Real-Time Instant Messaging


The Gallaudet Daily Digest included a link to a Washington Post article called AOL’s New Chat Comes Across Letter by Letter. It is about how Gallaudet staffer Norman Williams worked with AOL to create real-time instant messaging: you would see each letter coming across your screen, rather than just seeing a whole message at a time when the person hits Send. According to the article, the technology is not about “exposing all your little typos” and that’s fine. I assume they have some way to get around that, maybe a delay or something. But what I don’t understand is the need to be able to interrupt. According to the article, “the user can spontaneously react to words, just as someone would respond to words spoken in conversation.” But…deaf people don’t use spoken conversation. It is well-known that ASL has different rules about turn-taking than spoken languages do. Personally, I would prefer to fully form my thought and then press Send, to make sure I say what I want to say exactly right. It is also a good way for you to carry on multiple conversations, because you cannot watch multiple people type in real-time and respond in real time.

I think the technology is interesting and has some applications, but personally I don’t think it would be that beneficial to deaf users or even many hearing users. Instant messaging has evolved in such a way that we are used to seeing whole messages appear at once. (I know MyIPRelay operates differently, but I’m talking about two people talking.) Even if it’s thought-by-thought, you still get a sentence before you get the next one. Getting it letter by letter just seems too cumbersome to me…am I the only one who feels this way? How do you think real-time instant messaging could benefit people, especially deaf users?


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