On the Steady Decline of our Great American Culture, or, “Kids These Days”

You know, when I was your age I walked to school barefoot in the snow. Uphill. Both ways!

And I didn’t complain.

Well, actually, I carpooled or took public transportation while wearing shoes in the temperate climate of northern California, and I probably complained quite a lot. But you get the idea.

Kids these days got no respect, no decorum, and certainly no sense of culture.

Or so I’m told.

Take this article from the upstanding scholars at the New York Times.  As it turns out, “the kind of hyperbole young people are prone to traffic in, like, all the time” is now infecting “otherwise literate adults” who have reduced themselves to using tacky, curt, and grammatically incorrect “fragments,” to regurgitate other’s content all over the Internet.

Young women are even more to blame – these fragments “mostly seem like ‘girl-speak’ that’s become ‘Internet-speak.’ We talk to each other in fragments because of how short on time we are now that we’re liberated.”

Yes, that’s it exactly.

No, wait. Let’s back this train up and try again.

So, first of all. I have to admit to being somewhat old fashioned, particularly in the language department. I hate the term YOLO. I’m okay with portmanteaus in theory – any word coined by Lewis Carroll is fine by me – but I generally hate them in practice. “Amazeballs” is one of the worst words to ever happen to me. If you send me a cryptic email in all lower case with no punctuation – I don’t care if it’s from your phone, I’ll still write back mocking you as “e e [whomever].”

And that’s my right.

But you know what? English is a living language, and that means it’s going to live. And that’s a good thing, too, because otherwise wit á béon efenwrítaþ swá þes.

Sorry, my Middle English isn’t what it used to be.

This article may not have bothered me so much if I didn’t run into this sentiment over and over again. One stupid guy at the NY Times I can deal with, but it seems like every time I turn around someone is bemoaning the terrible travesty of kids these days. Whether they’re self-indulged, thoughtless, stupid, shallow, cheap, or any other number of cruel names, someone’s always got it in for the young people.

And these complaints are all tied together. “Kids these days” are the future – better whip them into shape now before the future is forever lost. Why can’t they be like we were – perfect in every way?

But, that’s a misplaced sentimentality. Yes, things change. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, I make a mental correction anytime someone writes Internet without a capital ‘i’. But we are all co-creators of our world – and our language – and we should welcome young people to that role as peers.

We should respect the contributions they make – even if we disagree. We should disagree as peers.

It’s a remarkable time for language. A single word can mean so much more than it used to.


I can’t even.

Fragments, perhaps. Possibly not the best grammar to ever grace the face of the earth. But packed with meaning nonetheless. There’s so much emotion in those words. So much shared understanding.

Words are precious because they are the currency of our communication. They are the tools that allow a complex thought to travel from me to you, or from you to me.

You can accomplish this through poetry, you can accomplish this through prose. And if you can accomplish this through a simple statement, so much the better. That is where the art lies.

And that is amazing.


three endings for Christabel

I think Coleridge was bad at plot. He claimed he forgot the whole story of “Kubla Khan” when a visitor interrupted him, so he could share only the exotic setting.  But Stevie Smith doubts it:

He was weeping and wailing: I am finished, finished,
I shall never write another word of it,
When along comes the Person from Porlock
And takes the blame for it.

Like “Kubla Khan,” “Christabel” is deliciously atmospheric. By the end of Part II, the eponymous heroine is under the spell of the vampiric Geraldine and seems to be doomed. Unfortunately, Coleridge gives up right there. We can appreciate the fragmentary and deeply ambiguous result–yet I suspect Coleridge would have finished “Christabel” if he had thought of a satisfying ending. So here are three possibilities:

1. Geraldine is not a vampire after all. She really was left barefoot under the oak tree by five warriors on white horses. Christabel learns this when she is off moping in the wood (wondering how ere she has sinned), and the five knights come back and kidnap her. They tie her on their white palfrey and ride as fleet as the wind to Tryermaine, the castle of Lord Roland de Vaux. Finding Christabel barefoot under one of his oak trees, Lord Roland sallies forth to punish her abductors. He meets Christabel’s father, Sir Leoline, on a parallel mission to avenge Geraldine. The two estranged friends reconcile and go questing together with their girls in tow. Seeing them together, the five knights appear. They turn out to be the other guys from the old college jousting team. The whole stunt was just a way of getting Roland and Leoline to be friends again. Everyone has a good laugh and Christabel and Geraldine go out with the two cutest knights.

