Interview with Mario Tascón
For more than 20 years, his name has been associated with the world of technology linked to journalism, and specially associated with the graphic and digital area. He coined the term twittergraphy and popularized its use when he made it known through symbols with the image of John Lennon (( J ))
A pioneer of infographics in Spain and a media consultant in many countries around the world, from Corriere della Sera to Argentina's La Nación, Mario Tascón has been labeled as "the bee's knees on a digital level" by Juan Antonio Giner (founder of the Innovation media consultancy firm). The reason? Formerly the baseline in the infography world, Mario Tascón became a successful manager in the online editorial industry. He gave life to media outlets like elmundo.es and lainformacion.com. And currently he is coordinating in company with the institution Fundéu, the first style guide on Internet and new Spanish speaking media outlets. It will be particularly a collaborative document, with the input of professionals from different countries, and will remain online and available to whoever has Internet connection.
Being sort of unsatisfied with all this experience, on October 9, 2010, on the occasion of the 70th birthday of John Lennon, Mario Tascón posted on social network Twitter some plain symbols without words or images, which represented the singer-songwriter of the music band The Beatles ((°J°)) together with the label "Hashtag" #twittergraphy.
In this way Tascón spread a term coined by him on the social network of 140 characters: #Twittergraphy.
What is Twittergraphy? Where did this term arise from? Does it come from the term infography by chance?
The term arose in me spontaneously: Twitter + the art of writing: I guess infography might have influenced the name. It did influence though the use of signs and symbols. Otto Neurath came to my mind and his universal language (Isotype). I think there is a lot of it in #Twittergraphy".
Tascón thinks that with Twitter being a widespread tool, "people did not know that although it had only 140 characters, the number of them was much higher than 27 letters and 10 numbers: there were signs; they could get mixed up. And if you added @ or # to words, then these became powerful hyperlinks. Thus, the restriction of 140 characters was no big deal :-)"
However, being a term coined on a social network, where words and symbols come to life on their own, Tascón explains that nowadays "I do not know for sure what Twittergraphy is,- because people use this label as they want. Basically it has become a guide on Twitter to write better, to use signs and symbols, to learn to write with restrictions and to share communication experiences."
Use of punctuation marks (emoticons) and symbols to communicate, as well as the summary of words in a few letters, is a tendency from instant messaging. Are humans developing a new language because of this use?
There is an unquestionable language change. It has to do with the restriction of channels we use to communicate; it has to do with the necessity to intensify signs that disappear, when the channel is only textual. It has to do with another way to acquire knowledge and create.
Is language getting stronger or weaker because of the peculiar way of using it on the web and electronic devices?
It gets stronger without a doubt. It is possible as it never was to learn from others.
Does this language transformation influence the way we perceive the world and society?
Languages and ways of thinking are closely related. Of course, this transformation influences. Language changes have always influenced.
Does communication really exist or do messages become random ideas that some take and others miss out?
There is a little of everything, as always. It depends on people, channels and moments. There is information all around and it is logical that people look for ways to process it (including: missing it out). Information has turned into just another consumer good.
Do you feel we are experiencing an innovative time in humanity where knowledge is created by several individuals, is shared and at the same time it becomes anonymous?
Yes, to the first part of the question. Knowledge has always been created by many; but it is easier now, because there are more people connected and it is simpler to share. As regards knowledge being anonymous, it is not always true.
Will humanity keep having very important, well thought-of persons, creators, or will we talk in a not so far future about times, moments in which several men built knowledge?
Exceptional people will continue to exist, although we are in a time in which the collective creation had never before been so rich, interesting, and productive.
Could we affirm that global tribes are being created, with codes and languages on their own, different to those areas of the world where less than 20% of population has Internet connection?
There is a problem that has nothing to do with language -the digital gap. It is one of the most serious ones that humanity is facing and will face in the next years; and that it is closely related to other widespread problems -poverty, lack of education, lack of rights. All these evils are also apparent in the digital gap.
Translated by Adrián Varela
At first she agreed that I use her real name, that she had no problems with that at all. After all, living with HIV had driven her to help others – as a workshop facilitator giving talks and conducting seminars, or as a volunteer for local AIDS Service Organizations like Acción Solidaria (Solidary Action) and Mujeres Unidas por la Salud (Women United for Health, or Musa), a support group network for HIV-positive women. But when we were well into the interview, the realization that she might lose her private health insurance coverage made her change her mind.