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(The Atlantic)   Looking back at Star Trek and the most incommunicative alien species the TNG crew ever encountered, the Tamarians. "More familiarity with our own mythology might help us relate to theirs," Picard incorrectly surmised   (theatlantic.com ) divider line
    More: Weird, ionosphere, science fictional, aptitudes, baroque, Picard, alternative title, common misconceptions, conveyor belts  
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3705 clicks; posted to Geek » on 20 Jun 2014 at 11:47 AM (2 years ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2014-06-20 09:15:16 AM  
i1.sndcdn.com

Was that just a recap of the entire episode, or did Bogost ever get to a point?
 
2014-06-20 09:53:36 AM  
tl;dr has never been more appropriate.
 
2014-06-20 10:06:34 AM  
Shaka, when the walls fell.
 
2014-06-20 10:11:34 AM  
People think that episode is "deep" but it really made no sense. There's no reason for them to think the Enterprise crew would "get" their metaphors. Ans for them to even have those stories to reference in the first place, they would first have to have a "regular" language similar to ours that isn't just references.

/why is this an article?
 
2014-06-20 10:56:09 AM  
I don't know if "deep" is the right word...

I enjoyed it because while the idea of a "universal translator" is all well and good, it does eliminate that moment of Columbus encountering natives... the complete inability to communicate.
 
2014-06-20 11:19:45 AM  
TheAtlantic.com, when pulling stuff out of their asses to pad out an article.
 
2014-06-20 11:39:08 AM  
Didn't know "incommunicative" was a word. Shouldn't that be "uncommunicative"?
 
2014-06-20 11:52:05 AM  

toraque: TheAtlantic.com, when pulling stuff out of their asses to pad out an article.


TheAtlantic.com, when the ad revenue fell.

It wasn't a 'deep' episode but it was interesting to think about talking only in metaphors.

Didn't read the article. Ain't nobody got time fo DAT.
 
2014-06-20 11:52:20 AM  
Ugly bags of mostly water!!
 
2014-06-20 11:58:05 AM  
img.fark.net
 
2014-06-20 12:00:25 PM  
when hovercraft was infested with eels
 
2014-06-20 12:00:42 PM  
The message must have failed because most people are still blissfully unaware that Samson and David stories are poor rip-offs of Gilgamesh.

Great episode? No, but better than any of the sexual escapades of the counselor or either doctor.
 
2014-06-20 12:05:50 PM  
I didn't bother to read that big ol' pile of words, but was the gist of it "we already do that"? Once a meme gets firmly enough implanted in consciousness, we don't need the context anymore to communicate its message. If I post this guy:

i646.photobucket.com

you already know what the meaning is and what I'm trying to say. If you tell me a story about your last date, and I post this:

static6.businessinsider.com

I've gotten my message across using nothing but an associational reference. That's all the Star Trek dude was doing: talking in his own planet's stupid-ass memes.
 
2014-06-20 12:06:15 PM  

gopher321: Didn't know "incommunicative" was a word. Shouldn't that be "uncommunicative"?


They're both words.
 
2014-06-20 12:11:15 PM  

Uzzah: I didn't bother to read that big ol' pile of words, but was the gist of it "we already do that"? Once a meme gets firmly enough implanted in consciousness, we don't need the context anymore to communicate its message. If I post this guy:

you already know what the meaning is and what I'm trying to say. If you tell me a story about your last date, and I post this:

I've gotten my message across using nothing but an associational reference. That's all the Star Trek dude was doing: talking in his own planet's stupid-ass memes.


That's what I was thinking. The language isn't metaphorical or allegorical. It's referential. It would be like having an entire conversation in memes or movie references, which internet denizens are pretty close to accomplishing.
 
2014-06-20 12:11:21 PM  
Remember, these are the great scientific minds who thought that androids can't learn to use contractions.
 
2014-06-20 12:16:30 PM  
PICARD: What manner of strange being is this?

DATA: It appears to be an alien species who communicate entirely through internet memes.

RIKER: Really?

ALIEN:
i1.kym-cdn.com
 
2014-06-20 12:16:37 PM  

bingethinker: Remember, these are the great scientific minds who thought that androids can't learn to use contractions.


(ugh, why do I know this)

Androids without emotion chips can't.  Lore and future Data both used them.
 
2014-06-20 12:18:58 PM  

FirstNationalBastard: Shaka, when the walls fell.


Bush, when the towers fell
 
2014-06-20 12:19:12 PM  
The Tamarian language was the spoken language of the Tamarians. The Tamarians spoke entirely by metaphor, referencing mythological and historical people and events from their culture. As a result, Federation universal translators - although they could successfully translate the individual words and sentence structure - were unable to convey the symbolic meaning they represented. Without prior knowledge of the Tamarians' history and legends, a word-by-word translation was of no use to someone attempting to communicate with them. This language barrier led to isolation of the Tamarian people after all attempts at communication had failed.

