Speech deprivation

2012

For many centuries, speaking, listening and repeating were the only means by which thoughts could be shared. No matter how innovative the ideas or how clearly they were expressed, unless someone heard and was prepared to absorb and re-state them, they vanished into thin air.

When written records became the norm and ideas could be merged silently into another person's mind, the vast majority of people still preferred their words to resonate across the airwaves and chose to engage with each other by vocal means. Hence: the invention of the telephone which enabled ideas spoken by one voice to carry right round the world into one other person's ear.

The advent of radio, cinema and recording that allowed millions to see and hear the same message at one and the same time, made speaking-out and listening-in an almost magical occurrence. And when cell phones placed that magic in the very palm of our hands it seemed that voiced communication had reached an ideal proportion.

But now something has gone seriously awry! In this, our most advanced technological age where contacts take place across all time zones, the thumb has become mightier than the tongue and the eyes more connective than the ears.

Is it really our intention to eliminate voice from our communication's arsenal? Do we really want to share information solely by thumbing it onto keyboards and reading it off screens? If so, aren't we in danger of presenting ourselves with serious physiological and psychological problems?

To view screens and to communicate across time zones the eyes must always be open. This means that less and less time can be available for sleep and the vital process of sorting and encoding that can only occur during sleep if our ideas are to grow and mature.

(Could it be that sleep deprivation is one of the causes for the chaotic behavior following on from uprisings whose management had appeared to be so coherent?)

There is also the problem that tone of voice - the vital oral clue that has for centuries allowed others to ascertain how ideas were meant to be understood - has no similarly sophisticated equivalent in text speak.

No visual method can entice or enrage, excite or engage, control or cajole like tone of voice.

The "smilies" and !!!s and dot, dot, dots we add when thumbing and fingering tweets and blogs and texts simply don't hack it.

Since the beginning of time we human beings have relied on taste, touch, sound, sight and hearing to interact with one another. Do we really intend that two of those five senses should now become defunct? The same technology that is supposed to enhance social connectivity is unintentionally laying waste to the special relationship between our minds, our breath, a small clamp in our throats and an enviously pliant pointer in our amazingly resonant oral cavity.

Unless we find ways to incorporate more vocal than tapped words into our communications once more and allow thoughtful breaks before broadcasting our brain waves across the airwaves, the second decade of this new millennium is in danger of becoming a time when we shall no longer be able to believe our ears.

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About The Author

Janet Howd
Janet Howd

Janet Howd is a voice coach who works with corporate, academic, legal, theatrical and private clients in the UK, North America, Australia and Europe.