2. Christabel has had a night of mind-blowing sex with Geraldine. She wants more of that–but not with Geraldine, who is high-maintenance and has eyes like a snake. After a lot of histrionic acting, Christabel tells her father that Geraldine is an evil witch. Sir Roland banishes the young woman just to cut down on the drama in his castle (for he “seldom sleepeth well”). Free of that obligation, Christabel hooks up instead with the bard Bracy’s daughter, Kaylee.

3. Geraldine has made up all the spooky stuff to freak out Christabel: the fainting spell at the threshold, the fake tat across her bosom and half her side, the weird stares. Just as Geraldine plans, Christabel runs away to a nunnery to save her soul. That leaves Geraldine free to seduce Sir Leoline, who has been alone since Christabel’s mom died in childbirth. The old baron is weak in health and soon passes. Geraldine inherits the castle and turns it into the most profitable heritage tourism destination resort between Bratha Head and Wyndermere.

The post three endings for Christabel appeared first on Peter Levine.

Register for April’s Tech Tuesday event on PlaceSpeak

I’m excited to tell you about this month’s Tech Tuesday event, which will be hosted by Colleen Hardwick, Founder of PlaceSpeak, on Tuesday, April 22nd, from 2-3 pm Eastern (11am – noon Pacific).

Tech_Tuesday_BadgePlaceSpeak is a location-based community consultation platform. Colleen will be talking to us about “geo-authenticating” online engagement, and will give us a demonstration of the PlaceSpeak software by walking us through several recent case studies. Register today to reserve your spot on this FREE Tech Tuesday webinar!

One of PlaceSpeak’s key features is the ability to consult with people online within specific geographical boundaries. Instead of engaging with an anonymous public, PlaceSpeak verifies its participants, while protecting their privacy by design. To do so, it uses a 2-sided model. Participants verify their digital identity to their address, and then are able to receive notifications of relevant consultations in their area, according to the setting preferences in their profiles.

Convenors (Proponents) set up and manage their topic pages in an easy-to-use and inexpensive interface. They map the scope of participation and select from a variety of features (discussions, polls, surveys, idea generation) to obtain feedback. They are able to export reports in a variety of formats, all spatially segmented according to the geographical boundaries of the consultation area.

PlaceSpeak is currently working on its Open Data strategy and has developed an API called PlaceSpeak Connect to facilitate integration with other software applications. They are currently looking for suitable pilot projects.

PlaceSpeak-logo PlaceSpeak is:

  • Changing the nature on online consultation with an emphasis on quality of feedback data as well as quantity of engagement;
  • Used successfully by leading consulting and public involvement firms including Stantec, Urban Systems, Kirk & Co., Counterpoint Communications, Associated Engineering, Dillon, Brook Pooni, and many more;
  • Building a growing base of participants beginning in Canada but expanding into the US, UK and Australia.

Tech Tuesday participants are encouraged to set up a free Demo Topic to become familiar with the toolkit. PlaceSpeak has published numerous case studies here. NCDDers might find their white paper about Overcoming Barriers to Online Engagement of particular interest.

If you’d like to join us on the 22nd, sign up today!

Tech Tuesday is an initiative from NCDD that focuses on online technology. Many in our field are curious about how they can use online tools to support their engagement work, and many tool creators are excited to talk us about their innovations. These one-hour events, designed and run by the tool creators themselves, are meant to help practitioners get a better sense of the online engagement landscape and how they can take advantage of the myriad opportunities available to them.

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