A few words of Aaron Hanlon surrounding the origin of novels really stuck with me. The first being that early 17th century novels made a significant effort to simplify names and plots. Instead of “Hunt for the Red October”, they wrote “David Simple, the Adventures of, in Search of a Real friend. They connected with the reader, yet were didactic in nature. They taught, not through sophomoric monologues, but through an overwhelming sense of realism and great attention to the particulars. They created a discerning reader, and, above all, they produced rational expectations for rational thought. As Hanlon argued, they led to observational science linked to previous contextual understanding. In a ways, Hanlon argued, novelist helped shape the face of modern science.
Now, I care to argue that, through the birth of social media and ‘listicles’, society will begin to trend science towards the abbreviated and summarized. With forums and chats littered with acronyms like ‘rtfm’(read the friggin manual), ‘inb4’(before the obvious…), and ‘tldr’(too long didn’t read), previous research will be supplanted by ‘see above’ and ongoing research will gravitate to concise / abbreviated diction. Do note: I do not mean to say the modern science will deviate to improper, expedited methods abandoning due diligence. I DO mean to say I believe that the literature of modern science will follow the trends towards truncated and condensed writing — often referred to in academia as concise and controlled diction.
Twitter, limited to 140 character blurbs, is currently the foremost engine of contextualized observations. Daily, millions of individuals observe their surroundings and publish their findings for all to comment and react to — almost a peer review of twisted sorts. Facebook, with slightly larger posts, releases mass amounts of social and personal commentary into the public sphere for general consumption and scrutiny, often with abbreviated ‘Internet speak’. Even the diction we use in these posts have been reformed by this ‘literary revolution’, and words like ‘google’ have entered our dictionaries.
Will this inspire a new format for modern literature? I sure hope not. Will this impact how we perceive literature? The seems more likely. I wouldn’t argue that our attentions spans are on the chopping block, but it seems likely that our notions of a ‘long’ or ‘dense’ article may be shifting. Even in my own experiences in computer science, ‘man pages’ (terminal based plain-text documents explaining a command’s functionality in exhaustive detail and length) have been pushed aside by the now trendy ‘tutorials’. While, yes this does raise questions about work ethics in modern developers (myself included), I notice a clear shift away from all-encompassing bodies of knowledge, and towards easily digestible tid-bits of critical information.
That said, similar to Aaron’s assessment of how observational science marked by discerning observations of the particular impacted and informed 17th century literature, I argue that laconic diction in 21st century science may validate and promote our abbreviated communications. Call it impatience, but we seek a healthy serving of pertinent, applicable information without all the side-fixings; and modern science will soon follow suit.