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Updated: Oct 24, 2023




This study investigates the phenomenon of text messaging as a postmodern human sign and symbol of computer mediated communication. Socio-linguistic theory, semiotics, philosophy and the psychology of identity are research streams that feed into the conceptual expression of text messaging in visual art, specifically new media art. POPTXT analyses specific contemporary artwork against the new media backdrop, whilst unpacking the practical art work created alongside the research. Text messaging as a conceptual device has yielded a body of work intrinsically linked to human digital language. The study enters the postmodern discourse pertaining to traditional art and its spaces compared to new media art’s need for connectivity, interactivity, collaboration, participation and processes. POPTXT is based on the premise that the visual art space is fertile ground for the creative exploration of ‘micro-communications’ that will be reflective and insightful in our postmodern computer mediated world.

Key words: Popular texting, text messaging; texting as a concept in visual art; texting as a device in new media art; creativity and identity in text messaging; texting and contemporary art; text messages and art; computer mediated communication and visual art; computer mediated art.


The research for this dissertation was initiated in 2012 and has spanned and grown to the present year, it has yielded me the most interesting readings and findings within the field of computer mediated communication and mobile telephony. Expanding into new media art and the psychology of identity, the research streams are underpinned by philosophical theory that informs both postmodern aesthetics and linguistics. The purpose of this study is to provide academics, researchers and art practitioners with a theoretical context in which to place text messaging and the mobile phone as a product, producer and medium of art. The study also provides examples to anyone interested in the creative applications imposed by humans on mobile phones, as well as the language adaptations that have emerged and continue to evolve.

The research sources were abundant and expansive, but the challenge was always related to how quickly mobile technology changed the game. The introduction of the smartphone and android software facilitated instant chat and pushed the short message service which was so ubiquitous previously to the outskirts of popularity. This is but one of the nuances and attitudes informed by research which contributed conceptually to the practical art work featured in the related exhibition. The fast paced adaptations of technology, both software and hardware made placing the study within a contextual framework difficult. I have stabilized this aspect by focusing on research undertaken within the last ten years. The latest discourse about ‘meta’ and ‘inter-images’ relating to memes and other mobile language was the last addition to the study from a semiotic perspective.

In order to provide a South African context for the research I felt it imperative to include many local studies and an historic timeline illustrating the introduction of mobile technology in South Africa. My research culminated not only in an art exhibition, but an online sample collection tool titled SAmpleTXT. This tool was initiated in 2012, and encouraged family and friends to contribute to the study by answering a questionnaire about their texting and contributing a text sample. This collection of texts provides a qualitative probe into moments of typically South African mobile interchanges that occur daily. Although not a large corpus, the purpose is mainly to provide substance to any assertions being made within a South African context and to illuminate behaviors both creative and unorthodox, as well as visual cues or patterns. The collaborative and social nature of SAmpleTXT encouraged interest and reciprocity which supports the conceptual unpinning of most new media art. The findings from this research are discussed in appendices 1 and 2 of this document.

POPTXT is a fleeting glimpse of something larger and encompassing, it attempts to frame text messaging against the backdrop of visual art, whilst its signs and symbols are deeply rooted in human language and our need to establish identity. The basic need to be understood, to connect with others and the voyeuristic allure of the conversations of others, makes the interest in POPTXT magnetic.

Chapter One: Introduction

1.1 Introduction to the study

This study focuses on the phenomenon of digital text messaging within the context of contemporary visual art, specifically new media[1] (Alexandra Nemerov 2007:2). The key concept of digitisation is that it emerges and is transmitted via technological devices, therefore any conceptual underpinning extracted, will inevitably be enmeshed within the new media technological paradigm. The term ‘digital text messaging’ for the purposes of this study will include both SMS and IM formats as facilitated by most current versions of Smartphone’s® and Android™ brands. The study will be limited to text messaging that occurs between two people via a mobile device and will not include online posts or communication within groups or open public forums like Face Book© or Twitter©. Both contemporary theoretical discourses and cognate artwork discussed will be selected predominantly from the contextual incubatory period of the last 10 years (2007-2017) and will include both international and local artists and exhibitions.

Based on the premise that any widely practiced behaviour in society may grow and perpetuate itself as a popular phenomenon, it would be logical to categorise texting as such. For the purposes of this study, I have adapted the full description of “Popular Texting” to “POPTXT” to broadly refer to the bodies of digital texts analysed and documented within the research scope and it serves as a play on the common use of letter omission[2]as defined by Caroline Tagg (2012:56) within this medium. Actual texting characteristics such as aspects of style, identity cues and the creative use of QWERTY[3] ( symbols as a mode of expression are examined in order to establish common threads that when shared and repeated become accepted and established code within social groups. The latter will be investigated primarily within the framework of contemporary national and international visual art practices as well as touch points within sociolinguistic theory.

1.2 Relevance of the study

“POPTXT” has unlimited potential as an exploration within the realm of visual art as it unpacks the impact of digital communication as a postmodern phenomenon deeply rooted in daily human interaction. Millions of text messages are transmitted via phones daily and has become a somewhat inconsequential aspect of our lives, like filling petrol or buying bread. An article in 2013 based on World Wide Worx®[4] statistics indicated a huge and dramatic shift in South Africa from voice to data usage for 19-24 age group, “Only 56% of this group's cellphone budget is now spent on calls, down from 66% in mid-2012," (

The latest statistics from Qwerty®[5] indicates that of the fifteen million users (South Africa) in 2016 who used social platforms, thirteen million did so from mobile phones. A further increase in these numbers show an additional three million users on mobiles in 2017. Qwerty® illustrates that almost 70 percent of our weekly activities using a mobile device is centered on social platforms, the most popular being WhatsApp and FB Messenger ( The sheer numbers and human time applied to online social interaction using a mobile device supports the aim of this study of delving into its microcosmic core.

The trend toward increased data usage and instant messaging as opposed to voice calls has now permeated other age group sectors as well and it has become evident that though we may not be making as many calls, we certainly are messaging more. This is but one of the many statistics which support my interest in text messaging as a new cultural phenomenon entrenching itself in our social interaction, worthy of critical observation. The aim of this study is to prove that the use of mobile[6] digital text messaging[7] which started in the mid-nineties in South Africa as a quick and cost effective short hand communication, has in recent years evolved into a medium of creative expression and social connectedness.

David Poole (2011: 13-14) states,

Social media has an impact on the arts from at least three different perspectives. They help bring audiences to performances and to artworks by matching art to people who are looking for it, they provide a platform to create art and to engage in debate and dialogue around communities of interest and they give organizations tools to listen to the public and build arts awareness (Poole 2011: 13-14).

