Chatting Through the Ages


This n+1 piece tracks the history of conversation, in different mediums. The vastly diverging worlds of talking vs. conversation vs. chatting online have all experienced their own evolution. Even just focusing on chat itself reveals a trajectory perpetually informed by the ways in which we chat online. From AOL chat rooms to Gmail, factors like intimacy, privacy, distractions are always competing and altering the nature of the chat.

“…distraction is endemic to daytime Gchatting, especially at work. The medium creates the illusion of intimacy—of giving and receiving undivided attention—when in fact our attention is quite literally divided, apportioned among up to six small boxes at a time. The boxes contain staccato, telegraphic exchanges, with which we are partially and intermittently engaged.”

Sam Riley is an adult who works at McSweeney's. More from this author →