The Tamarian language is explored further in the short story "Friends with the Sparrows" from the TNG anthology The Sky's the Limit. In the story, it is explained that Tamarians have a fundamentally different brain structure to most humanoids, and as such experience concepts such as time and self differently.

The story explains that Tamarian children learn the stories behind the metaphors, and thus their meanings, through enactment and repetition. Variations of meaning in metaphors were conveyed through subtle vocal and gestural cues that the universal translator had previously missed. In fields such as engineering and programming, a musical language was used to convey precise equations, numbers and instructions; thus explaining how Tamarians could effectively operate starships.

http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Tamarian_language
 
2014-06-20 12:19:15 PM  

Uzzah: I didn't bother to read that big ol' pile of words, but was the gist of it "we already do that"? Once a meme gets firmly enough implanted in consciousness, we don't need the context anymore to communicate its message. If I post this guy:

[i646.photobucket.com image 212x150]

you already know what the meaning is and what I'm trying to say. If you tell me a story about your last date, and I post this:

[static6.businessinsider.com image 212x150]

I've gotten my message across using nothing but an associational reference. That's all the Star Trek dude was doing: talking in his own planet's stupid-ass memes.


That article had 5,054 words and a half dozen photos. You posted 98 words and two photos. I like yours much better.
 
2014-06-20 12:19:17 PM  

ikanreed: bingethinker: Remember, these are the great scientific minds who thought that androids can't learn to use contractions.

(ugh, why do I know this)

Androids without emotion chips can't.  Lore and future Data both used them.


Yeah, Data just needed a software upgrade to use contractions. Unfortunately, he left the factory before it was installed, and Dr. Soong had to eventually recall him to install the patch.
 
2014-06-20 12:20:57 PM  

Mugato: People think that episode is "deep" but it really made no sense. There's no reason for them to think the Enterprise crew would "get" their metaphors. Ans for them to even have those stories to reference in the first place, they would first have to have a "regular" language similar to ours that isn't just references.

/why is this an article?


It wasn't good because it was"deep", it's good because it was harder science fiction than ST's usual technobabble nonsense.  Positing the technology of universal translators, then thinking up conditions under which such a technology might fail even if it accomplished its function perfectly adequately, and using it to explore an interesting detail of how human society functions.  In many ways it was good because the premise was  simple.

That's some I, Robot level SciFiing, kind of a refreshing departure from the usual Buck Rogers / Sword and Sorcery But Lasers stuff they normally did.

// I think the episode's internet popular because the problem illustrated is a very real one both on the internet and in real linguistics because of the internet, people with a different set of stupid meme bullshiat might as well be speaking different languages sometimes, and conversing coherently even with your damned grandmother requires a much broader knowledge of pop culture than even two decades ago.
 
2014-06-20 12:21:44 PM  

Uzzah: I didn't bother to read that big ol' pile of words, but was the gist of it "we already do that"? Once a meme gets firmly enough implanted in consciousness, we don't need the context anymore to communicate its message. If I post this guy:

[i646.photobucket.com image 212x150]

you already know what the meaning is and what I'm trying to say. If you tell me a story about your last date, and I post this:

[static6.businessinsider.com image 212x150]

I've gotten my message across using nothing but an associational reference. That's all the Star Trek dude was doing: talking in his own planet's stupid-ass memes.


Exactly. I swear I've known people who can hold entire conversations using nothing but Simpsons, Seinfeld and Monty Python references.
 
2014-06-20 12:24:20 PM  

Dinobot: The Tamarian language was the spoken language of the Tamarians. The Tamarians spoke entirely by metaphor, referencing mythological and historical people and events from their culture. As a result, Federation universal translators - although they could successfully translate the individual words and sentence structure - were unable to convey the symbolic meaning they represented. Without prior knowledge of the Tamarians' history and legends, a word-by-word translation was of no use to someone attempting to communicate with them. This language barrier led to isolation of the Tamarian people after all attempts at communication had failed.

The Tamarian language is explored further in the short story "Friends with the Sparrows" from the TNG anthology The Sky's the Limit. In the story, it is explained that Tamarians have a fundamentally different brain structure to most humanoids, and as such experience concepts such as time and self differently.

