Two largely disconnected books in one: a phenomenology of talk and conversation, and a broad-based if not very convincing...


THE DE-VOICING OF SOCIETY: Why We Don't Talk to Each Other Anymore

Two largely disconnected books in one: a phenomenology of talk and conversation, and a broad-based if not very convincing presentation of the thesis that interpersonal conversation is dramatically on the decline in modern Western society. Neurolinguist Locke (Human Communication Sciences/Univ. of Sheffield, England), is fascinating on the history and nature of language, talk, and conversation. He delves into human speech's evolutionary biology, biochemistry, and neurology, and the nature of ""vocal, facial and gestural clues."" Among the many dimensions of human communication he explores are ""verbal performing,"" the usually inverse relationship between pitch and power, and the hierarchical nature of gossip and self-disclosure (individuals almost always engage in each with someone of greater or at least equal status). Locke's argument in the second half, that intimate social conversation is progressively declining in modern Anglo-American society, may be correct but is presented here in a diffuse, largely anecdotal way. His writing contains much of the rhetoric of anomie found in such earlier, better books as David Riesman's The Lonely Crowd and Philip Slater's The Pursuit of Loneliness and is marred by self-evident generalizations (""individuals with few close relationships generally report feeling less socially supported than those awash in intimacy"") and an often overwrought nco-Luddite tone (""Internet Addiction Syndrome, or IAS . . . is apparently affecting hundreds if not thousands of the cyber-crazed"") that presumes that if people weren't online for hours each day, they would otherwise be engaged in meaningful interpersonal contact. Locke seems certain that the Internet (and E-mail in particular) necessarily diminishes social intimacy. It doesn't seem to occur to him that it and other new technological facets of contemporary life may undermine certain traditional mechanisms for achieving social closeness while offering new ones in their place.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998


Page Count: 256

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1998

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