Thoughts on the Effects that Media and the Internet have on today’s Culture

 

Gray Matter of the Modern Brain overloaded on technology

Gray Matter of the Modern Brain overloaded on technology

Media and Culture class has been an educational exercise in grasping the synergy of history, technology and culture with the resulting effects on society. The great expansion of man’s progress, from sitting around a fire telling stories to the computer age, is cataloged somewhere on the World Wide Web.  The computing cloud of information is available to an increasing number of people. The task is to find meaning in the sharing of that knowledge.

  1. William Sikes, the author of “Technology: Taking Over the World and Our Lives,” cites a study indicating Americans spend over nine hours watching television, using the Internet, and depending on cell phones daily. He posits or contends this dependence on technology diminishes social skills, adversely affects education, and creates a lazy society. Based on research, determine if this argument has merit.

 

Since submitting the final project hypothesis that the above statement  has merit, two books, numerous  articles and all assigned chapters in the text have been read and considered. The answer is complicated and part of a new age culture. The argument has merit; however, the new technologies have benefits as well as drawbacks. The answer is somewhere in a growing computing cloud of information somehow connected on a World Wide Web, and its meaning is as different and varied as the users who view the content. “Our thoughts are powerful creative forces floating in the ether ready to accomplish their purpose when they are concentrated and consciously directed.” PY[1]

Daniel G. Amen, M.D., posits in his latest book, Magnificent Mind at Any Age, that excessive use of; TV, video games, computers, e-mails, the Internet, instant messaging and cell phones, is bad for our brains. Learning  is adversely affected in the development stage, “For every hour a day that babies eight to sixteen months old were shown educational videos they knew six to eight fewer words than other children,” according to Amen, citing a report in the Journal of Pediatrics (Journal of Pediatrics 151(4):384-368). He goes on to note that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no TV at all for children younger than twenty-four months. Infants and toddlers learn language socially from interaction with other human beings, and in experiencing the real world around them. In another study, the chance of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children is increased ten percent for every hour a day of TV watching (Pediatrics 113(4):708-713). Factors in brain illness including strokes and Alzheimer’s disease can be linked to the higher body mass indices, lack of physical fitness, cigarette smoking and increased cholesterol found in TV watching for 1000 children born in 1972-1973 in New Zealand and followed to age 26 (Lancet 364(9430:257-262). Brain health and learning appear to be affected adversely by excessive TV use. The Office of the Surgeon General suggests limiting TV and other screen time to less than two hours per day (http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/obesityprevention/pledges/parents.html).

Doctor Amen has found thru brain imaging that video games use the basal ganglia area of the brain. This area is one of the pleasure centers of the brain and excessive use of these games can hook people similar to drug dependence. Social interaction is affected when excessive time is spent using video games. School work, job performance and interaction with others diminished (Amen, 2008 pg. 36).  Studies from the University of Missouri found a connection to aggression and violent real-life situation video games. Delinquency increased and academic performance decreased with increased game use. An increase in violent thoughts and behavior was also found along with a decrease in helping behavior. None of this helps education, social interaction, or brain health (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 78(4):772-790, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 2005 Nov 31).

Excessive use of computers, Internet, instant messaging, and cell phones can become addictive and have an adverse effect on social interaction, communication  and connection. Productivity at work and family interaction can be adversely affected by use of modern mass media technology. Time spent using technological connections take away from face to face communication. According to Amen (2008), “drowsiness, tiredness and an increasing inability to focus reached startling levels,” and “research subjects’ minds were all over the place as they faced new questions and challenges” with each new e-mail.  In studies at King’s College, London University, average IQ loss was 10 points in people who felt a need to reply to each e-mail with resulting constant changes of direction and focus.

