Posted tagged ‘internet’

Twitter Talk Recap

July 17, 2009

Last night’s talk was a learning experience for me.  I’ve taught a few techie workshops at my library now, and in all the previous instances the attendees came to the class without a great deal of prior knowledge of the subject matter.  Yesterday that was changed up in some very refreshing ways.

First I only had a class of 2.  Seven had signed up, but I was opposite a major thunderstorm and an event downtown.  Both of the people who did show were mostly unfamiliar with twitter, but clearly displayed a knowledge of other social networks on the Internet.  These two elements pretty much caused me to throw my agenda out the window and instead teach according to the flow of the conversation.

I had some really observant questions that I hadn’t prepared for (but should have), the best kind.  For example, once they saw Twitter, one of the people instantly identified that it had no clear revenue stream.  I also got to go off on a fairly long tangent on the difference between Twitter and the status updates in Facebook.  

It’s always nice to have a class that just gets it.

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Aging and the News Redux

August 19, 2008

No sooner do I write a post questioning the use of online news sources than my RSS feed gets hit by a glitch and I spend the next 8 hours repeatedly clearing my reader of an AP article that answers my question.  That answer, yes younger audiences use the internet more as a news source, but the majority are just not following the news at all.  Also, despite the median age of 60 for tv news viewers that I reported on yesterday, television news still receives more use than any of its competetors.  Kind of sad.

Aging and the news

August 18, 2008

The New York Times (via Kathryn Cramer) has an article up on the current demographics for tv news, and it’s a bit startling.  The median age of the television news viewer is over 60 (with the median Fox News viewer 63.9).  The actual article is kind of garbage, focusing primarily on the difficulties in courting young voters given those statistics.

Which begs the question, will traditional tv news broadcasts (somehow I don’t think the Daily Show was included in this study) survive another generation?  And is that actually a problem?  I’m certainly amongst those who refuse to watch the news broadcasts, prefering to get my news from a number of online sources (they update faster, don’t have commercial breaks, and I can find sources with less of a bias).  News is just one of the things the internet excells at (although not how to navigate it).

So I hope the reason for the age gap in the news is that people are just going to other sources, although opting for ignorance wouldn’t surprise me terribly either.

The Fate of Reading

July 28, 2008

I’ve been thinking a bit about the current state of literacy in the wake of reading the Times article I posted yesterday, and I’m very troubled.  On one level I’m perfectly fine with the idea of on-line reading skills replacing the previous printed page paradigm for some people.  They are two totally different skill sets and I don’t believe one is necessarily superior to the other, and if the end result is more people reading then that’s great.

But I am worried that what’s going to get lost eventually are our current ideas of narrative and story.  On-line reading is great at promoting critical thinking and research skills, but I find it also tends to distribute a person’s focus in ways that are anathema to the ways one traditional reads.  And maybe this is something harmful in the long run.

One of the ongoing theories to come out of Readercon is the idea that storytelling is something ingrained in the wiring of our brains.  Cold facts cannot convince a person of a new idea nearly as well as a good story can (yes this is the faith vs. science argument).  For another example just try to tell someone about your day by merely listing your itinerary without embellishing it a little.  Those little details change your life into a story, and are the only way to really hold another person’s interest.

We need narrative in our lives, and that is what gets stripped out when we bounce around like we do while web surfing.  And if the theory about stories and how we think is true then maybe this way of reading could prove to be outright harmful.

R U Really Reading?

July 27, 2008

I don’t normally post on Sundays, but I needed to share a link to the Time’s article on the internet and its effect on reading that was in today’s paper (Via various people on Twitter).  The article does a good job of covering both the pros and cons of using the internet as ones primary source of reading material, but I agree with Candy Scwartz that it frames the debate in a distressing all-or-nothing sort of way.

Definitely worth a look though.

Re: Is Google Making Us Stupid?

June 13, 2008

The Atlantic Monthly has gotten a fair amount of press this last month due to it’s cover story, Is Google Making Us Stupid?  What’s surprising is the attention is actually well deserved.  Given the fairly incendiary title I wasn’t expecting much here, but Nicholas Carr has written a very sharp and well argued article.

His main point has very little to do with the title actually.  Instead he argues that the internet is changing the way in which people think, and he’s entirely right.  He is a tad negative about the changes that seem to be occurring (largely a diffused focus) but is very open to the counterarguments.  He even points out similar complaints that were raised by Plato and Socrates regarding the advent of written language, and acknowledges that in the long run things worked out pretty well there.

But beyond the arguments Carr presents, I’ll admit to having very similar experiences to much of what he describes.  There was a time when I would read a novel every 3 days.  Now it’s more like every 3 weeks, and the problem for me really is focus and not time.  I can feel a change in the way I think, something I’ve written off as a borderline case of ADHD (and to be fair it does run in my family so that quite possibly is the case).  But it’s never a matter of being bored or not wanting to read (or do any other task actually), it’s that I’ve picked up an all consuming need to multi-task.  And when I’m in the middle of an activity that doesn’t lend itself to that I start feeling as if I’m being unproductive.  I think what I need is books that come with some sort of tab based browsing.

So to sum up, no Google is not making us stupid, but yes it is having a very profound effect on the way on minds function.