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Shall I compare thee to a love heart emoji?

Just what is the language of love in the 21st century? On Valentine’s Day, we bring you the latest research

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It may not be a Shakespearean sonnet, but the language of love in the 21st century is just as affectionate and meaningful as it ever was, according to University of South Australia linguist, Dr David Caldwell.

“Romance and wooing are alive and well in the digital realm, and that opens new ways of communicating love and affection, different from the traditional handwritten love letter,” Dr Caldwell says.

“Modern love communication features images (selfies or images of a couple together), emoticons, emojis and memes, and many other combinations of words, sounds, images and animations that combine to essentially function as a ‘love letter’.

Dr Caldwell says love language today is typically less formal, less poetic, less elaborate and less metaphorical.

“There isn’t much room for comparing your beloved to a “summer’s day”, at least not as superbly as Shakespeare does in Sonnet 18, but the sentiment is no less loving or meaningful,” he says.

“Today’s love language is more immediate, often a two-way online exchange, likely to be more concise in language form, and can often include ‘youth speak’ – abbreviations, acronyms and humour.

“The change perhaps reflects a shift in what we value in a prospective partner’s linguistic repertoire.

“Are we less attracted to a wordsmith than we once were?  Does poetic, elaborate, metaphorical language in the context of romance, now feel outdated, excessive, and possibly inauthentic?

“Perhaps today, the value is in a prospective partner’s, ability to use digital communicative affordances – humour, emojis, memes, Bitmoji, and the like – to show a mastery of modern life.”

Dr Caldwell says the current generation are “doing love” quite differently from the romantic stereotype.

“There are no doubt fewer love letters, but online dating is booming on websites like Tinder, Bumble, RSVP and e-Harmony. 

“From these, unique linguistic genres have evolved.

“The most common genre people produce for these sites is a kind of information report or auto-biography. 

“It is designed to ‘sell’ a person to potential partners.  And this commodification of self has specific language patterns, which are often very specific and efficient, and certainly not metaphorical or poetic, like the language patterns of love letters.

“At the end of the day love is love and people will express their affection is ways that elicit a positive response – and it may be that successful wooing today, relies a lot more of the right emojis than the structural rigours of a sonnet or a haiku.”

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SA’s Internet goes down again

South Africa is about to experience a small repeat of the lower speeds and loss of Internet connectivity suffered in January, thanks to a new undersea cable break, writes BRYAN TURNER

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Internet service provider Afrihost has notified customers that there are major outages across all South African Internet Service Providers (ISPs), as a result of a break in the WACS undersea cable between Portugal and England 

The cause of the cable break along the cable is unclear. it marks the second major breakage event along the West African Internet sea cables this year, and comes at the worst possible time: as South Africans grow heavily dependent on their Internet connections during the COVID-19 lockdown. 

As a result of the break, the use of international websites and services, which include VPNs (virtual private networks), may result in latency – decreased speeds and response times.  

WACS runs from Yzerfontein in the Western Cape, up the West Coast of Africa, and terminates in the United Kingdom. It makes a stop in Portugal before it reaches the UK, and the breakage is reportedly somewhere between these two countries. 

The cable is owned in portions by several companies, and the portion where the breakage has occurred belongs to Tata Communications. 

The alternate routes are:  

  • SAT3, which runs from Melkbosstrand also in the Western Cape, up the West Coast and terminates in Portugal and Spain. This cable runs nearly parallel to WACS and has less Internet capacity than WACS. 
  • ACE (Africa Coast to Europe), which also runs up the West Coast.  
  • The SEACOM cable runs from South Africa, up the East Coast of Africa, terminating in both London and Dubai.  
  • The EASSy cable also runs from South Africa, up the East Coast, terminating in Sudan, from where it connects to other cables. 

The routes most ISPs in South Africa use are WACS and SAT3, due to cost reasons. 

The impact will not be as severe as in January, though. All international traffic is being redirected via alternative cable routes. This may be a viable method for connecting users to the Internet but might not be suitable for latency-sensitive applications like International video conferencing. 

Read more about the first Internet connectivity breakage which happened on the same cable, earlier this year. 

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SA cellphones to be tracked to fight coronavirus

Several countries are tracking cellphones to understand who may have been exposed to coronavirus-infected people. South Africa is about to follow suit, writes BRYAN TURNER

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From Israel to South Korea, governments and cell networks have been implementing measures to trace the cellphones of coronavirus-infected citizens, and who they’ve been around. The mechanisms countries have used have varied.  

In Iran, citizens were encouraged to download an app that claimed to diagnose COVID-19 with a series of yes or no questions. The app also tracked real-time location with a very high level of accuracy, provided by the GPS sensor. 

In Germany, all cellphones on Deutsche Telekom are being tracked through cell tower connections, providing a much coarser location, but a less invasive method of tracking. The data is being handled by the Robert Koch Institute, the German version of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

In Taiwan, those quarantined at home are tracked via an “electronic fence”, which determines if users leave their homes.  

In South Africa, preparations have started to track cellphones based on cell tower connections. The choice of this method is understandable, as many South Africans may either feel an app is too intrusive to have installed, or may not have the data to install the app. This method also allows more cellphones, including basic feature phones, to be tracked. 

This means that users can be tracked on a fairly anonymised basis, because these locations can be accurate to about 2 square kilometers. Clearly, this method of tracking is not meant to monitor individual movements, but rather gain a sense of who’s been around which general area.  

This data could be used to find lockdown violators, if one considers that a phone connecting in Hillbrow for the first 11 days of lockdown, and then connecting in Morningside for the next 5, likely indicates a person has moved for an extended period of time. 

The distance between Hillbrow and Morningside is 17km. One would pass through several zones covered by different towers.

Communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams said that South African network providers have agreed to provide government with location data to help fight COVID-19. 

Details on how the data will be used, and what it will used to determine, are still unclear. 

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