Poole mentions the suitability of social media as a platform for engagement between artist/s and audience, consider how a smart phone (provides quick access to all social media from any location) has impacted on how art is marketed and received by audiences. Commentary and feedback as well as reaching specific target groups are facilitated effortlessly via a mobile device. The exhibition format would extend the parameters of the traditional gallery space by granting virtual access to online audiences to comment and contribute toward the ideas/concepts that surrounds the work within a specific social framework. One could extend the idea of social involvement in art further by considering audience participation. An art piece that invites the audience to contribute or participate transforms the autonomous artist into a collaborator, concept facilitator, orchestrator and contributor of a social visual experiment/event as opposed to sole author. This study questions that if the mobile device has the ability to change how art is consumed, distributed and accessed, what is its potential as an art object itself? The conceptual shift occurs when the device as a medium of facilitation becomes the object of creative enquiry. The coalescence of its coded mechanisms, technical structures dovetailing human modalities will inevitably start a new cybernetic narrative that can be expressed through art. The intersection of human language (texting) and a cell phone becomes a meeting point for language adaptation and new forms of expression.

The use of the mobile device as a medium for the production of art, and the art object itself would further immerse the work within the electronic ether in which it lives, thereby facilitating audience interaction on an unprecedented level. The exhibition space will also become unchained from the notion of a ‘fixed’ entity as a live feed can be hosted online for remote patrons. The website features projects where art and cell phones meet. A featured exhibit in 2012 was at the MoMa Gallery entitled ‘Talk to me’, the interaction platforms between art object and patron were cell phones, Twitter, video games and other technology. The exhibition uses interfaces, information systems, visualisation design and communication devices in order to establish a sensual, intellectual and emotional connection with viewers


The idea of sharing and the instant ‘transportability’ of art is an interesting exploration as it removes the time - place definitive that exists in traditional exhibits as well as the commercial saleability of work. If the art work resides within this transient cultural virtual sphere and is open to participation then this may add mercurial shifts to the final piece of which the outcome couldn’t be determined from the onset. The concept of art pieces emanating from social experiments, with shape, nature, characteristics and elements being subject to change due to the nuances of fed data and information requires a paradigm shift from the traditional art making process, the role of the artist and the art work itself.

Texting bares relevance to visual art as a technological expression of popular culture. This ever-growing social phenomenon that can be explored in countless ways. Sarah Feit and Jorge Venaciano (2011:2) comment on a group exhibition entitled “Messaging Text and Visual Art”:

Technology would continue to grow, and in 1972 Atari launched the video game Pong. IBM introduced the personal computer in 1980. Technology would permeate the lives of everyday Americans and change how we communicate. Now with e-mail, cell phones, and video messaging, communication has become nearly instantaneous, and the language it generated continually adapts to these new technologies. Language is never static; it grows with changes in popular culture (Feit & Venaciano 2011:2).

The adaptation of language to technology is a key area of this study as it becomes crucially apparent with mobile texting, as Feit and Venaciano have commented that the ‘instantaneous-ness’ of mediums catapults language into various new derivatives. They also mention the constant flux of language use within popular culture, this unpredictability and deviation from the accepted standard or norm (written English) is an important area of focus within a postmodern framework. Language being the primary vehicle of most communication within our world, makes enquiry feasible and warrants academic observation into its organic metamorphosis in response to digitization and new media.

Historical and existing studies and statistics conducted both internationally (UK and USA) and locally, indicates that the discourse concerning mobile phones and texting tends to focus predominantly on the effects on literacy skills of adolescents and young adults. (Gerrit Beger and Akshay Sinha (2012: 3) claims the following:

Adolescents and young people have been identified as the first adopters of mobile technology with 72 per cent of 15 to 24- year-old reported as “having a cell phone” in a 2007 national survey conducted by The Kaiser Family Foundation[8] and the South African Broadcasting Corporation.

Statistics, surveys and market research like these speak to the ubiquitous use of cell phones by the youth, like their international counterparts (Crispen Thurlow & Alex Brown 2003: 1-27)[9]; (Beverly Plester; Clare Wood & Victoria Bell 2008: 137-138)[10], South African educators, academics and linguists have also conducted studies with pre-teens. One such study was undertaken to determine if the casual abbreviated register commonly used in text messaging, negatively affective student’s ability to acquire literacy skills. The results showed that overall there was no correlation between texting and literacy degeneration in that instance. Whilst Geertsema, Hymen & van Deventer focused on the educators of grade eight to nine students in Gauteng. The results showed that the majority of educators held the view that SMS language had a negative impact on written language skills. (Salomé Geertsema, Charene Hymen & Chantelle van Deventer 2011: 475-487)[11].

My study will differ in two ways; it will not focus predominantly on the youth or literacy skill degeneration but attempt to analyse the creative adaptations to text and visual symbols taking place amongst people of all ages. Very little has been researched in this area possibly due to the ‘newness’ of the medium and the personalised[12] (Tagg 2012: 2) nature of texting, by covering other generation groups including the youth a more holistic perspective can be gained of the DNA of our social interaction within the realm of digital communication.

The Statistics Portal informs that for the year 2017, South Africa had approximately 18 million smartphone users, this figure is expected to grow to over 25 million by the year 2022. (

Since South Africa has been ranked as 26th in the world for smartphone market penetration of 36.2% in 2017, ( the study would be attempting to unpack an existing cultural phenomenon. Certainly the introduction and the now ubiquitous presence of the mobile phone has altered the way we communicate with others on a daily basis, the question arises as to how the novelty and convenience of the technology changed how we use written language. Limited research exists that explores the use of the medium as a vehicle for creative expression and social identity from a contemporary South African perspective, thus the relevance of this study.

1.3 Discussion of research hypothesis

In order to enter into a discussion about the research hypothesis, it must be problematised and placed under literal scrutiny in order to establish what this study could realistically yield in terms of evidence to either support or refute the statement, should the research design be based on its rationale and scope. After reading and being immersed amongst Jacques Derrida’s[13] deconstruction theories related to (writing) laced with concepts such as binary oppositions (Derrida 1967: xlvii), decentring & trace (Derrida 1980: 374; 371), then applying these techniques to my hypothesis, I have realised that writing is within itself problematic and far more open to subjective interpretation than I had previously thought. The first part of the dissertation’s title is ‘social identity’. The word ‘social’ refers to an organised society or cultural group

(, ‘identity’ refers to the fact of being, who or what a person or thing is ( The concept of identity is a complex variable, with many contradictory connotations. Eleria Bornman (2008:4) states,

The term "identity" first gained salience through the work of the psychologist Erikson (1968). While Erikson associates identity as a definition of personhood with sameness or continuity of the self across time and space, other authors also emphasise uniqueness, that is, those characteristics that differentiate a person from other people or the whole of mankind (Baumeister 1986; Brewer 1991, 1993; Rouse 1995).