Answering cell phones or text messages in the middle of having a face to face conversation can hurt relationships. The person present is taking the time to connect and it is disrespectful to put them off to answer an unknown and less personal technical connection. The hierarchy of focused commitment in communication starts with face to face. Focused commitment decreases and is less focused with the use of voice, e-mail and text messaging. In synchronous communication language can be enhanced by inflection, body language, facial expressions and the sensing of emotion. Asynchronous communication as in e-mail and texting is convenient because both sender and receiver do not have to be present at the same time, however, it is impersonal and emotion cannot be conveyed (Snyder, Lawrence. 2008). Other drawbacks with Internet, e-mail, and texting include uncertainty in emphasis, loss of conversational pace, and an increase in ambiguity. Emoticons are insufficient in conveying emotion,JL they are cute but do not indicate how happy and sad, or why the emotion is felt. Blogging (web logs) is an innovation of Internet use which connects people in on-line discussions over subjects of common interest. Information is shared but the quality does not always match the quantity. Some bloggers post well thought out and researched opinions, sometimes with Web addresses for checking. Others post impulsively, without thought or backup information. Learning in this kind of Internet environment is possible but never guaranteed. The positive is in the sharing of language and posts, with the only cost being the time you invest. The blogs are democratic and open to opinions from anyone who logs on and participates. Negatives are found in a stunted conversational pace and ambiguity of message.

Positives involved in Information Society Technology are that computers and Internet access with a broadband connection make available massive amounts of information to search, review, and share. Internet access is available and used by an increasingly large population of individuals, groups, governments, organizations and businesses. The connections have the potential to close distance in seeking communication with people of all nations, races, religions and political bent. The Denver Public Library (DPL) is Tapping Into Media in recognition of how libraries need to compete for attention with advances in technology use. Embracing mass media helps to broaden a libraries appeal. Podcasts are created by teens at the Boulder Public Library which provide news, reviews, and interviews. The Public library of Charlotte, NC, has videos produced by teens and a dedicated YouTube channel. Libraries are tapping into the great expanse of audio and video on the Web to reach out to computer and internet users. DPL has a children’s story podcasting service. The library is branching out to include YouTube, Facebook and Myspace pages. Expanding to the Web and adding Audio/Visual content reaches out to computer and Internet users and draws them into the resources a library offers. Libraries physical hours are limited; however, the Internet is open 24/7 creating a time shifting of programming which can be accessed at the convenience of the user (Library Journal, v133, n15 p22-25 Sep 2008).

Nicholas Carr’s book, The Big Switch, provides an apt and amazing review of how mankind developed and adapted new technologies, and how those technological advances affect modern culture. A big switch is occurring with print and audio visual media moving to digital form. Carr mentions Yale professor Yochai Benkler’s book, The Wealth of Nations. Benkler cites three technological advances which make the big switch possible. 1) The physical machinery is available in advanced economies. 2) The raw materials are public goods including existing information, knowledge and culture. 3) the Internet provides the platform to use the goods. These advances allow individual access to the goods in order to improvise, collaborate and create (Carr 2008 p 140). A benefit of Internet technology can be found in what businesses call “crowdsourcing,” the practice of the masses producing without ownership of the products they create through collaboration. Crowdsourcing is a mixed benefit as knowledge is gained and shared, but jobs are lost and the wealth gap grows wider (Carr p 142). The newspaper and publishing industries are struggling to adapt and shift to Internet versions of their products. Many jobs are lost to the information available on the Web. The Web also spies on individuals, using cookies to track sites visited and products reviewed and purchased. The search engine Google uses algorithms to reach deeper as the store of data increases. Privacy loss is an adverse effect of Internet use. Information available in the World Wide Web is obtained easily; however, the data has no guarantee of being correct or authentic. Playwright Richard Foreman discusses the old ideal of a “highly educated and articulate personality—a man or woman who carried inside themselves a personally constructed and unique version of the entire heritage of the west,” which he fears is being lost to current technologies. He feels that the complex inner density is lost to an overload of information, instantly available. Foreman fears we are turning into “pancake people—spread wide and thin as we connect with that vast network of information….” (Carr p 226-7)

“Sherlock Holmes, the hero of Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels, often amazed his loyal friend Dr. Watson by drawing a correct conclusion from an array of seemingly disparate and unconnected facts and observations. The method of reasoning used by Sherlock Holmes is abduction” (Patokorpi, 2007). Information Technology must be used carefully as we look for clues on the Web by following links just as Sherlock Holmes uses clues. Paths are made by focused searches recorded with technological tracking such as bookmarks, RSS feeds, and the drop down history list. Information detectives need to find information and meaning in that information by forming a feedback loop. The data must be found in replication by following other links to other sources and clues. Forward or back, facts need to be checked for accuracy to find truth in the search. The answer to the question, does Computer/Internet use make us lazy, can be found in this discussion. Information is found easily with the push of a start button and aimlessly following links. Good information requires detective skills and work, in a constant feedback loop of checking and revising (Patokorpi, 2007).

