What is it about the online world that can so dramatically change a person’s experience of herself and the people around her? Is it the very language people use to communicate that carry these substantial effects on experience?
In multi-lingual families, members will often find themselves switching back and forth between languages in order to express something with greater clarity. Some people even describe dreaming or thinking in different languages depending on the topic.
The advent of instant messaging and MMORPGs in the last few years has now made the written language a popular mode of real-time conversation. Though we think of languages mainly as those spoken, there is clearly a distinction between the written and the oral.
With some exceptions, MMORPGs focus almost entirely upon the written mode. Tateru and Torley make it seem as if this mode of communication were waiting to be discovered with their descriptions of very different Second Lives and Real Lives. The very nature of the written word alters the ability to convey and receive emotional expression.
Notice the difference in interface/instrument for a musician. When playing the piano vs an electronic synthesizer, there is an entirely different experience both for the musician and the audience. It is clear that the same person composes the thoughts and emotions into sound, but the delivery highlights and affects differing aspects in the communication. The result is a musical discussion between people involving different facets and subtleties of their selves.
In psychoanalysis, language and interface are even used deliberately to effect a change in the self. Here, an analysand attempts to explore the things that are not conscious and yet have effect. By method of free association, the analysand attempts to convert what comes to mind into words. Patterns of thought become apparent. Sometimes they derail because of a sensitive topic. Why the sensitivity is there is explored. The thoughts are turned into words. In the process, what was once largely unknown, becomes known and undescribed, and later becomes known, described, and better understood. With this new understanding of the self, the analysand then takes the steps necessary to acknowledge and work around the once-invisible walls that have long stood in the way of achieving life goals.
In this way, massively multiplayer worlds, music, psychoanalysis, among many other types of interface all have the commonality of language. More to the point, observing these aspects of interface demonstrates how we use language and its many forms to shape our experiences and ourselves.