The story explains that Tamarian children learn the stories behind the metaphors, and thus their meanings, through enactment and repetition. Variations of meaning in metaphors were conveyed through subtle vocal and gestural cues that the universal translator had previously missed. In fields such as engineering and programming, a musical language was used to convey precise equations, numbers and instructions; thus explaining how Tamarians could effectively operate starships.

http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Tamarian_language


The best part of any science fiction is that any plot contrivance will have some pedantic loser go out of their way to justify how it was possible, as if the impossibility (or at least improbability) isn't where the interesting questions arise.

Those people who go "Let's take a genre whose primary literary value is raising interesting hypothetical questions, and try to pretend it's realistic"
 
2014-06-20 12:24:29 PM  
THEY WERE COMMUICATING IN MEMES THE WHOLE TIME!
 
2014-06-20 12:25:22 PM  

blaXXer: THEY WERE COMMUICATING IN MEMES THE WHOLE TIME!


Yes, we're actually at the point where you could redub the whole episode with internet memes and it would still make sense.
 
2014-06-20 12:25:30 PM  

blaXXer: THEY WERE COMMUICATING IN MEMES THE WHOLE TIME!


Grumpy Cat and Ha Ha Guy at Tenagra.
 
2014-06-20 12:31:39 PM  
We look for things.
 
2014-06-20 12:32:30 PM  

bingethinker: Remember, these are the great scientific minds who thought that androids can't learn to use contractions.


An audience signifier does not constitute a technological forecast.  Following all of the linguistic rules in a way that errs on the side of grammatical correctness is a good quick symbolic representation of a personality that's excessively rule-oriented and unnecessarily precise, and it gives the audience a good way to track the character's emotional progress toward learning to spend a more appropriate amount of effort on things and adopt human mannerisms without having to make the entire place the Data show for seasons at a time of giving him entirely informed qualities.

This isn't a new thing, either.  Many shows give people regional accents in SciFi shows to indicate that they're from different places (and different real-life languages to signify different species), without actually predicting that Betelgeuse prime will be settled solely by people from New Jersey or whatever.  People in fantasy shows are often given a distinctive sentence structure or vocabulary simply so that the audience knows when they've been hit with possession or enchantment before they actual face/heel, without writing it out on the screen in big block letters or some shiat.

Acting is not simulation.

encrypted-tbn1.gstatic.com
 
2014-06-20 12:37:41 PM  

Jim_Callahan: bingethinker: Remember, these are the great scientific minds who thought that androids can't learn to use contractions.

An audience signifier does not constitute a technological forecast.  Following all of the linguistic rules in a way that errs on the side of grammatical correctness is a good quick symbolic representation of a personality that's excessively rule-oriented and unnecessarily precise, and it gives the audience a good way to track the character's emotional progress toward learning to spend a more appropriate amount of effort on things and adopt human mannerisms without having to make the entire place the Data show for seasons at a time of giving him entirely informed qualities.

This isn't a new thing, either.  Many shows give people regional accents in SciFi shows to indicate that they're from different places (and different real-life languages to signify different species), without actually predicting that Betelgeuse prime will be settled solely by people from New Jersey or whatever.  People in fantasy shows are often given a distinctive sentence structure or vocabulary simply so that the audience knows when they've been hit with possession or enchantment before they actual face/heel, without writing it out on the screen in big block letters or some shiat.

Acting is not simulation.

[encrypted-tbn1.gstatic.com image 135x90]


No, they really did have an actual in-universe bit about it.  Star Trek is kinda garbage, on the level.
 
2014-06-20 12:41:44 PM  
38.media.tumblr.com
 
2014-06-20 12:51:01 PM  
I thought it was the single best TNG episode.

It got back, for a moment, to the heart of Start Trek; "To explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations."

Paul Winfield created his most memorable Star Trek character ever.
 
2014-06-20 12:54:05 PM  
A man is sent to prison for the first time. At night, the lights in the cell block are turned off, and his cellmate goes over to the bars and yells, "Number twelve!" The whole cell block breaks out laughing. A few minutes later, somebody else in the cell block yells, "Number four!" Again, the whole cell bloock breaks out laughing.
The new guy asks his cellmate what's going on. "Well," says the older prisoner, "we've all been in this here prison for so long, we all know the same jokes. So we just yell out the number instead of saying the whole joke."
So the new guy walks up to the bars and yells, "Number six!" There was dead silence in the cell block. He asks the older prisoner, "What's wrong? Why didn't I get any laughs?"
"Well," said the older man, "sometimes it's not the joke, but how you tell it."
 
2014-06-20 01:14:29 PM  

Jim_Callahan: An audience signifier does not constitute a technological forecast.  Following all of the linguistic rules in a way that errs on the side of grammatical correctness is a good quick symbolic representation of a personality that's excessively rule-oriented and unnecessarily precise, and it gives the audience a good way to track the character's emotional progress toward learning to spend a more appropriate amount of effort on things and adopt human mannerisms without having to make the entire place the Data show for seasons at a time of giving him entirely informed qualities.