The effects of Information Technology on the family are both positive and negative.  Families of old sat near the fireplace, single radio, or TV sharing time together.  Today’s families spend less time together but stay connected with technology. A summary, from a recent study of 2,252 families conducted Dec. 13, 2007-Jan. 13, 2008, covers the subject well.  1) Technology enables connectedness with cell phone, texting and internet experiences.  2) Families are less likely to share meals and have less leisure time. 3) Cell phone allows parents to touch base and coordinate. 4) Internet use can have shared “Wow” moments. 5) Those surveyed include a majority who believe their family life is as close as when they grew up. 6) The new tools help people stay connected with friends and family, however, technology use blurs the line between work and home with Internet, cell phone, blackberry and texting taking work home and taking time from family. 7) TV use has decreased as Internet use increases. 8) People have less time for relaxing (Kennedy, Wells, & Wellman, 2008).

Information Technology allows all connected to play but few will reap monetary rewards. Connection can be found with communication distance instant over miles. Physical space is increased with face to face connections decreased. Excessive use of technology can have adverse effects on brain health, social connection, family time, and loss of jobs. Knowledge is available but must be carefully researched and used. Privacy must be guarded. Connection is maintained with cell phone, texting, blackberry, computer and Internet use. Nuance in sharing, and emoting face to face lessens. Democracy may expand or government may seek control. There are more questions in flux than fully answered. The technology is relatively new and expanding. The written word remains important because the new data storage requires electricity, a big switch which could take the advances back to old ways.  The talented visionaries of our past have developed concepts and ideas while staying warm with others around a fire. The written word recorded and spread that knowledge to others. Today a crossroads, a cusp has been reached. Good or bad, change is here, man and society will adapt in a giant feedback loop started by firing up the computer and sharing separately around the monitors.

Bibliography

Carr, N. (2008). The Big Switch, Rewiring The World, From Edison to Google. New York, NY, USA: W.W.    Norton & Company, Inc.

Daniel G. Amen, M. (2008). Magnificent Mind At Any Age. New York, NY, USA: Harmony Books, Crown Publishing Group, Random House, Inc.

General, O. o. (2008). Parents and Caregivers Checklist. http://surgeongeneral.gov/obesityprevention/pledges/parents.html . Washington D.C., USA: US Department of Health & Human Services.

Jeske, M. (2008, Sep.). Tapping into Media. Library Journal, v133 n15 p22-25 . USA: 2008 Library Journal, Reed Business Information, Reed Elsevier, Inc.

Patokorpi, E. (2007). Logic of Sherlock Holmes in Technology Enhanced Learning. Educational Technology and Society, v10 n1 p171-185 . IAMSR, Åbo Akademi University, Joukahaisgatan 3-5A, 20520 Åbo, , Finland: Educational Technology & Society Peer Reviewed Journal.

Pothier, K. (2008, Oct 9). Is Clicking Around Making Us Stupid? What does information technology do to our brains? NH, USA: Pothier, Term Paper IT 100.

Pothier, K. (2008, Oct 2). Language and Information Technology. NH, USA: Kenneth Pothier, Term Paper, ENG 350.

Richard Campbell, C. R. (2008). Media & Culture an introduction to mass communication. Boston, New York, USA: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

Snyder, L. (2007). Fluency with Information Technlogy. Boston, San Francisco, New York, USA: Addison Wesley.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Inner Reflections 2009 Engagement Calendar-Selections from the writings of Paramahansa Yogananda

Communications 126–Media and Culture

English: A child not paying attention in class.

English: A child not paying attention in class. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

World wide web

World wide web (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Communications 126-Media and Culture class has been an educational exercise in grasping the synergy of history, technology and culture with the resulting effects on society. The great expansion of man’s progress, from sitting around a fire telling stories to the computer age, is cataloged somewhere on the World Wide Web.  The computing cloud of information is available to an increasing number of people. The task is to find meaning in the sharing of that knowledge.

