The Endless Possibilities of Video

I was very excited to express my thoughts on a concept through video. My original thought about using video was that it would allow me to express my ideas more clearly. I also thought it would be easier for me to get across what I was trying to convey. For the most part, those predictions were true. However, with only having 60 seconds to get my point across, I found it slightly harder for me to explain what I wanted to say. When I’m writing responses, I have more flexibility with my words, and I feel like I can describe more. In the video, I had to extremely condense what I wanted to say in order to fit the allotted time. I had to learn how to exchange the words I would usually want to say with photos and video.

Working with video shed light on many different ways to express an idea and get a point across. For example, James’ video, “How to Properly Watch a Movie at Home” and in Nicole’s video, “Procrastination” both take advantage of acting and voiceover to convey a certain message and tone for their video. Both videos were more humorous, and without the voiceover and acting, I don’t think that would have come across. Writing a response makes it harder to incorporate humor, but it was much more detectable in their videos.

Another way I think video can be easier to use than writing was exemplified in Amanda’s video about sub-tweeting. She combined writing on paper with a voiceover to further explain her ideas. I think those two things did a really good job at supplementing each other. The words that Amanda wrote focused the viewer on a specific idea while the voiceover further explained her thinking. I think videos do a good job at filling the “between the lines” space that is often left open to interpretation in writing. In many of the videos I noticed that the ideas could easily be expressed in writing as well, but video added an extra layer of explanation that is impossible to achieve with just the written word.

After creating a 60-second video, I definitely have a lot more appreciation for the film majors out there. My brother happens to be a film major and I always thought that he had it so easy, but in reality, writing, shooting, and editing a video is a huge process. People who make films have to stylistically decide what ideas they want to be vocalized and what they want to be supplemented by images and video. Even in my short video, a lot of thought went into the visuals and in what ways I wanted them to speak for themselves. I then had to decide what I should say in words and when I should be saying them. Overall, this project opened my eyes to the effort that goes into creating an impact through video, and the possibilities of working with video.

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Carr Response

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. Vooks are 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.

An Extension of Ourselves

Throughout my life, people have always pondered the question of whether iPhones and the internet bring more benefits or losses to our society as a whole. I remember when I was 14 years old, I was standing on the stage at the Miss Hockessin pageant, and I was asked this exact question. It has always been difficult for me to distinguish whether iPhones and social media truly help us grow or hinder our abilities. And to this day, I still have trouble coming up with an answer.

On one hand, these new technologies have given us the opportunity to communicate much more easily. We can send a quick text or tweet to anyone around the world within only a few seconds. We can share our lives and accomplishments with family and friends we no longer get to see. We can find answers to any questions we may have, right in the palm of our hands. So many benefits. But, what are the losses? As Carr points out, we have lost our sense of concentration. Whereas before, we could sit down and immerse ourself in a book for hours, now we can barely sit through a lecture without looking for the next best thing to grab our attention. Although our personal connection has expanded digitally, we no longer can connect with people face-to-face. When I walk into my classes, no one is talking to each other. They all have their faces shielded down from the real world, as they live through their virtual reality. Some people even use these technologies as a weapon. Behind a screen, individuals are able to anonymously insult and hurt others through multiple social networking sites. Lastly, there have been negative effects on our physical health. In an article from The New York Times, it was said that the constant slouching from our iPhone use can actually be correlated to our loss of memory and a decline in our moods.

So whose to blame? Certainly, Steve Jobs and the other creators of the World Wide Web never intended for their creations to bring about such impacts. I think the best answer to this question comes from Carr. “The products of modern science are not in themselves good or bad; it is the way they are used that determines their value” (3). The iPhone and internet were never meant to be bad or result in a negative impact on people. It’s because of how we use them that makes them bad. We could use our phones and still be able to communicate with people in person, but we choose not too. We have changed what was once just a useful tool, to an actual extension of our body and mind.  We no longer separate ourselves from the technology. We can try to change these negative impacts though. Slowly, but surely, we are trying to understand the happy medium between technology use and personal interaction. I’m curious to read more from Carr and see if he has his own theories on how to stop digital technologies from completely taking over our lives.

The Internet Impacting Our Concentration: Fact or Fiction?

After reading up to chapter seven in Nicholas Carr’s “The Shallows”, I am intrigued by and have begun to ponder several of his arguments regarding how the internet is changing the way that we think. In general, Carr claims that throughout oral and written history, the human brain has changed in accordance with the dominant means of communication in a given time period. Most importantly, our brains are doing the same thing now as we begin to make the internet our primary medium for reading and communicating. However, when it comes to the internet, Carr doesn’t think that the brain’s inclination towards plasticity has had a positive impact on us. Instead, he feels that the brain’s acclimation to the digital age has had a detrimental effect on our attention spans. From the outset of the book, he makes this point clear, stating “And what the net is doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation” (Carr 6). Moreover, Carr feels that this same phenomenon has affected others in his generation as well as those who have grown up with the internet. Referring to the latter age cohort, Joe O’Shea, cited in the book, states “They don’t necessarily read a page from left to right and top to bottom. They might instead skip around, scanning for pertinent information of interest” (Carr 9).

I was specifically struck by the claim that many people my age read differently, and in a sense, incompletely. This is not something I had ever thought about or dwelled on until reading “The Shallows”. As someone who is forced to utilize both printed and online resources for school, it is important that I am able to absorb and retain information regardless of where it’s located. On the one hand, I understand where Carr is coming from because when I am reading news articles online, I occasionally tend to skip around the article to get to the main point that the headline was referring to. However, I usually do this skimming or skipping intentionally. Furthermore, when it comes to articles or important reading material for school, whether it is printed on paper or online, I take great care to read closely and make sure I am receptive to the information presented to me. I will say, though, there are times where I have trouble concentrating on what I read in a textbook for class, regardless of attempting to do a close read. I usually attribute this lack of concentration to the material, however, and not to any cognitive inability.

This topic has sparked much debate in the psychology and education fields. In this article from The Guardian, author Duncan Jeffries also uses Carr’s argument to investigate how others feel regarding the web and its impacts on concentration. I was surprised to read that a Pew Research survey found that while 77% of teachers feel that the internet has positive effects on students’ overall research, 87% of those same teachers feel that the internet is leading to shortened attention spans. In this sense, there is mixed opinion as to whether the internet has a positive or negative influence on our brains.