations' ideas about which colours these names might express?
  • What are the motivations and trends for changing or inventing new colour names in contexts like this? (Fashion, lipstick, cars are other areas with specific name trends.)
  • There's a fair amount of work out there on gender and colour nameability. Are there any indications of gender-consciousness in this name set. Presumably, Crayola wants to be marketing its products to boys and girls and wants drawing/colouring to be an activity that's not particularly gendered. But can we see any gendering in the names of particular colours? 
  • Crayola is an institution in the US. (It really, really is.) Is something else the more institutional source of colour names for children in the UK? How does it compare? Do US adults (of my generation-ish) have different colour vocabularies and different ideas about certain colour names refer from UK adults who might not have the same institutionalisation of so many colours? 
Does colour-naming (by Crayola or other companies) raise other questions for you?