Affordances & Constraints

There are affordances and constraints in both videos and text – what’s interesting is to examine how these things influence our perception as an audience. For example, in a video, you hear somebody’s voice and tone which affects the way you perceive the content they’re transferring. In a text, more is left to the imagination. There is no concrete visual image in front of them, so they must develop pictures in their mind based off the words provided. I wouldn’t consider either of them affordances or constraints, but they do offer unique differences to an audience.

One affordance a video has over text is the physicality of a visual image. It’s easier to show somebody how to do something through a video than a text. Instructions through text can be unclear and misleading. The visual aspect of a video, like in Alex’s video How To Build A Cootie Catcher, helps an audience to visually and physically understand what they need to do to accomplish something. On the contrast, I find learning how to do something via text encourages engagement with oneself. You may learn and develop skills more when learning how to do things through text, than you would just mimicking somebody else. This ability may be considered a video’s constraint.

Another affordance video offers is the ability to seamlessly switch and gain differing perspectives. In Allie’s video, What Motives You?, she utilizes voice overs from different people to represent different opinions and perspectives. In a text, it’s difficult to transition perspectives or voices so effortlessly. The audience automatically registers the sounds as a different person speaking, whereas in a text you are usually limited to one choice of point of view. I find it easier to convey things through video. In a text, you have to build a formulation of words that overall flows and makes sense to the reader. There is less control on what the reader sees/imagines.

I’ve found that utilizing text in videos is almost more effective than text alone. When you include text in a video, like Amanda did in her Subtweeting video, the audience is automatically focused on those words and what they mean. This helps the reader judge and establish what information is important. In a text, it’s sometimes hard to establish the focus of the piece and what’s mainly important. In a way, this is an affordance because the creator can demand and control an audience’s attention more. Also, a video has the advantage of mixing text and video, while a text is constrained to text.

Overall, I find there are different abilities of text and video. I find text encourages engagement with yourself, while video encourages and enables engagement with others. In today’s society, I believe the video wins. People don’t want to read. They want to see, be entertained, and register information quickly.

What did we do before cell phones?

The introduction of Boyd’s book interested me because she wrote about our usage of cell phones, which is a theme I’ve thought a lot about since beginning this class. The computer is a huge medium for us, but I think the relevance of cell phones has caused people to be more wired than ever. The cell phone offers a type of affordance that makes it easily usable on the go wherever you are. Unlike a computer, a cell phone is small and can fit in your pocket or purse – so it’s never too far. Boyd says that “over 80 percent of high school students had cell phones in 2010” and I believe it. Our generation started young, and it’s brought me to the question: what did we do before cell phones?

There are two specific instances I’ve identified throughout the last two weeks of this course, and I would love for other answers. How did we wake up in the morning before our cell phone alarm? Did our parents wake us up? How many people actually owned an alarm clock? And how many have one today? I genuinely cannot remember a time when I didn’t wake up to the convenience of my cell phone alarm, which I can swiftly and quickly shut off with one grasp. Another thing I’ve been thinking about is directions. How did we know how to get anywhere before cell phones offered maps and step by step directions? I vaguely remember my parents printing pages off of Google maps, but what about when you were going somewhere nearby you were just unsure of? I drove up to Penn State this weekend, where I’ve never been, and my phone took me through the entire three and a half hour journey. I literally have no idea what I would have done without it.

It’s interesting to see how the usage of cell phones has evolved since we were younger. My first 2-3 phones were flip phones, the touch screen not even invented yet (or so I remember). Check out this video where teenagers in 2017 use flip phones for the first time if you want to feel old.

Boyd talks about how our youth creates spaces through social media where they can go and interact without physically transporting anywhere. I found this point interesting because as I thought about it, I realized something startling: I could know (or think I know) so much about a person’s life without ever meeting them. I could know what they look like, what their habits are, their humor, who their family and friends are, where they go to school and what they do, the list goes on. The internet allows teens to know people they don’t actually know. I can see how this poses as danger, but I’m also interested in learning about the danger of unrealistic self expectations and false images it has on teenagers.

