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Friday, December 7, 2012

How we think and communicate

Communication, as we know it, is changing forever. The change is impacting who we are, our values and morals, our ways of conceiving throughts and invention, our politics, our depth of knowledge and our perception of ourselves. 
We are changing as a society, in ways that are less or more productive, depending on your perception. Speed and multi-tasking have taken the place of reason and contemplation. In depth knowledge is being replaced with the knowledge of how to find specifics quickly.

Google has done a study of how we think, and in doing so has discovered in many ways they are contributing to a change that even Google executives find disturbing. We no longer read in-depth, but scan and follow linear based links, skipping over the details favoring mostly the fast journalistic pyramid leads, or whatever catches our eye. We scan quickly, tracked in lab experiments, following a rapid pattern rather than reading slowly left to right in regular movements. Our retention is down on facts, but up on slogans, catch phrases and images, often with little context or details.

At the same time the net is capturing us into an age where we will access to more information than ever before, able to research, seek out our own identities and leave our personal marks as never before in human history. The Internet reflects a shift to the “me” generation over the “us,” the “my” over “our” and the small tight knit group over the broader “us”.

This has impacted politics, perhaps explaining the current deadlock in Congress and the world of hateful signage and “booing” over civility in discourse and the compromise needed to govern.

Google studies found that current readers want information quickly, in a short digest form and as current and relevant to them as possible. There is a loss of geographic identity in favor or interests group, profession, church, political belief or other “on-line” identities.

As for the future of books, newspapers and magazines, that will depend on how they can adapt to what consumers want. 
Long in depth information sources, generally requireing a written literacy, vocabulary capable of concpeptualization and  a non-linear way of attacking isuses and thoughts, may be on the decline, replaced by a wide range of rapidly available information sources well beyond what could have been conceived of ten years ago much less when most education theory was conceived.

Images, sounds, slogans, generalities and fast reads are replacing immersion and patient reviw of the world around us.

Google’s study warns that there needs to be a real effort to avoid the pure commercial model or those who are higher educated or elite will become the only fully informed class with the ability to read “long form” and consider issues “in depth”.  There needs to be an effort in homes and schools to reinforce longer form information and in general reading over scanning and graphic interface.

Google is part of a major corporate support structure for education and to encourage students of all ages to read more than the headlines or key points they may find on their cell phone internet scanners.
Newspapers readers would pick up stories they may not have been looking for as they scan or they complete the continuation of the story that started them reading. The general liberal arts interests of society that helped stitch diverse concepts and interests together depends on this sort of experimentation and exploration. Great libraries are being scanned into computers and stacks run by robots, rather than allowing potential readers to page through dusty book racks and in doing so discover the books several books, rows or sections over. We are entering an age of controled searches instead of meandering adventures that led to new discoveries and connections that we may not have considered had we approached life in a linear fashion.
What is being lost in this process? What is being gained by the rapid access to information directly sought? What are we losing was we turn to a joy stick, keyboard, mobile divice, video and audio constant stimulus life over one of isolation as we emersed ourself in our reading or studies?

This is a new field, with no conclusions, only observations, opinions and the tracking of our blind move forward into our computer generated future.

Let's hope it is one that brings progress, understanding and faith.

So far, slogans, hate, linear thinking and polatization seem to be the short term impact of our new literacy and our new society.

-Art Lynch

First posted 4/2/10

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree. I too have heard that the new generations of Americans are becoming dumber. We all have smart phones, tablets, computers, and smart TVs. These technologies young children are growing up using and learning from. They will not know of a life any other way. It is no longer important for them to retain information when it is so easy to look up. It is scary how our society has changed, but it will continue to change and hopefully we become more intelligent.