Bornman suggests that there exists a duality in meaning of ‘identity’, in one instance its remaining consistent in personality to oneself and in another instance it is the ability to stand out from the crowd or be different to the norm. If one is to further apply the word ‘social’ then it would stand to reason that if a person defines themselves as part of a social group, conformity to many similar people would be expected in order to subscribe to the collective norm and prescribed or agreed upon codes of behaviour of that group (E.g. Language). Mark Sherry (Given 2008:415) affirms Borman’s duality by stating “It can be defined as ways in which individuals or groups can define themselves as similar to or different from each other”. It appears that the definition of ‘identity’ is complex and may be subject to two differing interpretations.

The second part of the dissertation’s title is ‘text messaging’, If there exists a duality and ambiguity within the definition and expression of the concept of social identity then could symptomatically the same be said of language (speech) itself, and its off-shoot, (writing)? The dichotomy and oppositions that we are faced with in written language is exposed by the deconstruction tools Derrida (1980: 354) provides which destabilises of the notion of true meaning through language. Derrida subverts Ferdinand de Saussure’s concept of the existence of a primary sign[14] whilst leveraging Nietzsche’s[15] assertion on the loss of origin to weaken the core framework of structuralism. He further states that language is a series of “active interpretations” (Derrida 1967: xxiii). Would this description relate suitably to text messaging as human writing? The quick and changing nature of digital messaging requires constant interpretations to be made by users daily, errors due to speed, letters omitted for brevity or effect must be translated. Texting provides the ideal platform for individuality as it uses the rules of agreed upon language just to the point of dismissing them completely in the pursuit of personal expression and human connectedness. If original formal letter writing would have possibly served as the primary model for texting then any similarity has long since been discarded, the broad idea of “infinite textuality” Derrida (1967: xxiv) quoting Nietzsche, speaks toward a more open-ended future for texting.

The third part of the dissertation’s title is ‘new’. The word ‘new’ seems to be an unquantifiable anomaly as it can only be defined comparatively to what came before or ‘old’. According to Derrida (1967: lix) what we perceive as inferring meaning and understanding from language is merely a conditioned inference from binary opposites, in other words no symbol contains absolute meaning but rather is understood as ‘other’ or different from something else. He extends this concept of oppositions further by proposing that inherent hierarchies exist within language which underlie our inferences and goes unnoticed and unquestioned.

Derrida has been interested in one particular opposition: the opposition between writing and speech (voix). Derrida's critical approach to deconstruction shows us that dualisms are never equivalent; they are always hierarchically ranked. One pole (presence, good, truth, man, etc.) is privileged at the expense of the second (absence, evil, lie, woman, etc.)


According to this theory if I am to compare or contrast the words ‘new social identities’ in this study with the ‘old social identities’ I would have to establish what the ‘old social identities’ were. I assumed it would be me as a teenager before mobile technology was marketed to the public (before 1994)[16]. The word ‘new’ has come to refer to everything technology has brought to our lives in the form of products and functionality. This association could be linked to the idea of rank between oppositions in the above mentioned quote, ‘new’ holds a higher currency than ‘old’ as it represents progress and innovation. It has been 22 years to date that cell phones entered my world and changed the way I communicate, it is hardly ‘new’ anymore, but there have been rapid changes since and many more ‘new’ phases along the way. Due to the broad non-specific definition of ‘new’ within this context, it is the only word I would consider eliminating from the hypothesis. For the purpose of creating a contextual time marker, lets place ‘new’ after 1994.

Another reason to omit the word ‘new’ would be that social propagation of individuality has always existed in western society. Not being mainstream and asserting a unique personality is part of our cultural fabric. Consider pop icons or marginalised groups like skinheads, punks and goths who dress and behave differently to normal society. However asserting identity in an online (virtual) environment holds a very different potential and results in unusual manifestations and behaviour, as researchers are just beginning to observe (Peachy & Childs 2011:2-5). It is in light of this potential that I will maintain the word ‘new’ with the reserved understanding that everyday texting need not be such a radical identity shift, it can merely be an assertion of who you are as compared to the person you are texting.

The fourth part of the dissertation’s title is ‘contemporary visual art’. The remaining aspect of the core statement is by its very nature the vehicle of human expression of now, historically art has been the materialisation of individual and cultural identity. Consider the artists[LN2] whose work has been explored later in this study[17], each person expressed different ways of applying, manipulating and interpreting text and the resulting art works reflected their different identities. Be it texting or any aspect of contemporary human existence, art serves both as medium and platform for commentary, revelation and exploration of our sameness and uniqueness.

1.4 Research methodology

The research design is based on a qualitative approach as it is best suited to meet the objectives of the study. The methods applied will need to service two core enquiry streams. The first being understanding the physical characteristics of digital text messaging, with a focus on creativity and identity. The second is the visual research of artists and artwork (including my own) which uses text messaging as its conceptual foundation within the postmodern paradigm. Critical discourse analysis (CDA), data analysis and aesthetic/art-based research methods have been applied. The study is immersed within a social interactive context with the two knowledge streams mentioned becoming fused and interchangeable via the research object, namely written language. The diagram below illustrates the components of the research design.

Figure 1. Lucelle Pillay. Diagram of research design. 2017

Derek Pigrum (Given 2008:765) explains the practical art making process of this type of research design best when he speaks of the artist as researcher,

The characterisation of the researcher as artist is based on the reconciliation between artistic practices and scholarly research as a critical creative activity that employs modes of artistic expression both as methodological tools and as forms of expression…….modes of artistic expression become a constituent part of the analysis itself (Given:765).

Pigrum describes the artistic process as congruent to combined scholarly research modes as well an instrument of analysis itself. He further explains that the artist is an active participant in both critical observation as well as the art act which is both methodological and expressive. The research approach accurately describes the method applied to this study. The core premise is that the visual nature of text as a communicatory device combined with art as a conceptual device has limitless potential for new modes of performance. These modes will not merely be reflective of society but facilitate participation and the collective experience.

The study is based on the premise that text messaging is a new phenomenon and therefore I employed qualitative methods (Given 2008: xxix) like a small focus group of participants to answer a questionnaire and submit samples of their texts over a period of five years. According to David Morgan (Given 2008: 354) this method is spear-headed by the researcher who opens a discussion into a particular area of enquiry in order to yield findings. Rather than employ a numerical quantitative approach with a large anonymous group only to measure usage patterns of textisms, I wanted to understand the personalisation and finer nuances of identity performed through messaging. Whilst quantitative surveys and large scale analysis would better serve pure linguistic research, qualitative enquiry techniques (latent content analysis) have yielded insight into the character, personality and creative patterns of the participants. These insights have provided the conceptual foundations for a series of explorations that related to the anatomy of code, swarm data permutated by emotive markers, electronic poems and random reciprocity of open text.

These qualitative knowledge outcomes lent themselves more toward a creative output facilitated by the multimedia modes of visual art.

The technical research tools comprise of a questionnaire, participant text samples and a blog and my own mobile device. These technical devices serve to not only acquire participant information and samples but as a medium to virtually observe and facilitate online social interaction amongst those interested in the study and the exhibit. Participants consisted of friends, family and colleagues, therefore there was a level of familiarity and trust during the observation period which facilitated the sharing of often private interactions. The research methods applied to the data collected were analytical and interpretive. Van den Hoonard (Given 2008: 186) refers to this process as ‘memoing’, when the researcher is reflective whilst considering links to theory, personal experiences and conceptual constructs during the analysing of data.

