Category Archives: pal

a new way to pen pal

Here is another example of users latching onto unexpected features of a technology. Time magazine reports on the surprising popularity of their “Skype Me” mode which allows Skype users to basically cold call each other. This feature seems to be popular with people abroad (especially in China) looking for opportunities to practice their English with people in the US, in a way that resembles pen pals.
One might say that is really just one big chat room, although chat rooms are still text based. The interesting part of the Skype Me community is that it shifts pen pals from a text based activity to an oral based one. The impact that Skype has on pen pals highlights the interplay which digital technology encourages between written and oral forms. Is this a case of the Internet expanding the reach of a community or another example of technology reducing the emphasis on developing writing skills?