  1. William Sikes, the      author of “Technology: Taking Over the World and Our Lives,” cites a study      indicating Americans spend over nine hours watching television, using the      Internet, and depending on cell phones daily.  He posits or contends this dependence on      technology diminishes social skills, adversely affects education, and      creates a lazy society.  Based on      research, determine if this argument has merit.

Since submitting the final project hypothesis that the above statement  has merit, two books, numerous  articles and all assigned chapters in the text have been read and considered. The answer is complicated and part of a new age culture. The argument has merit; however, the new technologies have benefits as well as drawbacks. The answer is somewhere in a growing computing cloud of information somehow connected on a World Wide Web, and its meaning is as different and varied as the users who view the content. “Our thoughts are powerful creative forces floating in the ether ready to accomplish their purpose when they are concentrated and consciously directed.” PY[1]

Daniel G. Amen, M.D., posits in his latest book, Magnificent Mind at Any Age, that excessive use of; TV, video games, computers, e-mails, the Internet, instant messaging and cell phones, is bad for our brains. Learning  is adversely affected in the development stage, “For every hour a day that babies eight to sixteen months old were shown educational videos they knew six to eight fewer words than other children,” according to Amen, citing a report in the Journal of Pediatrics (Journal of Pediatrics 151(4):384-368). He goes on to note that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no TV at all for children younger than twenty-four months. Infants and toddlers learn language socially from interaction with other human beings, and in experiencing the real world around them. In another study, the chance of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children is increased ten percent for every hour a day of TV watching (Pediatrics 113(4):708-713). Factors in brain illness including strokes and Alzheimer’s disease can be linked to the higher body mass indices, lack of physical fitness, cigarette smoking and increased cholesterol found in TV watching for 1000 children born in 1972-1973 in New Zealand and followed to age 26 (Lancet 364(9430:257-262). Brain health and learning appear to be affected adversely by excessive TV use. The Office of the Surgeon General suggests limiting TV and other screen time to less than two hours per day (http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/obesityprevention/pledges/parents.html).

Doctor Amen has found thru brain imaging that video games use the basal ganglia area of the brain. This area is one of the pleasure centers of the brain and excessive use of these games can hook people similar to drug dependence. Social interaction is affected when excessive time is spent using video games. School work, job performance and interaction with others diminished (Amen, 2008 pg. 36).  Studies from the University of Missouri found a connection to aggression and violent real-life situation video games. Delinquency increased and academic performance decreased with increased game use. An increase in violent thoughts and behavior was also found along with a decrease in helping behavior. None of this helps education, social interaction, or brain health (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 78(4):772-790, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 2005 Nov 31).

Excessive use of computers, Internet, instant messaging, and cell phones can become addictive and have an adverse affect on social interaction, communication  and connection. Productivity at work and family interaction can be adversely affected by use of modern mass media technology. Time spent using technological connections take away from face to face communication. According to Amen (2008), “drowsiness, tiredness and an increasing inability to focus reached startling levels,” and “research subjects’ minds were all over the place as they faced new questions and challenges” with each new e-mail.  In studies at King’s College, London University, average IQ loss was 10 points in people who felt a need to reply to each e-mail with resulting constant changes of direction and focus.

Answering cell phones or text messages in the middle of having a face to face conversation can hurt relationships. The person present is taking the time to connect and it is disrespectful to put them off to answer an unknown and less personal technical connection. The hierarchy of focused commitment in communication starts with face to face. Focused commitment decreases and is less focused with the use of voice, e-mail and text messaging. In synchronous communication language can be enhanced by inflection, body language, facial expressions and the sensing of emotion. Asynchronous communication as in e-mail and texting is convenient because both sender and receiver do not have to be present at the same time, however, it is impersonal and emotion cannot be conveyed (Snyder, Lawrence. 2008). Other drawbacks with Internet, e-mail, and texting include uncertainty in emphasis, loss of conversational pace, and an increase in ambiguity. Emoticons are insufficient in conveying emotion,JL they are cute but do not indicate how happy and sad, or why the emotion is felt. Blogging (web logs) is an innovation of Internet use which connects people in on-line discussions over subjects of common interest. Information is shared but the quality does not always match the quantity. Some bloggers post well thought out and researched opinions, sometimes with Web addresses for checking. Others post impulsively, without thought or backup information. Learning in this kind of Internet environment is possible but never guaranteed. The positive is in the sharing of language and posts, with the only cost being the time you invest. The blogs are democratic and open to opinions from anyone who logs on and participates. Negatives are found in a stunted conversational pace and ambiguity of message.