Visual research relating to artwork produced using text messages as a creative concept will be analysed within the broader context of postmodernism and the narrower context of new media art. The research method of visual analysis (cognitive observation) often supported by the philosophy of art and the philosophy of the experience of art according to Liora Breslar and Margaret Latta (Given 2008: 11).

The practical art making processes and work that emanates from this research is informed by the both the theoretical and visual facets already mentioned. The act of art making has taken place alongside the research, text sample collection and participant online interaction. Key concepts from linguistic and semiotic theory have catalysed visual exploration of themes in specific mediums and participant engagement has often informed conceptual decision making. The aim of the research method was to enter into this arena uninhibited by any preconceived notion of the type of art work to be produced, but rather allow the research to cross pollinate and inform the process. It was imperative that in light of the mercurial nature of human conversation, the creative processes be adaptable and receptive to changes that present itself from the research.

1.4 Research strategy

This study consisted of three main parts: (1) theoretical research; (2) technical research and (3) practical art making processes, which was informed by the first two parts. Each part will be explained in greater detail within this section, however it is important to note that all research streams were channelled toward building a practical body of art work that will grew conceptually not only from the theory, discourses and sample analysis of digital text messaging but from the very dynamics and social interaction the medium affords.

The theoretical research was be subdivided into the following chapters: Discourse of text messaging (2007-2017: articles, statistics, views); Texting as a study of human signs & symbols (linguistics theory and semiotics); Texting as a concept in contemporary visual art [LN3] (local and international artists/exhibitions focusing on texting/mobile phones as a medium or process) and Texting as a mode for new social identities as expressed in contemporary visual art (philosophy and psychology of identity).

The technical research [LN4] was focused on collating a corpus of text samples (SAmpleTXT)[18] which was analysed for typical characteristics of textisms[19] (Plester, Wood & Bell, V 2008: 137). I first came across the word ‘textisms’ in an article [LN5] by Plester, Wood and Bell entitled, Txt msg n school literacy: does texting and knowledge of text abbreviations adversely affect children’s literacy attainment? Textism is a collective term given for various types of abbreviations that occur in text messaging. I would like to use this term in the same context within this study. I also apply the term ‘typical’ as within the discourse of the nature and physical attributes of texting several commonalities have been identified. Linguists David Crystal (2008: 37-62) and Caroline Tagg (2012: 52-70) have recognised certain ‘typical’ traits that occur in bodies of samples collected. The use of textisms has been placed into five categories. The first being: Rebus or letter/number homophones (C U L8R), the second being phonological reductions (nite; wot; wuz), the third is symbols (&@+), the forth is acronyms (WUUP2-what you up to?) and lastly casual register referred to by the aforementioned writers as “Youth Code” (wanna; gonna; hafta; me bro, dat) (Plester, B; Wood, C & Bell, V 2008: 141). For the purposes of this study, I have included a sixth category of graphic symbols as the use of mood indicators or emoticons[20] . These are relatively a new option offered to users with Smartphones®.

I launched SAmpleTXT as a qualitative collection tool in 2012, as a medium to invite participants to contribute to the study. I have also personally contacted friends, family and acquaintances to form a focus group (19 members), the only criteria being that participants must reside in South Africa and match specific generation groups required[21]. An ongoing public blog ( accessible to anyone interested informs about the nature and scope of the study, requests for participation, updates followers on advances in the study, shares related articles and papers and provides photographs of exhibition work emanating from the study.[LN6] [LP7] A qualitative questionnaire was emailed to participants for the collection of data pertaining to the study objectives. Due to the personal nature of text messaging, issues of privacy and anonymity was addressed by the insertion of a disclosure agreement. Participants included acquaintances, friends and colleagues who would be comfortable to divulge and discuss the finer nuances of their digital texting behaviour over a period of time.

SAmpleTXT could serve as a comparative data source for studies conducted from other emerging countries. Much of the previous data analysis focuses on large quantitative surveys[22] (Tagg 2012: 3) whereas a smaller focus group of individuals may reveal more subtle cues of daily social interaction that could be insightful or lost within larger random groups. Knowing the participants personally whether from a work, family or socially has allowed me to glean their texting mannerisms over a period of time, and through mutual trust acquired an insider’s view to this form of social interaction. The results from this research is further discussed in Appendix 2.

The practical work discussed was exhibited at the Unisa Art Gallery (1-21 April 2017) and was entitled POPTXT. Although the work spoke about a digital language to a computer mediated audience, it also made use of static mediums like digital prints on paper, layered acetate, vinyl prints and laser printed Perspex. A move away from the traditional was the use of computer software, apps, projections, a digital camera, the internet and animation. The practical art making process consisted of five projects which explored four key concepts entitled Send><Room; Death of SMS; 7 Bits of String and Trope. Broadly the concepts explore the act of transmission and the affordance we expect from technology, obsolete technology and unorthodox use, restriction or limitation of mediation device, hidden string code and mass data, emotive human interaction. These themes will be elaborated upon further in chapter five, whilst commenting on supporting visual examples.

1. 6 Texting and contemporary art

The appropriation of texting and mobile technology within the realm of visual art is hardly a new concept with artists like George Legrady[23] who exhibited PFOM[24] (2001) (See Figure 2) [LN8] and Cell Tango (2008) (See Figure 3) which shifted the conceptual nature of the work toward the actual medium of gathering information itself. In this case cell phone technology transmuted the way the artwork is created, read and received, as well as the function of the museum space in which it is housed (

Figure 2. George Legrady. Pocket full of memories. 2001.

Figure 3. George Legrady. Cell tango. 2008 -2010.

New York based artist Paul Notzold’s[25] exhibition entitled ‘TXTual Healing’ (See Figure 3) is described as “a travelling interactive urban installation”

Figure 4. Paul Notzold. Textual healing. 2006.

Started in 2006 the work consists of light projected speech bubbles at night onto buildings. Audiences are requested to send an SMS to a given number in order for their text to appear in the speech bubbles. The messages are unfiltered and are queued before being displayed for 20 seconds, then are replaced by newer texts. The exhibition has been installed in places like Amsterdam, San Francisco, Milan, Munich and currently resided in Sheboygan till August 2013. The collaborative and participatory aspect to text as an art concept speaks to its social roots, the idea of private messages in a public space as well as the relatability of texting are aspects that draws interest.

From my analysis of similar artists and exhibitions to be discussed later in chapter four, it became apparent that the various permutations the medium of mobile texting will create within contemporary artistic expression is as limitless and unpredictable as the technology itself.

