Chomsky, a politically progressive linguist, should know better than to dismiss new forms of language-production that he does not understand as “shallow.” This argument, whether voiced by him or others, risks reducing those who primarily communicate in this way as an “other,” one who is less fully human and capable. This was Foucault’s point: Any claim to knowledge is always a claim to power. We might ask Chomsky today, when digital communications are disqualified as less deep, who benefits?
Oh, get the fuck off of it. None of us have any problem dismissing gossip as a more shallow form of conversation than intellectual discussions; no one who isn’t still entranced by their shiny new techie toys should have any problem making the distinction here. It’s telling that Jurgenson rambles through his essay, making ominous implications about the cognitive imperialism of first-world intellectuals, without ever addressing content and nuance, two of the most important criteria we use for judging depth in communication. Yes, yes, yes, it’s possible to make good points in 140 characters or less. Yes, yes, yes, it’s a great thing that more people, especially poorer people, are able to access the web through smartphones. None of which addresses, let alone changes, the fact that many important ideas need to be developed at length to be worthwhile, an unlikelihood if not an impossibility in the hyperactive, rapid-fire stimulation atmosphere of Twitter.