Chapter 18. The Social Map

Talk is essential to the human spirit. It is the human spirit. Speech. Not silence.



IMAGINE A BUSY DINER ON A SATURDAY MORNING AND ALL THE CONVERSATIONS GOING ON THERE: a family at a table where parent and child negotiate about eating the eggs before the waffle; a couple making plans for the rest of the weekend; a man on a cell phone reconnecting with whomever he met on a date the previous night. There are also visible gestures, facial expressions, and body language woven into the activity of talk. Not to mention the newspapers and magazines being perused over coffee—conversations mediated by publishers and writers. There are also people texting via SMS, reading news and sharing stories via email, checking their “feeds” of friends and family on Facebook and Twitter, or gazing at pictures on Instagram and Flickr. They’re using these threads of information in their table talk, showing friends at the table what is on their phones as part of the topic at hand, and using it the other way around—taking pictures of food and friends, and posting them to the cloud. Conversation is still about people talking with people, but it’s now an everyday thing to not just be in one place at a time, but in two or more simultaneously.

We tend to think of conversation as something that fills the gaps between actually doing things. By now, though, it’s hopefully clear that talking is actually a quite tangible form of “doing,” and ...

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