Thursday, April 8, 2010

The disappearance of language

When you write online content chances are you want people to find you. People find you by searching for something on a search engine, usually Google, whether it's a picture or a how to...or a place or a recipe. They type in what are now known as key words. Keywords. Big sites who are traffic dependent for advertising revenue need as many hits as possible. So the titles and context of their posts have to be geared towards searchability (see? new non-word). And the writers have to gear their text towards what will reward in terms of hits. Not only do we have to guess what people are searching for, better yet, it is analysed for us by a host of free web tools, and we write accordingly.

This is how we will lose poetry. And description. And nuance. And flights of fancy. And texture and layers of meaning. This is how the singular, individual voice will join the universal, nodding hum. This is where and how we will forget what words can really do. This is the great dumbing down.

So, A Mouthful of Spring will become, Where to Buy Ramps. Hunting Lunes by Moonlight will be How to See Ducks in the Dark.

No, these are not actual examples, but I am charged with free-lancing for a big corporation - for which I am very grateful - and this is sobering stuff.

The new language is about keywords and keyword phrases. It is about 1 + 1. No calculus allowed. Children not exposed to literature and poetry will never know how language can sing and play, startle or fly.

Some sites will be brave, no doubt, and hang on to original content despite the trend towards the blandest common denominator but this confirms that I will never, ever use advertising on a blog that belongs to me. Because the products own you. No matter what you tell yourself.
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