We use language and communication to express ideas. When interacting with others, context of the interaction determines the medium and method of communication. When I meet someone for the first time in the flesh, I don’t write out a greeting on a piece of paper and then hand it to the confused and concerned looking recipient. So when I consider whether video or written text is more appropriate, I consider how the affordances and constraints of each impact my ability to communicate effectively.
In some situations, written text is clearly appropriate such as in a formal communication with a business colleague. Video is strictly necessary for television shows: reading the script would not be as effective as watching. So which aspects of these two mediums determine their value?
Written correspondence allows the reader to absorb information by choice: the reader can choose which words to read and the pace to read them. Video forces reader attention more strictly than writing. If I don’t have the option to pause the video, I am forced to take in information at a set pace which I might find too fast or too slow. But even having control of the video cannot be enough. Amanda makes sure that each paper she shows in her video has enough screen time to be read. But video can sometimes convey information to rapidly causing confusion or too slowly, causing boredom. Writing can have this issue as well, but it is easier to slow or hasten our consumption of writing than it is for video.
Video impacts a greater number of senses as it is both visual and auditory. The nature of the visuals is also different as instead of imagining what a character in a story looks like, I can see them clearly on my screen. If I write the lyrics to a song I will have no idea what the cadence, pronunciation, background music, or feel of the song is. If I watch a music video, I can perfectly understand all of these aspects. Video can clearly establish tone to the audience whereas writing can be more subjective. James’ video simply wouldn’t work in a written format as he uses visual comedy that only video can convey his message effectively to the audience. Sure he could write out a step by step guide, but that wouldn’t have the same emotional impact on the audience as say a shot of him eating Pringles while holding a heap of snacks. Video can create deeper expression through greater sensory communication.
Specificity and Imagination
If I look at a video of the Grand Canyon with someone, I have shared that sight with them. If I read the same novel as someone else, it is more likely that we will have differing conceptions of characters’ appearances or the way events in the book unfolded. Imagination in the reader leads to differing understanding: what the writer meant may not always get to the reader. A ‘how to’ explanation in written form is less specific than a video in that it can be more widely interpreted. I can imagine the physical process of how to get dressed in the morning based on a written explanation. But when I watch Isabella’s video on how she chooses what to wear, I can see the exact process she is describing and my impact as the audience in changing or altering her message through my imagination lessens. Video often offers greater specificity of information while writing leads to deeper imaginative process.
Choosing the medium varies by context. Writing is more useful in some circumstances, while in other cases video is the superior modality. Understanding the technical limitations and affordances of each medium helps us to decide the best way to communicate effectively.
My cousin is a 25 year old studying physics in California. Her way of life is extraordinary in that she seems to be very contrarian to popular ways of living. She goes on nature expeditions with her fiancé where they immerse themselves in nature over a few weeks. She values the lives of animals and also her own health: therefore she chose to become a vegan. Her commitment to the diet was a little dangerous. She cracked a rib from the weight loss. But she is undeniably passionate about her lifestyle choices and she is one of the sanest, happiest persons I know. I am always looking forward to her next shocking lifestyle change that has our family asking if she’s quite right in the head.
Her most recent change was no less startling. She has gotten rid of her iPhone in favor of a small, ancient, dinosaur-looking, fossilized object that people of ancient times I believe called a cell phone. And that’s all it is. It can’t do anything but make calls. When the troglodytes come to destroy our technology I believe they will not be able to discern her phone from a rock. Anyway, the point is that she is a believer in REAL human contact and in making the most of her time. She tells me that her old phone was a distraction, unnecessary, and above all killing her humanity. Reading Boyd is killing my humanity. When I read Boyd I see a TON of issues and few solutions. Kids struggling with identity, with self-expression, with privacy. I think the solution here isn’t hard to see. Just get rid of it! Put it down! Or at the least refine how you use it! Is it really that complicated?
Sure, some people might need it for work or for networking for their business profile, I gotcha. But when Boyd talks about how teens are constantly updating their statuses or getting into privacy issues (95) I can’t help but feel like social media users have fabricated some nifty problems for themselves out of thin air.
So anyway I’ve realized I’m not so different from my cousin. I used to use Facebook as a means of chatting or posting updates waaaaaaay back in 7th grade. I don’t think I’ve posted a Facebook status in about 5 or 6 years. And to be honest, I would say it feels great not to, and I’m sure it does, but I’ve forgotten what it feels like to post. My profile picture has never changed: I’ve had the same once since middle school started. Boyd has helped me as has my cousin: when life’s getting a bit to complex, or a little sad: go to the roots of humanity! Unplug! Keep it simple silly! If I haven’t been convincing enough: Louis C.K. to take it home.