 

Plugged in

A concept I’ve been thinking more about is the way we’re “plugged in” to the Net and media as human beings. We’ve developed a mentality that’s dependent on being fed information every hour through a variety of devices. We feel the need to stay current, in the know, refreshing our feeds and timelines to find something new to stimulate and distract ourselves. Not only is this a mental tick and habit, but we learn through Carr that this media usage may be physically and chemically altering our brains and the way we develop thoughts as well.

“Gary Small, a professor of psychiatry at UCLA and the director of its Memory and Aging Center, has been studying the physiological and neurological effects of the use of digital media, and what he’s discovered backs up Merzenich’s belief that the Net causes extensive brain changes. The current explosion of digital technology not only is changing the way we live and communicate but is rapidly and profoundly altering our brains. The daily usage of computers, smartphones, search engines, and other such tools stimulates brain cell alteration and neurotransmitter release, gradually strengthening new neural pathways in our brains while weakening old ones.” (120)

If what Carr is suggesting is true, it’s a true reflection of the way the Net has taken over our brains. But how can we make a direct correlation between the usage of screens and the effect on neural pathways in our brain? I’m unsure of the research which has been done, and although it sounds convincing, it’s also good to raise questions. I think Carr extends his theory at this particular part of the book through providing the physical effects and aspects the media has on us. He illustrates the cycle the Net has on our brains; the more we feed it, the more we need it.

brain
A free photo I found through Google images encompasses many of Carr’s points in the book, but especially depicts the way we are plugged in at all times.

I found the image above and immediately resonated again with the idea of being “plugged in”. This image illustrates a literal depiction of the way we’re mentally connected to the Net and technology at all times, and even goes a step further to suggest the technology is even powering the brain – is that an indication of what’s to come? We become so adapted to the internet, our abilities deteriorate to the point that they are useless? Or will technology become so advanced, we won’t need any literary abilities?

The Timelessness of Books

What resonated most with me in the first six chapters of The Shallows was the way Carr described the abilities of reading and writing books utilizing physical means versus utilizing technology. There were multiple passages in the text which coherently worked together to establish this point, beginning with the passage I marked on page 65,

“Even the earliest silent readers recognized the striking change in their consciousness that took place as they immersed themselves in the pages of a book. The medieval bishop Isaac of Syria described how, whenever he read to himself, “as in a dream, I enter a state when my sense and thoughts are concentrated. Then, when with prolonging of this silence the turmoil of memories is stilled in my heart, ceaseless waves of joy are sent me by inner thoughts, beyond expectation suddenly arising to delight my heart.”

The capacity of books to invoke certain emotions and spiritualities within ourselves is unachievable by technology, and was something I personally connected with most in my real life. I also understand this concept well because it connects to the way our thought processes change when using technology versus physical papers and writing utensils. The way the physicality of a book shapes our experience and bond, so does technology, but in a different way. Reading a physical novel or text slows down your senses and thoughts, while technology seems to speed them up. I’ve realized the ways technology has changed my thought process, especially after reading Carr’s research. He claims,

“…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 at my capacity for concentration and contemplation. Whether I’m online or not, my mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles.”

I definitely can recognize this change in my mind as well, as it becomes more difficult for me now to be calm, take time and focus on what I’m reading. I’m always searching for something in the text, something that could be a potential question later on. Rarely anymore do I read slowly, with intent, or when I do I must make an effort to.

In my personal life, I have a Pinterest board where I pin a lot of book quotes, pictures and ideas. I find this helps me keep in touch with my book nerd side, which is interesting because I’m constantly using my phone or laptop to go on Pinterest and find these things. I found this pin would be interesting to contribute to the conversation, because it sort of comments on the abilities of books versus the internet. As vast of a place that the internet is, it’s impossible to escape from reality. In fact, these days, the internet is our face of reality, constantly spitting new news and information at us. On the other hand, the media of a book has potential to release you away from reality and bring you into another world separate from your own. I’ve always been a book lover, and I do believe reading and writing heightens consciousness. I related to Carr’s theories regarding this and found it interesting and reassuring that a book is truly timeless.