Thursday, June 20, 2013

text talk

As various friends will happily point out on a regular basis I have certain luddite tendancies when it comes to IT. My 'if it still works, keep using it' attitude baffling those eagerly awaiting the next model before the wrapping is off the last. I'm on my fourth personal mobile phone in about 15yrs, none of which I've bought - and all have been either bottom of the range (my choice!) and/or well behind the leading edge of technology in terms of functionality.

Usually this really isn't an issue. I don't use my phone much. It is useful when I go away but otherwise it's most frequent use is as an alarm clock. However right now my reliable chunky nokia (thanks Jon for the hand-me-down!) is proving something of a challenge. As part of the Woodbrooke Global Learning Forum I'm in a small group of three discussing Quaker worship and how it affects our life - via text messaging! We're spread between Sweden, Kenya and Aotearoa NZ which has obvious implications in terms of timezones, but thankfully we've figured out the timings and as far as I'm aware no-one (yet!) has been woken from their slumber by the latest installment.

Those on the course with smart phones have been able to use the whatsapp to message each other internationally for free, great! Except I don't have a smart phone. What is more, for some reason we can't fathom, texts I send to Sweden don't arrive! So.... I send sms messages to Cornelius in Kenya, where they then get forwarded by whatsapp to Julia in Sweden. Cornilius sends his messages via whatsapp to Julia who forwards them by sms to me along with her own messages that she texts to me and apps to Cornelius. Confused yet? Then of course most of the messages that come to me are longer than the 160 character maximum of an sms message so they get split in two... so I get about half dozen texts or more at a time in a manner that would amuse Eric Morcombe no end as they are not necessarily in the right order!

So I can get my head around them, I type them all out into a document, along with my own messages (as of course you can't follow sent and received conversations on an old phone the way you can on a smart phone as they are stored in seperate places, and in any case I'm sending to one person and receiving from another!). Usually I can eventually do the jigsaw and figure out who said what when in reply to whom but occassionally an email is needed to sort it all out.

I was trying to explain this process during a three way facebook chat conversation with two non-Quaker friends (yes I do have such things honest!) - why not use facebook/skype chat? they very reasonably asked. Well.... this assignment was to use text messaging, no doubt future ones will use other means. Text messaging ensures you at least try to keep things succinct (yup, you've spotted the challenge for me already!), especially when you're paying for international text messages! In being succinct you rather obviously have to cut out the waffle, which for liberal Quakers of the unprogrammed tradition can be a real challenge when discussing such issues. 'What do you mean by deep worship?' I got asked having said I wished I got more of it. All of a sudden a monologue on some random topic for 'one minute without hesitation, deviation or repetition starting from, now...' suddenly seemed like the easier option. No space for anecdotal description, no vague waving of hands and well, you know.... because of course I can't assume that both of those I'm talking to do know. Oh the joys of coming from different Quaker backgrounds, worship styles and theologies!

The three of us did have the advantage of actually having all met each other previously, and only last year at that (although I first met Julia nine years ago I hadn't seen her inbetween times although our work kept us in email contact for about a year). So that helped with the diving in at the deep end, for me at least. I had some sense of the people at the other end. Obviously by being part of the course it is safe to assume that anyone in the group has a fairly open mind to the 'rainbow of Quaker grey' in all it's various shades, but text messaging is a hard medium with which to get to know a stranger, no matter how F/friendly they are. It is going to be interesting to hear how the other groups have got on.

Despite the challenges I'm loving the conversation. Typing everything out makes me really focus on every word said. Skim reading and thinking I've got the gist of it (and thus maybe missing the point) isn't an option. Sometimes I take a day to reply, I know what it is I want to say in my head, but how to put it in a text so the others understand it too is the biggest challenge. And much to my amazement clarity, and brevity, do come!


Anonymous said...

I have a Nokia C2 which probably isn't as ancient as yours, but still pretty ancient. When it was not working too well, I was advised to download an update - as Matty did that for me (kids have to have some uses!) I haven't a clue where it came from, but someone might be able to help. I know it involved the main Nokia site and it stopped my phone from randomly cutting me off when I was answering a call. And it now means I have "conversations" on my phone which confused the heck out of me, but means that all the texts to/from one person are listed together... dawn x

Anna Dunford said...

I think this is the sort of thing that proves brothers have their uses too! I'll ask Jon as I didn't even know what model it is until I looked just now and I've had it over 2yrs! (well it did used to be his phone) =)

Then again, I might just carry on with the 'it works so don't fix it' approach... but good to know such things are possible!

A xxx