This evening I had dinner with some old friends from my undergraduate days. At a mexican restaurant, I found myself seated between two old drinking buddies: Tojo (who I have known since high school) and Corco (with whom I both went to school and worked as a field engineer). Our banter was much as it was when we were twenty. The waiter--who spoke no English--probably would have assumed that we were having exactly the same conversations based on the tone and tenor. The content, however, was considerably different. Instead of discussing a recent television program or rehashing the debauchery of the previous weekend, Tojo and Corco discussed the benefits of amniocentesis and the limitations of federal maternity leave policy. With the same tone of voice and aplomb once used to describe the shortcomings of pizza, Corco (a recent father) stated:
"Childbirth classes suck. Avoid them at all costs. You'll learn that breast feeding is better than bottles, and that a Doula knows more than an OB-Gyn... You can learn that from the pictures in What to Expect What You're Expecting!"
Tojo (a recent father-to-be) replied: "That's what I figured, man. What's the deal with the Diaper Genie anyways?"
I realized that somehow we had all become adults without realizing it. And it wasn't the wedding ceremonies, careers, or mortgages that had done it. Instead, it was the love for our children--both born and unborn--that had somehow caused a paradigm shift in what we talked about. The outward appearance of our communication rituals, however, had changed very little. The expressions, glances, and exchanges depended on the intertextuality from years of conversations, arguments, late night study sessions, and parties. The difference, however, was still present... and largely unexplainable.
After a good deal of time thinking about communciation and how people use information, I'm at a loss for explaining the ways that Tojo and Corco had changed. Perhaps this is the way it should be. As demonstrated by other sciences, no amount of Information Science can explain the magic of children.