Positives involved in Information Society Technology are that computers and Internet access with a broadband connection make available massive amounts of information to search, review, and share. Internet access is available and used by an increasingly large population of individuals, groups, governments, organizations and businesses. The connections have the potential to close distance in seeking communication with people of all nations, races, religions and political bent. The Denver Public Library (DPL) is Tapping Into Media in recognition of how libraries need to compete for attention with advances in technology use. Embracing mass media helps to broaden a libraries appeal. Podcasts are created by teens at the Boulder Public Library which provide news, reviews, and interviews. The Public library of Charlotte, NC, has videos produced by teens and a dedicated YouTube channel. Libraries are tapping into the great expanse of audio and video on the Web to reach out to computer and internet users. DPL has a children’s story podcasting service. The library is branching out to include YouTube, Facebook and MySpace pages. Expanding to the Web and adding Audio/Visual content reaches out to computer and Internet users and draws them into the resources a library offers. Libraries physical hours are limited; however, the Internet is open 24/7 creating a time shifting of programming which can be accessed at the convenience of the user (Library Journal, v133, n15 p22-25 Sep 2008).

Nicholas Carr’s book, The Big Switch, provides an apt and amazing review of how mankind developed and adapted new technologies, and how those technological advances affect modern culture. A big switch is occurring with print and audio visual media moving to digital form. Carr mentions Yale professor Yochai Benkler’s book, The Wealth of Nations. Benkler cites three technological advances which make the big switch possible. 1) The physical machinery is available in advanced economies. 2) The raw materials are public goods including existing information, knowledge and culture. 3) the Internet provides the platform to use the goods. These advances allow individual access to the goods in order to improvise, collaborate and create (Carr 2008 p 140). A benefit of Internet technology can be found in what businesses call “crowdsourcing,” the practice of the masses producing without ownership of the products they create through collaboration. Crowdsourcing is a mixed benefit as knowledge is gained and shared, but jobs are lost and the wealth gap grows wider (Carr p 142). The newspaper and publishing industries are struggling to adapt and shift to Internet versions of their products. Many jobs are lost to the information available on the Web. The Web also spies on individuals, using cookies to track sites visited and products reviewed and purchased. The search engine Google uses algorithms to reach deeper as the store of data increases. Privacy loss is an adverse effect of Internet use. Information available in the World Wide Web is obtained easily; however, the data has no guarantee of being correct or authentic. Playwright Richard Foreman discusses the old ideal of a “highly educated and articulate personality—a man or woman who carried inside themselves a personally constructed and unique version of the entire heritage of the west,” which he fears is being lost to current technologies. He feels that the complex inner density is lost to an overload of information, instantly available. Foreman fears we are turning into “pancake people—spread wide and thin as we connect with that vast network of information….” (Carr p 226-7)

“Sherlock Holmes, the hero of Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels, often amazed his loyal friend Dr. Watson by drawing a correct conclusion from an array of seemingly disparate and unconnected facts and observations. The method of reasoning used by Sherlock Holmes is abduction” (Patokorpi, 2007). Information Technology must be used carefully as we look for clues on the Web by following links just as Sherlock Holmes uses clues. Paths are made by focused searches recorded with technological tracking such as bookmarks, RSS feeds, and the drop down history list. Information detectives need to find information and meaning in that information by forming a feedback loop. The data must be found in replication by following other links to other sources and clues. Forward or back, facts need to be checked for accuracy to find truth in the search. The answer to the question, does Computer/Internet use make us lazy, can be found in this discussion. Information is found easily with the push of a start button and aimlessly following links. Good information requires detective skills and work, in a constant feedback loop of checking and revising (Patokorpi, 2007).

