Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Txting gets serious

Texting (27 Jan 10) by ejbSF, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  ejbSF 

How many teenagers you know use e-mail regularly (if at all)? Or for that matter how many use their cellphones to talk? Not many I suspect. The communication defaults of many years are under threat and the winner of the communication battle seems to be good old texting. Curious, since texting/SMS virtually predates e-mail and is a supremely primitive service that was included in the old GSM mobile system in the early nineties. SMS became a success completely by accident since its main purpose from the beginning was to enable cellular operators to inform you that you had a voice message waiting for you. The operators were completely taken by surprise when youngsters started using the text service to communicate to avoid paying the high call charges. A fine example of an accidental technology that gets used for something completely different from what the inventors intended. The rest is history.

The lack of interest in e-mail and voice calling presents a problem to many colleges and universities. How do we communicate with our students? Standard student e-mail accounts are often unread and the only way to really get through is by texting. Texts are hard to avoid whereas it's easy not to log into your student e-mail account for a week or so. Texting is ubiquitous in that everyone has a mobile, therefore everyone is contactable. All other channels have an opt-in factor and often have competing and mutually exclusive solutions.

Texting has definitely come of age in the academic world; so much so that there's a whole conference dedicated to it. The University of Bath is host today to the Let's talk about txt 6 conference with sessions on how texting is being used in higher education for marketing, student communication and learning. The fact that this is the sixth such conference shows that all this is well-established even if it has taken me until now to discover it! I certainly am not aware of a similar volume of interest here in Scandinavia. Read more about the conference in an article on Merlinjohnonline, Leading texters head for Let's Talk About Txt 6.

I will certainly follow the conference proceedings with interest. The telecom boffin who decided to dedicate the 140 byte signalling channel in GSM to text communication should be pretty proud today.

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