1. 7 Theoretical linguistic touch points

The act of texting resides within the domain of language theory, therefore unpacking the main philosophical tenets or dominant ideologies is essential within a study of this nature, however the shifts and nuances of linguistic theory dating back to the early 20th century is varied and extensive. Beyond the challenge of the broadness of scope, the field of philosophy seems to constantly interweave itself within the discourse of language analysis at various points in history. The research challenge was to consider the crucial voices of linguistics, understanding the overarching philosophical fervour of the eras and finding the theoretical thread which speaks to sociolinguistics and writing itself.

Language theory may be divided into three main philosophical backdrops: Structuralism, Logical Positivism, and Constructivism. To contextualise the many voices who contributed toward the current theoretical post-modern framework of linguistics within human sciences, let us consider a general timeline of philosophers and linguists dating back to the early 20th century. Based purely on chronology the first group to be mentioned will be (1860-1960) Ferdinand de Saussure, Charles Peirce[26], Leonard Bloomfield[27] & Louis Hjelmslev[28]. The second group (1960-1980) Mikhail Bakhtin[29], Roman Jakobson[30], Emile Benveniste[31] and Roland Barthes[32]. The third group (1980-2000) Zellig Harris[33], Charles Hockett[34] and Jacques Derrida. The current voices (2000-present) are Michael Halliday[35], Noam Chomsky[36], George Lakoff [37]and Roland Langacker[38]. The pivotal theorists whose contributions, analysis, arguments and discourses form the framework of this study are Ferdinand de Saussure, Roland Bathes, Jacques Derrida, Michael Halliday and Noam Chomsky.

Chapter three entitled ‘Texting as a study of human signs and symbols’ will provide a detailed walk through of the various linguists in order of the chronological grouping (contextual/ historic timeframe) above and their theories related to written language. I therefore will not elaborate further on these key figures at this point, but would like to mention that considering nationality (country of residence), school of thought (philosophy/ideology), critical influences and contributions to the field formed the main criteria for a comparative and exploratory analysis.

I would like to return to the three language theory sub-headings (schools of thought/ philosophical backdrops) mentioned previously, in order to provide a short synopsis or overview of the core ideas of each. The first being structuralism. Many consider Ferdinand de Saussure’s theories on language and semiotics[39] were the cornerstones for what became structuralist methodology for the analysis of linguistics (Waterman 1956: 307[LN9] ). Although de Saussure had never written a book relating to his ideas, his lectures were published in 1915 by some of his students. His core concept was that the sign, which was the basis for language was arbitrary and held meaning only due to conventional use within a society or community (de Saussure 1993:67). Structuralism asserts that humans access meaning and understanding of the world because of the constructs of language. Without it we would be unable to understand nor express ourselves. The ideology and later principles of structuralism were adopted by the French, Danish, Russian and American schools and have undergone various evolutionary permutations since. Dell Hymes & John Fought (1981:3) speak of structuralism in America as a “pre- Chomskyan” era due to the move toward “transformational grammar” which currently dominates linguistic discourse in America. Since the work of Leonard Bloomfield who was greatly influenced by de Saussure has long passed, the American linguistic study has moved into the era of cognitive linguistics spearheaded by Noam Chomsky. The focus of analysis has moved away from the characteristics of arbitrary signs (structuralism), toward human genetics, behavioural and neuroscience.

The second sub-heading I would like to discuss briefly is logical positivism which took seed in the late 1920’s in Austria and Germany during the height of modernism. It seemed to be helixed with events of the time like Einstein’s theory of relativity and the fervour around mathematical deduction. The Vienna circle consisted of philosophers, linguists, logicists, mathematicians and many others who were as involved in the socio-political agendas of the day as they were in philosophy. It was the ideologies of the Vienna circle that would become known as logical positivism or logical empiricism. According to Michael Friedman (1999:xv) the Vienna circle were driven by the developments of their time such as geometry, logic, and mathematical physics and therefore proposed that the only valid statements philosophical or otherwise, are those that can be supported with empirical proof. Related ideologies such a phenomenology[40] (, those initiated by Hegel, Husserl and Heidegger, which seeks to create an objective environment for the study of somewhat subjective areas (existence, emotions, perceptions), and they however don’t use a scientific tool but rather empirical observation and deduction.

The third sub-heading is ‘Constructivism’, a relatively new framework of thought as compared to the previous two, emanating in 1967 from the work of Swiss clinical psychologist Jean Piaget[41]. Based on Piaget’s methods employed within the field of cognitive development he proposed that knowledge (epistemology[42]) is a human product created by experience and learned observation. In the documented debate between himself and Noam Chomsky (Piaget 1980: 2), Piaget he explains that his methods inculcate in essence both empiricism and priori[43]

( Whilst Chomsky (2006: vii; ix, viii) speaks of a ‘biolinguistic” approach and a radical shift in perspective. This shift was spurred by the “cognitive revolution of the 1950’s" in his quest for a form of “universal grammar”. I find that an overview of the development, cross-overs, contradictions and morphisms of linguistic theory coupled with the philosophical overtones of the respective periods, provide a contextual vantage point from which to gain insight on the placement and progression of language in our world.

1. 8 Literary review

The readings that support this study consists of three areas of research. I will list them in order of hierarchy in terms of their proximity to my core field, namely visual art. The first area is new media and contemporary art discourse, the second is linguistics theory[44] supported by technological theory (specifically technical advances in cell phone technology) and the third field is psychology and philosophy (specifically relating to the concept of identity in society & in virtual space). It is important that contemporary linguistics theory is viewed alongside technological advancements as the nature of CMC straddles both these fields concurrently. What follows will be an expansion of the research areas mentioned and the supporting literature.

New media and contemporary art discourse is a dynamic and interesting pairing. New critique and methodologies appear rapidly from these fields. The challenge lies in focusing research on solid documented advancement with a theoretical basis rather than faddish technological gimmick that seems to be an unfortunate off-shoot in some instances. Research streams are two-fold, the first being the postmodern discourse about what happens when traditional art meets technology and the second is the analysis of the various types of artworks emanating from this field for the last 10 years. Lev Manovich (2001:13-16) discusses the move of new media- based art moving from what he terms “the cultural periphery” toward mainstream. He also makes comment on the resistance and power shifts between the traditional gallery space and new media social platforms within the American context. Manovich (2001:15) refers to the relationship between art and technology as a “parallelism” rather than a merger due to rapid advancement of software design and application, and predicts that technology will surpass artistic endeavor.

Alexandra Nemerov (2007: 2) offers a most expanded definition of new media art and its placement within a technological paradigm. He speaks of the artist’s “mediation” between human experience and technology whilst emphasising disembodiment within virtual spaces. Nemerov bases his findings on a series of documented interviews he conducts with artists and other professionals working or involved with new media art production or the promotion thereof. He quotes Gerfried Stocker[45] by identifying the pillars of digital arts as “Connectivity, interactivity, transmediality and processuality” (Nemerov 2007: 3-4). It is interesting to see how standard descriptors have been establish within such a new discipline and how this influences audience expectation. The concept of new media and its ability to function as both “subject and object” is discussed, Nemerov describes the relationship of new media practice and technology as “symbiotic”. This is particularly pertinent to the phenomenon of text messages as the subject of an artwork, the mobile device becomes producer, transmitter and possibly the art object itself.

