University of Delaware | Spring 2017 | Professor Joe Harris
Author: Sara Reuschling
I am an English major with a minor in Sociology at the University of Delaware. The aim of this account is to learn as much as possible about the ever-growing changes in the world with an open mind and connect the information to my life experiences, especially regarding technology and digital rhetoric.
Out of all of our assignments I have never been worried or nervous about one but when we received the video assignment, my anxiety latched on tight until it was finished. We all use our phones and other devices every day for almost everything we do, and it’s always with us when we’re not actually on it. I hardly ever take videos unless it’s on Snapchat or at a concert, so I was especially nervous when I found out we had to edit it. Long story short, it ended up not being as bad as I thought it would be and I picked up on some differences between video and text.
When writing in text it is difficult to get your exact emphasis, feelings, and tone into what you’re writing because there’s always the possibility someone isn’t going to read it in the same way you intended. With video, you can change your voice, use mannerisms, facial expressions, etc. to more specifically portray what you mean/want to say. However, along with using your face I can see the possibility of some people limiting themselves to what they post. I know when trying to think of an idea one of the questions in my head was, “what can I do that won’t look stupid or make me look stupid?” When you’re writing behind a screen I think it can be a little easier to express yourself and feelings in the sense that people aren’t actually watching your face.
But then there were the videos that people just did a voice over and didn’t have their face in it at all, which I honestly never thought about but was a good idea. For these videos instead of just writing about a point, you can share pictures, videos, etc. from other people so you’re not just saying but showing the point you are trying to make. The combination of music, voice, and visuals forces you to view the information differently than when reading words inside your head. Overall, I think it depends on the topic and what the author is comfortable with doing in order to get the best post because they both have positive and negative qualities.
In the second chapter of Danah Boyd’s It’s Complicated, there are many things discussed revolving around the privacy of teens when participating in social media. She speaks of two things that seem to go hand in hand in many cases: social steganography and the surveillance of parents. As she mentions, it has always been common that teens want privacy from their parents in certain aspects of their lives. The parents of teens today did not grow up with technology the same way that our generation has, usually causing them to want to be ever-present and all-knowing in their child’s life. Teens on the other hand don’t always want their judging, rule-implementing, and lecture-ready parents tracking their every move regarding social interactions. To combat this Boyd mentions, “many of the privacy strategies that teens implement are intended to counter the power dynamic that emerges when parents and other adults feel as though they have the right to watch and listen” (70). From this stems steganography where teens tend to code their messages by posting lyrics, sub-tweeting, etc. This made me think about when I was younger and in middle school or early high school and how my mom would look me up on social media to see what I was doing. I remember feeling frustrated not only because it was my page that I didn’t ask her to view but because there was no reason for her not to trust what I was doing. I was always safe, didn’t talk to strangers, or post things that could be deemed as unacceptable or inappropriate.
Parents seem to think that we don’t care about our privacy to the outside world or understand the dangers, but at what point can they trust that the way they raised us is enough and we will share what we want when we want? I found an interesting video in which Kelly Wallace from CNN discusses that her biggest fear is her children becoming involved with social media. This video was striking because she says at one point, “how will I possibly keep tabs on everything they’re doing?” as if in order to be a good parent she must know every single detail of her child’s life. She goes on to say that in reality parents might not even have a clue because of the ways teens have chosen to encrypt their messages. She gives an example about how someone might post a group photo but intentionally not tag someone as an act of aggression, something that would easily slip by parents viewing the picture. Her solution is to sign up for the social networks that the teens are on and befriend them. However, if teens go through such lengths to keep their parents from knowing what is happening on their social networks, where is the line to be drawn for privacy between teen and parent?
Regardless of the subject being discussed, there are many noticeable differences between writing platforms. Many of these differences center around the idea that the Net/modern technology can change not only our thoughts but the way we think, process information, and the speed at which we receive this material. Carr gives a metaphor using water, a bath tub, a thimble, and faucets to symbolize how we tend to retain the information we are fed. His belief is that filling a bathtub with a thimble is equivalent to transferring our working memory into our long-term memory. He follows this example with, “when we read a book, the information faucet provides a steady drip, which we can control by the pace of our reading” (124). He follows by saying that when on the internet, “with the Net, we face many information faucets, all going full blast” (125). Although this is true, a book provides only what is permanently stained with ink while the Net contains a plethora of options, does that mean that we are actually trying to process every single bit of information at once?
It is possible to read an article or even multiple articles online at a pace that we choose. It is even possible to revisit online articles, posts, etc. multiple times just as we would with a tangible book. For example, when I do research on a topic I still narrow my search. Regardless of if I receive my data from a book or the internet I am still specifying what I am looking for and specifying even further by choosing which of those links I read and/or use. I don’t try to click on every single link that might have to do with what I’m looking for, I only choose the ones that seem the most relevant. In that sense, I have multiple faucets running but I still choose which faucets to fill my thimble and later bathtub. When I look up a specific topic and I find the same fact in a book and on a webpage, it’s the fact that matters not the platform in which I got it. I am not saying that there is no difference between the different mediums of written works, I am simply saying that it is possible to limit what faucets are running when searching on the Net. I don’t feel as if my ability to learn about a subject is suffering because it came from online, just coming from a different platform than a written text.
This image I found interesting because it portrays the opposite of what Carr is saying, that ebooks and Net learning are better pathways than resources made with ink and paper. But if the information is the same, could it just be a personal preference on which style of learning suits the individual best?
A quote that stood out for me in Carr came in the beginning of The Shallows when he stated, “…media aren’t just channels of information. They supply the stuff of thought but they also shape the process of thought. And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation” (6). Prior to reading this book I never thought about, or considered, the fact that technology as a medium such as the internet, may in fact be the cause for the way I think today. Carr notices that before the Net became such a staple in his life his concentration on paper and reading in general was a lot greater. It made me begin to wonder, as someone who grew up with technology at the tip of my fingers for the majority of my life, has it effected my focus too? I began to think about when I was younger and if my ability to concentrate for long periods of time was stronger than it is now. But as I think about it, it’s harder to draw up answers. I can’t say that this has affected me in the same way as Carr. I wonder, do I lose concentration and check my phone now simply because I have the freedom to do so whereas the younger version of me did not? Do I only lose focus when it is a subject that doesn’t interest me? By growing up in the world of technology I realized it’s harder to decipher the effect it has had on my life, my brain, and my way of thinking but the idea is intriguing and something I will not be able to avoid thinking about from now on when using the internet as opposed to a book.
This article discusses a study by a neurology professor, Adam Gazzaley, who agrees that technology changes our ability for cognitive thinking. Our cognitive abilities coincide with our ability to focus, accomplish, and complete tasks. However, the article goes on to talk about multi-tasking and how we need to limit our distractions. I found it interesting that it doesn’t expand down the same path as Carr, most articles claim we need less distractions to concentrate better. To me, that just seems to be common knowledge since you cannot focus on one thing while fidgeting with multiple other tasks. The article then speaks about why we procrastinate and the thought is similar to Carr’s; we would rather enjoy a little snippet of information, or a fun tweets/posts rather than sift through an entire piece. Our bodies have grown used to processing information quickly and concisely by contacting so much stimuli at once that our brain finds it more difficult to concentrate on specific, longer writings. The article ends with saying we need to find a balance between our use of technology, but Carr has opened my mind to a deeper possibility- that our entire way of thinking has changed and the internet is the cause.