Introspect, retrospect and reflect


Books started to come out, dissecting the effects of the Net. A new one, entitled “The Shallows, What the Internet is doing to our brains” by Nicholas Carr.

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6523DV20100603?feedType=nl&feedName=ustechnology

In retrospect, it brings to mind Neil Postman‘s “Amusing ourselves to death“, a classic critique about effects of television.

(He argues that the sheer quantity of content piped into our living room – our 20th century camp fire – distracts us and anesthetizes our senses).

Now, another author took a serious look at the effects of the Internet.

And how it will, by sheer size, divert us from utilizing our cognitive skills such as introspection and reflection.

In other words, both Neil and Nick ( and Marshall McLuhan) recognize the weight of ” the Medium is the Message“.

Data-rich, yet context-poor.

We will turn to be a civilization of multi-taskers, with up-to-the-minute news flashes and mash-ups, short bursts of data (140 characters plus headers). As of this edit, the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) have just taken down the Times and Twitter sites, our electronic “Twin-Towers”.

Vietnamese government begins its ban on sharing on social media starting this weekend. We might have to revert to raising pigeons and save empty bottles (message in the bottle).

The President himself used to carry a Blackberry besides the Pentagon football codes.

N Korea, for instance, says “war could burst out any minute”. BP says the pipe was cut, but not as planned.

So on and so forth.

We know a lot of disparage facts.

But very few of us knew the background, context and historical twist and turn (Korean has experienced a few close-calls since 1950 partition,

or that before the Gulf spill, there had been another off shore explosion in Mexico).

In other words, we are a wiki society with massive of free information, yet no version is the final draft.

Yet the author (Nicholas) goes on saying that we are a nation of Librarians (like Bill Gates’ mother).

I would argue that librarians wouldn’t exactly have access to the millions of YouTube downloads until now.

And that internet adopters seem to be on the young side, the jury is still out on them, to see if the Millenium Generation will fully develop their cognitive faculties.

I do know that they are more environmentally conscious, use more SMS (cheaper that way) and show the same youthful tendencies (rebellion for one) . I hope they pick up on earlier generations’ aspiration of “sharing the land” and preserving Mother Earth.  (If you hear the song I sing, you’ll understand – Youngbloods).

And maybe they will get closer to the truth as opposed to facts on Twitter ( fact-checking professor’s lecture, for instance).

Nothing wrong with the cult of amateurism. In broadcasting, shaky camera shots used to be edited out. Now, in the age of Twitter, YouTube and CNN, any cell phone user could be our eyes and ears. Through them, we learned about NIDA of Iran, the Israel commandos at Gaza seas and the chemical abuse in Syria .

Then it’s up to us to dig deeper, on Wikipedia,. In my opinion, the internet triggers our curiosity which leads to further discovering, learning,  thinking, categorizing ( pattern recognition), and finally, reflection (about the nature of man, for instance, as Augustine and Rousseau once did, contrarily.) The worst case scenario is to be inundated by it to the point of stop thinking.

Facebook and YouTube take that one step further, by showing us faces and music. So there we have it: the visual, auditory and of course, tactile (click away). Amuse yourself to death. There are too many of us anyway. “All my sorrows, feel I am dying…”

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