During the Hypervoice workshop, Quentin Hardy, Deputy Technology Editor of the New York Times, spoke eloquently about the difficulty in communicating concepts during the time of disruption. He provided the concept of the “horseless carriage” as a perfect example. Not knowing how to describe this newfangled device any better, our great-grandparents looked to their immediate past and described it by what it was not. Simply put, it was a carriage without a horse. Done. Eventually, our grandparents would come up with snazzier, more modern names like automobile and car.
At first, it is easy to laugh at a horseless carriage. It sounds ridiculous to modern ears. But to early audiences, I believe it provided an essential bridge between the known and unknown.
The future can be downright intimidating. Using language that bridges what we know with the scary unknown makes a concept feel more familiar, more friendly – or simply less threatening.
Simple concepts like wireless, internet, email – to name a few – have become core to modern vocabulary. Each reference what it was like before the technology arrived. We used wires. We worked on isolated networks. We used mail.
When Martin Geddes put forth the term Hypervoice as a new way of describing voice as a native web object that is every bit as linkable and dynamic as hypertext, I believe that he deftly lifted a well-known and understood concept and created this early bridge. Perhaps Hypervoice will recede from common use in the future once its core function becomes so primary – just like hypertext did. In the future, we will just expect voice to do that. Until then, I believe Hypervoice is a great start at bridging the gap between the known world of real-time communications and the unknown future of timeless telephony.
And to be fair, our modern vocabulary isn’t all that modern when you think about it. The word “car” comes from karros, a gallic Chariot... which is far more dated than carriage. Carriage is downright modern in comparison.