The effects of Information Technology on the family are both positive and negative.  Families of old sat near the fireplace, single radio, or TV sharing time together.  Today’s families spend less time together but stay connected with technology. A summary, from a recent study of 2,252 families conducted Dec. 13, 2007-Jan. 13, 2008, covers the subject well.  1) Technology enables connectedness with cell phone, texting and internet experiences.  2) Families are less likely to share meals and have less leisure time. 3) Cell phone allows parents to touch base and coordinate. 4) Internet use can have shared “Wow” moments. 5) Those surveyed include a majority who believe their family life is as close as when they grew up. 6) The new tools help people stay connected with friends and family, however, technology use blurs the line between work and home with Internet, cell phone, blackberry and texting taking work home and taking time from family. 7) TV use has decreased as Internet use increases. 8) People have less time for relaxing (Kennedy, Wells, & Wellman, 2008).

Information Technology allows all connected to play but few will reap monetary rewards. Connection can be found with communication distance instant over miles. Physical space is increased with face to face connections decreased. Excessive use of technology can have adverse effects on brain health, social connection, family time, and loss of jobs. Knowledge is available but must be carefully researched and used. Privacy must be guarded. Connection is maintained with cell phone, texting, blackberry, computer and Internet use. Nuance in sharing, and emoting face to face lessens. Democracy may expand or government may seek control. There are more questions in flux than fully answered. The technology is relatively new and expanding. The written word remains important because the new data storage requires electricity, a big switch which could take the advances back to old ways.  The talented visionaries of our past have developed concepts and ideas while staying warm with others around a fire. The written word recorded and spread that knowledge to others. Today a crossroads, a cusp has been reached. Good or bad, change is here, man and society will adapt in a giant feedback loop started by firing up the computer and sharing separately around the monitors.

Bibliography

Carr, N. (2008). The Big Switch, Rewiring The World,   From Edison to Google. New York, NY, USA: W.W.    Norton & Company, Inc.

Daniel G. Amen, M.   (2008). Magnificent Mind At Any Age. New York, NY, USA: Harmony Books, Crown   Publishing Group, Random House, Inc.

General, O. o.   (2008). Parents and Caregivers Checklist. http://surgeongeneral.gov/obesityprevention/pledges/parents.html   . Washington D.C., USA: US Department of Health & Human Services.

Jeske, M. (2008,   Sep.). Tapping into Media. Library Journal, v133 n15 p22-25 . USA:   2008 Library Journal, Reed Business Information, Reed Elsevier, Inc.

Patokorpi, E. (2007).   Logic of Sherlock Holmes in Technology Enhanced Learning. Educational   Technology and Society, v10 n1 p171-185 . IAMSR, Åbo Akademi University,   Joukahaisgatan 3-5A, 20520 Åbo, , Finland: Educational Technology &   Society Peer Reviewed Journal.

Pothier, K. (2008,   Oct 9). Is Clicking Around Making Us Stupid? What does information   technology do to our brains? NH, USA: Pothier, Term Paper IT 100.

Pothier, K. (2008,   Oct 2). Language and Information Technology. NH, USA: Kenneth Pothier, Term   Paper, ENG 350.

Richard Campbell, C.   R. (2008). Media & Culture an introduction to mass communication. Boston,   New York, USA: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

Snyder, L. (2007).   Fluency with Information Technlogy. Boston, San Francisco, New York, USA:   Addison Wesley.


[1] Inner Reflections 2009 Engagement Calendar-Selections from the writings of Paramahansa Yogananda

Dystopia concerning the internet and changes in the way we think and seek truth in a cloud

Dystopia concerning the internet and changes in the way we think and seek truth in a cloud.

Information Technology and Its Effects on Society -A Term Paper Primer

Critical Thinking is a required course for all freshmen at Southern New Hampshire University. The concept is to think large, ‘outside the box’ as it is so often said today. We must do this with a good base knowledge while working on a degree from inside the box (SNHU.) We are to look at the big picture with a critical eye in a search for truth thru knowledge. The Information Technology often used is a small computer-screen window presenting a visual adaptation of an ever-changing world of how we seek, find, research and use a world wide net of information. I say information and not knowledge because it is our critical eye that must discern truth from prevarication. Information used properly and for the greater good brings us closer to altruism. Spun, twisted, out of context, cropped, perverted, debased, prevaricated use of information corrupts language burying us in dysfunction and disconnect from reality. With a critical eye looking thru experience and in a search for knowledge as a novice in IT, I will use my voice word-processing a visual image with keyboard while manipulating a mouse (today with or without a tail) I may decide to place this picture in words outside the window. How in the World Wide Web will it be found, who will find it? Will they decide to read it, contemplate it with critical thinking and find their truth in it or as so often in this world wide glut of information will they just scan it through bloodshot eyes gaining nothing, in a less than superficial human connection!

