Internet Multimedia as Linguistics

It’s quite interesting how linguistics on the internet is becoming more and more dependent on other media.  Previously, written language was fully based on text, with the exception of cases where pictures are relevant (picture books, signs, etc). However, the internet has created a sort of network between all forms of media.

Of course, there are plenty of websites that are purely text.  Even websites that are text and images may use alt text, allowing the images to be replaced by text (primarily for use when the images cannot load and in cases of accessibility for the blind).  Yet, it is becoming more and more rare to find websites that only rely on text, or even text and images.

A perfect example of this level of multimedia is shown on Facebook.  Facebook users often rely on the ability to use many forms of media, many times seamlessly. Pictures are uploaded, sometimes moments after being taken, and friends can be tagged in them, whether to link them to images of themselves or simply to grab their attention. In the same way, videos can be uploaded, and, though it has yet to support uploading audio, many users post Youtube videos to share music.  Apps allow people to not only participate in interactive media, but share them as well, potentially adding infinite other ways for media to be integrated into communication.

And then there’s the hyperlink.  This little key component of the world wide web provides a linguistic pathway heretofore unparalleled, and the application of this pathway is endless.  This is the primary thread connecting the multimedia together, with text (and sometimes images) usually being the backbone of it all.  As an example, two friends on Facebook might have a conversation.  One might find an image to work better than text as a response, linking that.  Further into the conversation, the other friend might tag one of their friends to pull them into the conversation instead of communicating directly.  That friend might know of a related web page and choose to add another hyperlink.  In this way, potentially endless links are formed, most of which intended as communication.  One can argue that, though it isn’t spoken or written language, these media are all being used as language.  I believe that, arguably, the internet has become  one of the biggest changes to linguistics since the writing system was created.  It is giving the average person an incredibly number of tools to creatively and functionally affect the very way they converse.

The number of media available to the internet user is still increasing.  Developments are being made in the areas of smell, taste, and touch.  We could grow to the point where we could download scents to fill our homes and share new recipes first by taste.  Hologram technology has even reached breakthroughs such as touchable holograms (, meaning someday we might be able to download virtual items we could actually feel.  These technologies are advances at an incredible pace.  How might they affect linguistics?

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