Have been thinking about how the web accelerated the ascendancy of what’s called the speech act, or the illocutionary act, or a “performative utterance.” In original narrow usage, those terms mean something like can be gleaned from these examples:

  • “I do” – as uttered in the course of a marriage ceremony.
  • “I name this ship the ‘Queen Elizabeth'”
  • “I give and bequeath my watch to my brother” – as occurring in a will
  • “I bet you sixpence it will rain tomorrow”

While the things we say online might not always have the binding impact of, for example, a contract, they do cause real social and often other consequences (professional, for example).

So where a speech act in the past might have been limited to certain narrow formal constraints, because of the persistence of speech online, their use is now near universal.

But IRL-offline, just saying something and actually doing something are different things. Both might have consequences, but they are not the same when they occur in real space as when they occur in hyperreal spaces of social media, where thousands or potentially millions can see it.

Anyway, this is just a building block… will continue teasing out the strand I’m interested in here little by little.