Nicholas Cage, his hair a bird.
 
2014-06-20 01:19:22 PM  
Was it necessary to take an episode of Star Trek and think it through to its fullest logical extent? No. But that sort of thing happens all the time, probably even by people complaining about such in this thread.

Haters, it's actually a good article.

\Jeff, when he got over it
 
2014-06-20 01:20:15 PM  
It`s a shame they only have, like, 6 things they ever say...

Must be annoying...
 
2014-06-20 01:20:45 PM  

To The Escape Zeppelin!: gopher321: Didn't know "incommunicative" was a word. Shouldn't that be "uncommunicative"?

They're both words.


Perfectly cromulent, when Krabapel smoked
 
2014-06-20 01:25:59 PM  

ikanreed: Star Trek is kinda garbage, on the level.


www.geekdebate.net

ikanreed: blaXXer: THEY WERE COMMUICATING IN MEMES THE WHOLE TIME!

Yes, we're actually at the point where you could redub the whole episode with internet memes and it would still make sense.


i64.photobucket.com
 
2014-06-20 01:28:04 PM  

ikanreed: bingethinker: Remember, these are the great scientific minds who thought that androids can't learn to use contractions.

(ugh, why do I know this)

Androids without emotion chips can't.  Lore and future Data both used them.


Luckily they were built with functioning penises, to avoid boldly going into the episode "I Have No Cock But I Must Cream"
 
2014-06-20 01:31:04 PM  

Fano: ikanreed: bingethinker: Remember, these are the great scientific minds who thought that androids can't learn to use contractions.

(ugh, why do I know this)

Androids without emotion chips can't.  Lore and future Data both used them.

Luckily they were built with functioning penises, to avoid boldly going into the episode "I Have No Cock But I Must Cream"


31.media.tumblr.com
 
2014-06-20 01:33:11 PM  
I always thought the episode was making fun of ST fans who talked like that to each other
 
2014-06-20 01:35:24 PM  
i1.kym-cdn.com
 
2014-06-20 01:43:55 PM  

NathanAllen: The message must have failed because most people are still blissfully unaware that Samson and David stories are poor rip-offs of Gilgamesh.

Great episode? No, but better than any of the sexual escapades of the counselor or either doctor.


Better than 90% of holodeck episodes in TNG and any Vic Fontaine episode in DS9.
 
2014-06-20 01:53:33 PM  

Uzzah: I didn't bother to read that big ol' pile of words, but was the gist of it "we already do that"? Once a meme gets firmly enough implanted in consciousness, we don't need the context anymore to communicate its message. If I post this guy:

you already know what the meaning is and what I'm trying to say. If you tell me a story about your last date, and I post this:

I've gotten my message across using nothing but an associational reference. That's all the Star Trek dude was doing: talking in his own planet's stupid-ass memes.


Yup. That's what's so great. It was so foreign to them but we do it every day and don't even realize it.
 
2014-06-20 01:56:01 PM  

dj_spanmaster: Was it necessary to take an episode of Star Trek and think it through to its fullest logical extent? No. But that sort of thing happens all the time, probably even by people complaining about such in this thread.

Haters, it's actually a good article.

\Jeff, when he got over it


This site dedicates itself to just that http://www.overthinkingit.com/
 
2014-06-20 01:59:33 PM  
It's an interesting hiccup in the universal translator.  It mirrors our own text translators which frequently hiccup when encountering an idiom.  Rather than getting the inherent meaning of the idiom, you generally get directly translated nonsense which has little to no meaning to the reader.
 
2014-06-20 02:04:06 PM  

dullspork: [38.media.tumblr.com image 500x436]


Came here for this, leaving satisfied.
 
2014-06-20 02:06:10 PM  

Twilight Farkle: Fano: ikanreed: bingethinker: Remember, these are the great scientific minds who thought that androids can't learn to use contractions.

(ugh, why do I know this)

Androids without emotion chips can't.  Lore and future Data both used them.

Luckily they were built with functioning penises, to avoid boldly going into the episode "I Have No Cock But I Must Cream"


Early TNG was basically softcore porn.
 
2014-06-20 02:09:04 PM  

Mytch: It's an interesting hiccup in the universal translator.  It mirrors our own text translators which frequently hiccup when encountering an idiom.  Rather than getting the inherent meaning of the idiom, you generally get directly translated nonsense which has little to no meaning to the reader.


It's a great place to start a conversation. I really liked the monster in the episode too.
 
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