Creative Languages

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creative perspectivesA conversation with a trilingual friend at dinner last night got me thinking about non-verbal languages.

She told me the story of how her grandmother would watch Japanese TV dramas with her every week, and each week at 8:40 when the director pointed out very clearly who the bad guy was, she would turn and say to her granddaughter, "Look, see, there. It's him! He's the bad one." Of course, the younger generation had already figured that out from more subtle clues. She had been immersed in the visual language of film since childhood.

Though grammar of film was once the province of an elite set of filmmakers and television producers, these days it's cheap and easy to make your own films with digital video cameras and computer editing. So film is being "spoken" by regular people rather than just watched. It's becoming more common.

In fact, kids are learning to speak it school when they make documentary and storytelling videos as class projects. And they learn by imitation, too. A group of 5th graders in Minnesota did this interpretation of DEVO's Whip It video.

A form of communication I have missed out on is the video game interface. Though interfaces are not a grammatical language per se, the skills a gamer exhibits - ability to quickly parse a visual field for information on ammo, maps, lives remaining, etc-- are changing the way people communicate. There is an entirely new vocabulary in film these days--variable-speed pans and montages, for instance, that convey movement thorugh time and space in a way that is novel.

All of this leads to the inevitable question: what language signal will I need to have pointed out to me in the most obvious and simplest way when I am 80? What creative visual or aural (or scent!) languages are developing now that will change the way a younger generation thinks and communicates?

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That 5th grade video is incredible. Do you know about that 48 hour film project? A friend of mine who is really into film and theatre was telling me about it last night - you basically create a film in two days from one line of dialogue, a specific object that needs to appear, and some other detail given to you via email. Incredible.

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