Similar to Manovich, Nemerov broaches the discourse surrounding the old order of the traditional museum/gallery space referred to as the “white cube[46]” (Nemerov 2007: 6), as well as the problematised notion of curatorship within a postmodern context. Nemerov attests the closed-ness of the gallery space (white cube) to residual modernist ideals that inadvertently separated life from art as well as high culture from low. Technology has allowed accessibility to art via social platforms and the connectedness it provides, “collapses such boundaries, allowing aspects of the everyday to fluidly enter the museum’s enclosure” (Nemerov 2007: 9). As much as technology may be championed by practitioners of new media art, in daily life technology becomes invisible, we take its functionality for granted, the potential of text messaging within an art work, makes the ordinary and mundane visible again, to ponder, to deliberate.

( and the intertextuality of memes[48] (2015: 36-38) within social platforms, which actually in a sense answers Taban’s question of the potential of ‘meta & inter- images’ as an epistemological study. The nature and mannerisms of social interaction in virtual space is still an anomaly and therefore we can assume that related studies have the potential to yield new knowledge about human computer mediated communication. What resonated with me was that Taban spoke of images that referred to themselves, which speaks to Derrida’s assertions of the non-existence of a primary sign (1967: xiii), rather a recurrence of inferences, or Tzvetan TodoroTo extend the discourse surrounding new media and digital art, Carla Taban (2013:11-33) discusses ‘meta’ and ‘inter-images’ within a visual art framework and their potential as epistemological data. Taban[LN1] focuses on the visual image as an appropriated cultural device that is used by sharing, repeating, altered or subverted for satire, political or other ends. She questions as to what could be learned from these inter-exchanges, and presents a collective of essays which challenge our preconceptions about the visual image. A journal article by Piia Varis and Jan Blommaert (2015:31-45) analyse examples of images that went viral[1] ( and the intertextuality of memes[2] (2015: 36-38) within social platforms, which actually in a sense answers Taban’s question of the potential of ‘meta & inter- images’ as an epistemological study. The nature and mannerisms of social interaction in virtual space is still an anomaly and therefore we can assume that related studies have the potential to yield new knowledge about human computer mediated communication. What resonated with me was that Taban spoke of images that referred to themselves, which speaks to Derrida’s assertions of the non-existence of a primary sign (1967: xiii), rather a recurrence of inferences, or TzvetanTodorov’s unending chain of signs (Roland Posner 2011: 20), typical of the internet and mass data flow. Barthes (1977: 57) spoke of the future of semiotics being the “… the articulations men impose on reality” and advised a move away from “lexicons[49]” To extend the discourse surrounding new media and digital art, Carla Taban (2013:11-33) discusses ‘meta’ and ‘inter-images’ within a visual art framework and their potential as epistemological data. Taban[LN10] focuses on the visual image as an appropriated cultural device that is used by sharing, repeating, altered or subverted for satire, political or other ends. She questions as to what could be learned from these inter-exchanges, and presents a collective of essays which challenge our preconceptions about the visual image. A journal article by Piia Varis and Jan Blommaert (2015:31-45) analyse examples of images that went viral[47]

( or prescriptions and referred to “metalangue” as becoming the object of language (Barthes 1977: 93). Within the semiotic virtual space of the internet where visual signs (inclusive of text) are the only means of communication, navigation and social interaction, where complete authenticity and predictability is fluid, the sign values and associations become a social entity that shifts and morphs, a technological milieu of sign iterations. Varis and Blommaert (2015: 40) refer to the reposting and repetition of memes as “resemiotizations” signs which in fact refer to other signs, constant recycling and construction of temporal meanings. I found the tentative theoretic predictions of the philosophers Derrida and Barthes bearing weight within the characteristic nature of language and symbols within an online environment.

David Crow (2010: 9, 34) applies semiotic theory to visual art practice and draws on Barthes idea of sign systems forming a language of visual signs applicable to different industries like fashion or food (Barthes 1977: 10, 26). He provides visual examples in which Pierce’s sign classifications are applied and refers to de Saussure’s premise of the arbitrariness and duality of the sign (Crow 2010: 33, 29), the book provides a practical approach to an awareness of semiotic dynamics at play within art and commercial images. The fundamental theoretical links Crow creates to visual art practice informed some of the practical components of this study. These concepts include the syntagm, the metaphor and code which formed the creative processes for the works which emanated from this study. These works include ‘Death of SMS’ (Figure 23) and ‘PDU: Hello, how are you? (Figure 27), in which Crow’s (2010:9) rubbish theory is applied. This theory places emphasis on the discarded and unimportant cultural waste of society, masses of text message data speaks to this idea.

The second research area is the field of linguistics theory, which in the case of text messages (digital communication) runs parallel with technological theory (Herring 2008: 613). The Handbook of Discourse Analysis first published in 2001 has featured linguists worldwide who have been observing and assessing language changes and adaptations within the area of computer mediated communication since the early 80’s. Contributor Susan Herring[50] provides a short timeline in her article (Herring 2008: 613) of linguists who had in the early 80’s started academic discourse on this new genre. She mentions Naomi Baron[51] as one of the first voices to make comment on this emergent new register[52] ( as early as 1984. Baron’s research provides a contextual chronology of the emergence and development of computers and mobile technology into our world, she places mobile text messaging as coming into its own in 1992[53](Baron 2008:14). According to Baron text messaging started because the GSM[54] had a small excess of bandwidth left over and decided to allow customers to send short written messages, thus the birth of SMS (Baron 2008:17). She adds with the expansion of computer and mobile functionality and use, there came a wave of nomenclature, such as David Crystal’s[55] “netspeak” (Crystal 2006:2). Crystal’s simple reasoning for writing a practical analysis of language use via electronic devices was because there was an apparent gap in the knowledge base. This ‘gap’ refers to the wave of assumptions by the media and educators regarding the negative effects of texting on the youth without validation. He does however mention electronic sources like the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication being an invaluable resource at the time.

One of the many contributors to the aforementioned journal would be Crispen Thurlow[56]. For the last decade the discourse surrounding the junction between written English and an electronic mediation device, specifically cell phones, has focused on the youth (approximately 12-23 year olds) and the apparent drop in literacy skills (Thurlow & Brown[57] 2003). The most resonant of these voices has been Thurlow who together with associate researchers brought a level measure of analytical sobriety to the media-stirred panic toward ‘textisms’[58] (Plester et al 2008: 137) being the bane of literacy. The aim of the article ‘Generation TXT’ is explained as “….a discursive of qualitative data arising from an investigation of over a 159 older teenagers’ use of mobile telephone text - messaging or – SMS” (Thurlow & Brown 2003: 1). The research need arose from the spiraling onslaught of claims by the media and some educators that texting was the sole cause of the poor academic writing skills amongst school-goers. Advising on the shifting nature of technology sometimes rendering much research obsolete before completion, Thurlow strongly suggests that more data-driven studies be undertaken to inform and dispel indictments.

