University of Delaware | Spring 2017 | Professor Joe Harris
I am an English Major because I enjoy reading and writing. I am considering a Minor in Museums Studies or in History because I like art, both looking at it and trying to make it, and learning about the past. Hope to use the skills I acquire here to become a published professional writer, like a novelist or to publicize exhibits
When thinking about what is the more effective medium, written text or video, I think about two things. One, which is the easier platform for the creator to work with and two, which platform is more easily absorbed by the audience. Honestly, it probably depends on what the producer of the media intends to accomplish. I think the videos that the class made showed that videos are useful in ways that text is not. One thing that I noticed from the videos is that the use of video allowed for examples and descriptions. People were able to narrate ideas or concepts or events while showing what they are talking about. One example from our class videos is “Art” by Ashley. She was able to talk about how creating art made her feel while making a piece of art work in video. It allowed the viewer to see her process and an example of her artwork while listening to her. Another example is “Why Do You UDance?” She is able to describe her experience as well and show the viewer what is going on, a process that may get be difficult to describe and get bogged down by words if a person tries to write it. Some things are easier to follow when they are shown in video. The humor in “Procrastination” might have been lessened if in written form. People might also find it easier to follow instructions, like in how to videos which show people how to do things, than reading it. “How to properly watch a movie at home,” is an example of that.
Written text has its benefits as well. The writer is still able to make descriptions, and often these are more personal because the reader is able to fill in the spot in their minds. Another thing is that the reader has the ability to go at their own pace, stopping and starting whenever they wish. Videos can often be paused or rewound, but that can get tiring. People can also highlight things when their reading.
There were some videos that made use of written text. For example, Amanda’s “Subtweeting” and Brittany’s “Geotag.” Both had parts of the words they said shown written down. I thought that this was interesting, because it was a combination of mediums. Peter’s “Filthy Frank” video was also a combination of video and text, but without the use of narration.
So, here’s my thing. Not an artistic masterpiece, but it took me hours to get it here and I am a little proud that I learned to use not one- but two, movie editors (sort of). Writing is important to me, even if most of the time it’s because I can complain about not being able to write.
In her book, It’s Complicated, danah boyd attempts to provide an alternative narrative to the ideas of internet addiction in teens and young adults. Rather than being an addiction to the technology itself, it is another, more modern method of keeping in touch with friends. The reason that youths are often on social media is because it is the easiest way of interacting with their friends, often far easier that collaborating to meet up in person. Boyd notes that most of the teens she interviewed claimed that they would much rather meet with their friends in person, but conflicting schedules, time restraints, and limited freedom imposed by parents forced them to meet on various social media sites, like Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter.
One impact that the internet has on society is the increased flow of information. Stories that may have gone unnoticed by the general public can be known all over the country, all over the world, in a matter of minutes. People can quickly learn all the good (like manatees no longer being endangered) and all the bad (like young people getting kidnapped). The lives of teenagers are also more visible, making it seem as if things like underage alcohol consumption are more prevalent. As a result of all these things, parents are more restricting of their children’s actions than they have been in previous generations. Teens, unable to meet in person, are forced to meet online.
The internet implies a certain level of permanence and open visibility. There are measures that can be taken to increase privacy on various sites and remove your history there, but these processes are often difficult and most people don’t know about them. As a result, one person can be seen all over the world, not just in the present but also in the past, their history traced through pictures and posts that can easily be taken out of context. This visibility has made parents nervous about the internet, fearing that their children will find negative influences and draw negative attention. So their wanting to monitor and restrict behavior has extended to the internet. Some parents want to be involved with their teen’s online lives, making comments and “lurking,” making teens feel as if they are not outside their parents influence and are still unable to truly express themselves. They use steganography, or a sort of coded language, to restrict who can understand what they are saying. And these changes in communication make parents become even more nervous, a never ending cycle. Boyd continues to stress that youth lifestyle is pretty much the same, only more visible.
Throughout the text Carr looks into the developing relationship between people and technology. He discusses the way that simple changes in writing and reading have impacted people and their cognitive capabilities. He considers that writing things down helped memory and critical thinking while technology like the computer and the internet have become a replacement for memory and shortened attention spans. While previous technology was an extension of ourselves, in Carr’s opinion the internet has taken place of the self. It is something that we hear often, people would rather text than talk or take a picture than look. Carr takes this a step further by considering not only our developing relationship with the internet but also how it has impacted our views of own minds.
First, the relationship with technology. Carr notes that we build relationships with the things we use, one example being that the brain considers the tools a carpenter uses as part of his hand, an extension of himself. The tools used impact the work produced. People feel that they make connections with the content of books or movies. However, Carr notes something that struck me as odd, the implication that the human is actually inferior to the computer. He quotes several people who essentially say the same thing, that the human brain is not as good as what the internet can provide. There is no question that the internet is a step in technology, but the next step for human kind seems like something out of a terrible Sci-Fi film. The internet has more information, but it is only a human creation, a conglomeration of various opinions.
However, this line between man and machine becomes blurred when interacting with Artificial intelligence. This is not an uncommon theme in modern media. Various shows, such as the Twilight Zone or Black Mirror, explore the ideas of forming intimate relationships with computer programs that imitate human behavior. In 2013 there was a movie about a man falling for an AI that he spoke to on his phone and computer, Her. It is a big jump, but it made me think of Siri. A voice in a phone, something that I find myself yelling at in frustration and referring to as a “her.” In a study that Carr discusses, conducted by Weizenbaum, the computer program ELIZA was so popular because people wanted to give the program human qualities, to pretend that it was human. Carr, taking pessimism a step forward, not only shows technology changing relationships but also replacing relationships and then replacing human nature.
In his book, The Shallows, Nicholas Carr attempts to describe the cumulative impact of the changes in technology on the human brain. He gives a brief history of writing, there were carvings in stone, papyrus, and animal skins. Scrolls, and later books, were steps in making books easier and cheaper to travel with and make. However, the writing was actually difficult to comprehend, being based on an oral tradition. The words were written without spaces and often out of order. Authors often had other people act as their scribes, writing things as they said them. It was easier to decipher these texts when reading them aloud. When the written word was modified, allowing for spaces between words and sentence structure, it became easier both for writers to write and readers to read. The act of writing and reading became more personal. Authors took on the task of writing themselves and felt more comfortable, as a result their works were better developed and more progressive than before. Readers were able to focus less on comprehending the text and more on experiencing it, building their own personal relationship with the text. Studies have shown that the activity in readers’ minds imitates what they read, so they are really experiencing what they read.
Carr has found that, with the introduction of the internet and the ability to just jump around from thing to thing, people have lost the ability to really immerse themselves in the text like they used to. They are no longer able to concentrate as long, they have been trained to skim texts. Even e-books are unable to recreate the experience. There are plans to take the e-book even further, adding links for readers to follow to articles and other things related to the text. Vooksare e-books with videos in them. These books have already begun being published and there are some that describe them as the next step for the novel. The ability to see a character, to access information that you aren’t sure about immediately. Carr thinks that this will only take away the personal aspect to both the writing and the reading process, where the writer in almost entirely influenced by outside interests and readers only read so they can say that they were involved.
I agree with Carr. I think that putting all of the extra things in books is only going to be a distraction for the reader. It will stunt both reader creativity and ability to focus. It may even stunt the writer, who will be forced to adapt to a new media. I honestly think that it would be too much, that no one would ever really finish a story or be able to build their own opinions.