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Texting in Class

Texting in class usually gets kids in trouble. But some writing instructors, intrigued by the popularity of cell-phone novels in Japan, are considering phone composition as a way to get students interested in literature.

"Some critics argue that mobile phone novels are not literature," says Yukiko Nishimura, a linguist and professor of humanities at Toyo Gakuen University in Japan. "I think they are -- it's a new genre."

Nishimura has shown that Japanese cell-phone novels and popular print novels are similar in the sophistication of language that they employ. She found that cell-phone novels are written at a sixth- to eighth-grade level, while print novels are written at a fifth- to ninth-grade reading level.

Nishimura will present her research during a 4:30-5:35 p.m. session on Friday, June 19, in room 6 of Wellman Hall at UC Davis. Her talk is part of Computers & Writing 2009, a four-day conference sponsored by the University Writing Program at UC Davis. Some 250 writing researchers and instructors from around the world have registered to attend the meeting.

Cell-phone novelists compose with their thumbs on their iPhones or Nokias, then upload their words to a Web site. Readers download the stories in short installments and read them on their phone screens. The phenomenon started almost a decade ago in Japan, where cell-phone stories, called keitai shousetsu, have been converted to best-selling novels and blockbuster movies. The trend has since spread to other Asian countries and is beginning to emerge in the United States.

A complete schedule of presentations at Computers & Writing 2009 is available at

Claudia Morain | EurekAlert!
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