……just as new linguistics practices are often adaptive and additive rather than necessarily subtractive, young text messagers manipulate conventional discursive practices with linguistic creativity and communicative competence in their pursuit of intimacy and social intercourse. (Thurlow & Brown 2003: 18).

Thurlow maintains a direct line cannot be drawn between sample evidence and the linguistic degeneration assumption, but more can be learnt based on the data and evidence, the challenge being the flux of technology. Contrary to expectation he abates the frenzy of speculation by acknowledging the creative competence displayed by young people’s texting behaviour. Thurlow’s comment on practices being adaptive and additive rather than subtractive speaks to Hockett’s (1968: 82) argument that “science is cumulative”[59] (against Chomsky), it builds upon itself and previous empirical knowledge rather than radically changing course.

The third and last area of research is aspects if identity in society and in virtual environments. Anna Peachy and Mark Childs (2011: 5) list: technology, characteristics and intentions of the participants as the factors for creating an online identity when using platforms such as Second Life, Eve Online and Warcraft[60]. Much of their work includes observing online identities through avatars[61] ( and they maintain that these “identity laboratories” (2011: 2) yield rich data on both language and the performative[62] ( One may consider that due to the fact that texting via a mobile device doesn’t include avatars therefore the aspect of performativity is void, Tagg (2012: 20) suggests,

Performing identity through text messaging draws on the research into the discursive, construction of identity to show how the linguistic choices made by texters[63], and the resources on which they draw, contribute to their performance of identity through texting (Tagg 2012: 20).

Tagg’s (2012: 48) reasoning implies that ‘choice’ offers texters the option to use various textisms such as brevity, spelling, speech-like informality and deviance and therefore the act of texting is ‘performed’ thereby indicating identity. She includes a South African text sample (Ana Deumert and Sibalwa Masinyana 2008: 126) to illustrate her point by commenting on the respellings[64](Tagg 2012: 4) which indicate regional/local pronunciation and possibly socio-economic status. Blommaert and Varis (2015: 92-95) review Deumert’s Sociolinguistics and Mobile Communication (Deumert 2014)and discuss aspects of creativity and identity. Elirea Bornman explores the struggle for identity against various backdrops like globalism, media, information and communication technologies. She attempts to reconcile and contextualise the construct of identity within a South African framework (Bornman 2003: 4). Bornman touches on the duality within definitions by referring to Erikson’s psychoanalytical stance that identity is about ‘sameness and continuity’ in contrast with other authors who ‘emphasise uniqueness’.

1. 9 Preliminary overview of chapters

This chapter has covered the fundamentals of what this study entails as well as its relevance to art practice and its placement within the realm of contemporary visual art. The chapters to follow cover the five sub-categories that are pertinent to the reader in order to gain a holistic understanding of the topic from a local and international vantage point.

Chapter two explores the contemporary discourse that surrounds text messaging specifically SMS and IM formats. The basis of discussion is purely linguistic in nature as the implications of its “newness” is compared and unpacked against existing theories and frameworks of thought. Statistics and usage related to mobile technology within the South African context are mentioned only to highlight market penetration and thereby reinforce the mass cultural phenomenon social texting has become.

The third chapter reflects on text as a human sign or symbol and discusses the various philosophical and linguistic theories which contribute to the field of semiotics. The discourse starts with structuralism, includes poststructuralist voices as well the inclusion of deconstruction theory and finally discusses systemic functional linguistics. The historic cornerstone linguistic theories of Barthes, De Saussure, Derrida and Chomsky are applied to digital texting as a postmodern language.

The forth chapter focuses on the work of both local and international contemporary artists who use text messaging as a concept in art. Various artists have been selected to show diversity and range although applying the unifying concept of text in their work. Lastly the aspect of social identities in contemporary art is reviewed against the research this study has yielded or provided as evidence, to either substantiate or debunk the original hypothesis statement.

Chapter five concludes by weighing all pending assertions of the hypothesis statement against the research outcomes to provide a neutral and informed closing. All research streams both theoretical and technical are reviewed to provide a valid summation of the original key goals mentioned in the introduction. These goals being, research evidence supporting or refuting the statement that the activity of popular texting has to a greater extent become a medium for self-expression and individualism amongst people as well as artists who use visual art as a platform for expression.

1. 10 Conclusion

The overarching arena of exploration for this study resides within the discipline of visual art. Ideologies and contemporary art practices pertaining to digital text messaging are considered within this framework. The study seeks to validate the transition of text messaging in South Africa from a cost effective method to send written messages into a social phenomenon which has impacted our daily human interactions. Texting has not only toppled the hierarchical constructs of traditional written language, but allowed users to create new codes by the reinvention of old symbols. The emanating interest and potential of this study, particularly pertaining to social identities and written language within a digital realm is explored via the existing work of artists who use texting as a conceptual springboard. Methodology, medium and presentation of selected contemporary art work (local and international) acts as a looking glass into the various permutations these works display. Unpacking the visual aesthetics of such work whilst applying the key principles of linguistics theory places the study firmly within semiotics and new media. Therefore both these spheres are tackled concurrently, the overlaps, nuances, adaptations and catalysts that have transformed written social communication are discussed in the chapters that follow.

This study contributes to the discourse of text messaging channelled through contemporary visual art practice. By tackling aspects of identity and the banality or ordinariness of this form of computer mediated communication, I hope to give the reader a non-judgmental glimpse of how creative and transformative human language can be within conceptual art. Art in itself being yet another communicatory device, is at its core attempting to resonate with human experience. The study holds significance with a contemporary audience as it speaks to our postmodern existence, often isolated navigators of information by technology yet constantly seeking social connectedness and identity.