This week in class Mike used a computer, jpg images, a power-point display and a critical eye in using research to present a very powerful picture in palpable words pointing to the demise of Flint, Michigan, his families hometown, destroyed in their abandonment by General Motors. This was IT used in a fine blend of technology and the human touch. It was a brave and touching presentation. The questions are many but the use of IT is changing the way society connects and it must be changing the way we think.

On cable this morning there was a feature on how people use information. The .com in question is in a constant quest to fine tune what you need to know into about 10 quick to read while visually enticing content. Even the shortened 10 are cut down to an introduction so you can decide to read them or not. It is like going thru the checkout line at the market with the cover pages your choices, scan, choose, read or just look at the pictures.

The idea for this term paper in part comes from thinking about the Language Textbook from my ENG-350 class (Edited by Clark V, 2008) and seeing the cover page of the July/August Atlantic Magazine-the ideas issue. The article is entitled; Is Google Making Us Stupid? The author Nicholas Carr’s most recent book, The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google, expounds on how information technology could be changing the way we think. An excerpt from the book, Part 2: Living in the Cloud-Ch. 2-A Spiders Web-follows; “Most of the major advances in computing and networking, from the invention of the punch-card tabulator in the 1880s to the present, have been spurred not by a desire to liberate the masses but by a need for greater control on the part of commercial and governmental bureaucrats, often ones associated with military operations and national defense. Indeed, the very structure of a bureaucracy is reflected in the functions of a computer. A computer gathers information through its input devices, records information as files in its memory, imposes formal rules and procedures on its users through its programs, and communicates information through its output devices. It is a tool for dispensing instructions, for gathering feedback on how well those instructions are carried out, and for measuring progress toward some specified goal. In using a computer, a person becomes part of the control mechanism.” He turns into a component of what the Internet pioneer J. C. R. Licklider, in his seminal 1960 paper Man-Computer Symbiosis, described as a system integrating man and machine into a single, programmable unit. “

The quote has serious implications and is worthy of discussion and study. Surly we are not under the control of our computers. However, when we purchase and set up a computer we must also purchase spyware and virus protection. This software catches cookies that spy and illnesses that corrupt our machines. Yes, we make the choices of what to select, open, scan, read, copy and print, but how much are we being led in those directions by the seductive presentations before us on ‘the window.’ Nicholas Carr does a great job setting the stage for this discussion. He mentions how writing, the printing press, and the typewriter all came into question when developed or invented. These advances in how we use language and technology and record and distribute it were nothing in comparison to the flood of information available today. From the Atlantic article Nicholas Carr talks about Frederick Winslow Taylor’s 1911 treatise, The Principles of Scientific Management. Taylor’s theory was to use Algorithm to create a set of instructions for how each worker should do a job/task. Carr says, “Taylor’s ethic is beginning to govern the realm of the mind as well….intent on finding the “one best method” -the perfect algorithm-to carry out every mental movement of what we’ve come to describe as “knowledge work.”

Nicholas Carr is concerned that he is losing the ability to focus and concentrate the way he used to when reading and contemplating a book. He feels that years of computer and internet use make him want to jump around tangent to tangent sometimes losing where he intended to go, forgetting his initial goal. I believe that to an extent this does happen. I have found that from personal experience that if I read first, surround myself with books and magazines, read and think about the connections that I do somehow retain enough to put those connections together in a readable form. When asked to do a paper the only problem is cropping the data down to size and making it readable for others. I tend to feel OK about what has been written but the question remains. Will it be read and understood by others whose rewired thinking has also been altered by today’s Information Technology? D.Q. infinity!

Carr, N. (2008, July/August). Is Google Making Us Stupid? What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains. Atlantic , pp. 56-63.

Carr, N. (2008). The Big Switch; Rewiring the World, From Edison to Google. N.Y.,N.Y.: W.W. Norton @Company, Inc.

Edited by Clark V, E. P. (2008). Language-Introductory Readings. Boston-New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s.