High School had a LOT of assignments that I perceived as busy work. What was my solution to busy work? Google! Another worksheet with information I have to fill in from the textbook? Google! In Calculus, I would ask the almighty Google for answers and it delivered. This is great! Homework is a breeze, a nice stroll in the park, no worries here! AP Euro had a lot of reading to do. Why would I read through all that when I can just take a quick detour down convenience lane and save the rest of my evening? But although classes seemed sunny, carefree, and easy, I didn’t realize I was living a LIE. Dark clouds were on the horizon.
Exam time. Having some slight difficulties…Where is your Google GOD now? Your savior has forsaken you! I had made a mistake that I am sure everyone has made at some point in their academic career. Filling in homework worksheets with Google is not learning. I was not learning how to find the derivative of a line when I googled every equation in my math homework. I was not learning the intricacies of European History when I googled brief definitions of names and terms to fill in on my homework packet.
Learning the Process>Google the Answer…but it takes longer:(
Learning is a process. Most people need time to let information stew in their brains. Time to reflect on information and process is just as important as the contact time with material in class: homework helps achieve this reflection and processing. But the main point here: from my experience, it is human nature to seek the path of least resistance. The ‘easiest’ path is usually the path taken, even if it is a path that leads to inevitable problems (problems we may not foresee). I looked up answers to homework to save time in the present, even though I would need to understand the material to do well on exams in the future. My thoughts on this matter stem from Carr’s discussion on the Van Nimwegen study on page 214. The lack of a hand-holder for the barebones group was actually beneficial: sure, it was less taxing on the screen assisted group. They had less mental gymnastics to do. But the bare-bones group was the winner in the end, using “‘more focus, more direct an economical solutions, better strategies, and better imprinting of knowledge’” (Carr 215).
The point I want to make is that Google is a wonderful tool to aid in learning. If I wanted to learn anything at all right now, I’m sure I could Google it and be on my way. But like most tools, it can be seriously misused. In spoon feeding so much information at such a rapid pace, the process of learning is at risk. I must be vigilant in observing how my use of Google and other technology impacts my learning. Google should be used as an asset to learning, not as a crutch for homework. With great power… comes great responsibility!
Carr’s point on the mechanical clock is enlightening. His short passage on page 43 has helped me understand the impact of tools and devices in my life. Carr argues that the qualities of technology have a profound effect on our way of thinking: in the way we see ourselves. The power to change the state of one’s mind is a power worth having. In understanding how devices in my life may shape me, I can make better decisions to mold my mind as I see fit. Just as Carr says technology is an effort to shape the world around us, I find it inadvertently shapes ourselves.
The qualities of technology quietly impart a change on our mental state. Take for example the tools that measure time. The precise, constant ticking of the mechanical clock is sequential. It is logical. The mechanical clock has a mathematical focus as it tells time with numbers while dividing time in halves and quarters. The result of technological qualities is an educational effect on the user: an emphasis on understanding sequences, on action relative to time, and on seeing the flow of time as physical movement. This leads to a change in how the user of the clock thinks. Technology has a different effect even within the same concept or task it attends to. A mechanical clock gives quite the different concepts and lessons to the user than a digital watch does. There is no visual aid to see the quarters and halves of time, or to see the ticking of the hands on a digital watch. It is a simplification of time. On the other hand, one must read a mechanical clock by being aware of the positioning of the hands and seeing physical movement. But a digital clock is simply lights. It is essentially like looking at a still television or a screen-saver on a computer.
How does technology facilitate changes in my mental state? What impact does Twitter have on my way of thinking over time? Some notable qualities of Twitter: the main page is covered in pictures with tweets from celebrities, and significant institutions. Information is conveyed in short blurbs of 140 characters. That is not an abundance of space to make a serious case for any argument or claim. The most prominent aspect of Twitter: the space limitation, causes the user to condense complex ideas. Perhaps, in some cases, Twitter causes us to forget how to form complex thoughts and processes. When I look at tweets from Donald Trump, I see broad sweeping exclamations that are inherently baseless: there is no in depth explanation or linking of external texts/resources. Context is forgotten, ignored, or left a complete mystery. In a Nordstrom Tweet it is nigh-impossible to understand the motives of Trump, unless the tweet is taken at face value: even then different perceptions arise. Use of Twitter causes change to one’s mental qualities and values. Twitter values speed of information discharge and absorption. It leads to a mental value that baseless claims or exclamations are acceptable or even desirable. It causes context to become obsolete and absent in information and communication. Technology affects the mental state of us all. Our choices of technological use have profound and far reaching effects that we struggle to perceive. I look to the future with a greater awareness of how the devices in my life may impact my thought process and mental state. I will take the utmost care of my oyster!