[1] “As with any term associated with technology, new media’s definition is constantly outdated, expanded, and updated. The term’s origins can be traced from early analogue artworks to the current art of computer-based and digital technologies. Generally, new media artists are concerned with both the conceptual and aesthetic possibilities of industry-produced technologies and advancements and utilize these implements as means of their own expression.” [2] Letter omission is a characteristic of texting explained as the removal of vowels. [3] ‘An English-language typewriter or computer keyboard with keys for the Roman alphabet, the top row of alphabetical characters being the letters Q, W, E, R, T and Y. [4] Market technology researchers in South Africa. [5] Digital Agency in South Africa. [6] A telephone with access to a cellular radio system so it can be used over a wide area, without a physical connection to a network. [7] An electronic communication sent and received by mobile phone. [8] Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, ‘Young South Africans, Broadcast Media, and HIV/AIDS Awareness: Results of a National Survey’, 2007. [9] The article: Generation TXT ? The sociolinguistics of young people’s text messaging, was written by linguists Crispen Thurlow (Professor of language and communication) and Alex Brown (provided research from undergraduate paper at Cardiff University). [10] The article, TXT Msg n school literacy. Does texting and knowledge of text abbreviations adversely affect children’s literacy attainment? Was written by Beverly Plester (Professor at Coventry University); Clare Wood (Professor at Coventry University) and Victoria Bell. [11] The article, Short message service SMS language and written language skills: educator’s perspectives, was written by Salome Geertsema (Professor of Pathology at UJ); Charene Hymen and Chantelle van Deventer. [12] Tagg states ‘…how do you get hold of such personalised data and is it ethical to try to do so?’ [13] Jacques Derrida (1930-2004) was a French philosopher best known for his semiotic analysis of texts which became known as deconstruction. [14] Ferdinand de Saussure was a Swiss linguist who became known as the father of structuralism, proposed the theory that all language starts with a sign (real world) represented by a signifier (symbol/word). [15] Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) was an influential German philosopher of the late 19th century and beyond. [16] See Appendix 1 for Mobile Technology Timeline in SA. [17] George Legrady; Paul Notzold; Petra Collins, Cristian Grob; Alison Wade; Lehlogonolo Mashaba [18] South African samples of text messages will be referred to as (SAmpleTXT). The technical output of this study will be contained in Appendix 2 of this document. [19] Name used for abbreviations common in text messaging. [20] ‘An arrangement of keyboard characters intended to convey an emotion, usually viewed sideways. A symbol that you type in an email or text message to show how you feel. For example the emoticon :-) means happy or friendly’ (Encarta Dictionary: English UK) [21] See generation groups diagram in Appendix 2 [22] “…analysis of a corpus of over 11 000 text messages that I call CorText” [23] Professor of Interactive Media, with joint appointment in the Media Arts & Technology program and the department of Art, at the University of California, Santa Barbara. [24] Pocket Full of Memories. 2001 Exhibit. [25] He holds an MFA in New Media & Technology from Parsons School of Design. [26] Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914) was an American philosopher and logician. (Peirce, CS. 1991. Peirce on signs: Writings on Semiotic. North Carolina Press). [27] Leonard Bloomfield (1887-1949) was an American linguists and advocate of structuralism (Bloomfield, L.1933. Language. Chicago Press). [28] Louis Hjelmslev (1899-1965) was a Swiss linguist of the Copenhagen School (Hjelmslev, L. 1961. Prolegomena to a Theory of Language. Wisconsin Press). [29] Mikhail Bakhtin (1895-1975) was a Russian philosopher and semiotician (Bakhtin, M. 2010. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Texas Press). [30] Roman Jakobson (1986-1982) was a Russian-American linguists belonging to the structuralist school of thought (Jakobson, R. 1995. On Language. Harvard Press). [31] Emile Benveniste (1902-1976) was a French linguist and semiotician (Benveniste, E. 1971. Problems in General Linguistics. USA: University of Miami Press). [32] Roland Barthes (1915-1980) was a French linguist, philosopher and semiotician (Barthes, R. 1977. Elements of Semiology. Hill & Wang). [33] Zellig Harris (1909-1992) was an American linguist and mathematical syntactician (Harris. Z. 1970. Papers in structural and transformational linguistics. Reidel). [34] Charles Hockett (1916-2000) was an American linguist and structuralist (Hockett, C. 1977. A view from language: Selected essays, 1948-1974. Georgia Press). [35] Michael Halliday is a British-born Australian linguist who developed the systemic functional linguistics model (Halliday, MAK. 2014. Hallidays Introduction to functional Grammar. Routledge 4th Edition). [36] Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher and cognitive scientist (Chomsky, N. 2006 Language and the Mind.Cambridge Press). [37] George Lackoff is an American cognitive linguist best known for his work on metaphors (Lackoff, G; Johnson, M. 2003. Metaphors we live by. Chicago University Press). [38] Roland Langacker is an American linguist best known for his contribution to cognitive language and grammar (Langacker, RW. 2008. Cognitive Grammar A basic Introduction. Oxford Press: New York). [39] The study of signs and symbols and their use or interpretation [40] A philosophical movement that describes the formal structure of the objects of awareness and of awareness itself in abstraction from any claims concerning existence. [41] Jean Piaget (1896-1980) was a Swiss clinical psychologist who is best known for his analysis of cognitive development in children (Piaget, J. 1977. Psychology and Epistemology: Towards a Theory of Knowledge (First published 1970). Penguin). [42] The theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope, and the distinction between justified belief and opinion ( [43] Relating to or denoting reasoning or knowledge which proceeds from theoretical deduction rather than from observation or experience. [44] The research scope within this study of linguistic theory as related to text messages refers only to written English and does not include others languages. [45] Artistic director of Arts Electronica Festival. [46] A series of essays written by Brian O’ Doherty in 1976 for Artforum which became a book called Inside the White Cube: The ideology of the Gallery Space. (O’Doherty, B. 2000. Inside the White Cube: The ideology of the Gallery Space. University of California Press.) [47] Circulated rapidly and widely from one Internet user to another. [48] Coined by writer Richard Dawkins in his book The Selfish Gene. ‘Meme’ as an analogy with ‘gene’ and referring to ‘small cultural units of transmission which are spread by copying or imitation’. [49] The vocabulary of a person, language, or branch of knowledge. A dictionary, especially of Greek, Hebrew, Syriac, or Arabic. [50] Susan Herring holds a PHD from the University of California, she is currently Adjunct Professor in the Linguistics Department at Indiana University and is a Fellow in the Centre for Research on Learning Technologies and Social Informatics. [51] Executive Director, Centre for Teaching, Research and Learning and Professor of Linguistics. [52] A variety of a language or a level of usage, as determined by degree of formality and choice of vocabulary, pronunciation, and syntax, according to the communicative purpose, social context, and standing of the user. [53] Stats and chronology based on America. [54] Global System for Mobile Communication. [55] Honorary Professor of linguistics at University of Wales, Bangor. [56] Professor of Language and Communication in the Department of English at the University of Bern, Switzerland. Previous Professor at the University of Washington, USA. Attained social and applied psychology Degree from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa (1985-1990). [57] Alex Brown collected data for the article ‘Generation TXT’ as part of her undergraduate studies at Cardiff University. She transcribed and assisted with coding of initial messages. [58] Name used for abbreviations common in text messaging. [59] Hockett refers to ‘science’ as the broad overarching field of linguistics, but within the context of the book he is specifically commenting on language. [60] Interactive social and gaming platforms. [61] An icon or figure representing a particular person in a video game, Internet forum, etc. [62] Relating to or denoting an utterance by means of which the speaker performs a particular act (e.g. I bet, I apologize, I promise). [63] Referring to people who send and receive digital text messages via a mobile device. [64] “A term used to describe the use of unconventional spellings to convey meaning”.

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