Sad, isn't it?

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"The whole prefession represents a lot of pain to me...I don't want to see any of these books again"

WM Birkerts

This mentality is sad, but also holds some truth. The past is quickly fading. We've gone from Beta to VHS to DVD to Blu-Ray.We depend so much on electronica: who has experienced the pain and fear of losing a jump drive? Books are simply becoming snother thing that slows us down. Many people would rather read a wikipedia entry than a book, but why? wikipedia is instant information. People don't have to wait chapters and chapters to find out the big secret. The yahoo news feed has replaced the newspaper. why read the whole story when you can have the highlights in less than 5 seconds? Reading on the internet is not the same as reading an article from the paper. Surrounding the e-article are flashing ads, pop-ups, and mini-feeds that further distract the reader; they only half take-in what was on the page. We mentioned the electronic book in class today. I bet there is a function to search for words on that gadget. This electronic age we live in has brain-washed many; they only care about how fast they can get the information. Why would a student bother reading the entire book when he can just seacrh for the main point.

Birkerts argues that the shift from print to electronic will also affect how we communicate; and it has. During the summer, away from school, how often do you talk to your friends? Talking used to mean talking on the phone, but we now consider aim, facebook, and text messages to all be forms of conversation. The problem is none of those media contain the personal and initmate feel that a vocal conversation has. There is no emotion or inflection in an aim message, only words. And words can be misinterpreted.

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2 Comments

ChrisU said:

In truth, however, AIM, Facebook, and text messaging are simply adding to the possibilities. We can still call up a friend for a vocal conversation; if we don't, that's a choice, and not one that technology forced on us.

Of course, as we've briefly hit upon in class, the very nature of "friendship" has changed in the public mind thanks to applications like Facebook.

"Talking used to mean talking on the phone"

Yes, but before that it meant talking face-to-face! A century ago, people were lamenting what the telephone would do to society. I remember reading an article about how the telephone reinvented teen culture in the 50s, giving teens who couldn't yet drive and didn't yet have permission to hang out late the opportunity -- sometimes from the privacy of their own bedrooms -- to socialize on their own terms. But this development was seen as destroying family life, weakening the neighborhood culture, separating the older kids from the younger ones (so the younger ones no longer had as many older kids to look up to as role models).

Shifting from one technology to another often means we lose some richness in favor of some convenience (sending a quick IM rather than committing to a phone call), or we lose some convenience in favor of some richness (physically moving yourself so you can meet someone else in person).

In general, just as the book or the essay is so familiar to today's teachers, who find the internet to be unnatural and strange, the truth is that the essay and the book are just as artificial as the blog and Wikipedia. I'd say a social phone call is just as artificial. (That doesn't mean "bad" -- it just means it's a form of communication that develops only after the technology becomes readily accessible.)

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