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Main characteristics of New Media

New Media are Digital, interactive, hypertextual, globally networked, virtual and sometimes based on simulation. 

This post provides further information and elaboration on these six key features of New Media.  Main Characteristics of New Media_1.png

Digital

With the growth of digital technology in the 1990s, the vast majority of information is now converted, stored and transmitted as binary code (a series of 1s and 0s.). Qualitative information has today become ‘digitalised’.

Digitalisation what allows so much information to be stored in compact hard disks or micro memory cards and it is also what allows for the near instantaneous transmission of information via cable and satellite.

Digitalisation has also resulted in ‘technological convergence’, or the convergence of different forms of information (text, audio and visual) into one single ‘system’ – most web sites today offer a fusion of text and audio-visual information, and our mobile devices allow us to perform a variety of functions – not only reading text and watching/ listening to videos, but also searching for information, sending messages, shopping and using GPS functions.

Analogue is the opposite of digital.  It is stored in physical form and examples include print newspapers, records, and old films and T.V. programmes stored on tape.

Interactivity

‘Old media’ tended to be very much a ‘one way’ affair, with audiences on the receiving end of broadcasts, for the most part able to do little else that just passively watch media content.

New Media however is much more of a two way affair and it allows consumers and users to get more involved. It is much more of a two way form of communication than old media. 

Increased interactivity can be seen in simple acts such as liking a Facebook post or commenting on news piece or blog. However some users get much more involved and create their own blogs and videos and actively upload their own content as ‘prosumers’.

New Media seem to have fostered a more participatory culture, with more people involved and the roles between consumer and producer of media content becoming ever more blurred!

Hypertextual

Hypertext, or ‘links’ are a common feature of new media, which allows users more freedom of choice over how they navigate the different sources of information available to them.

In more technical terms, links in web sites offer non-sequential connections between all kinds of data facilitated by the computer.

Optimists tend to see this feature as allowing for more individualised lifestyle choices, giving users the chance to act more independently, and to make the most of the opportunities new media markets make available to them.

Global Networks

Digital Media has also facilitated cultural globalisation – we now interact much more globally and via virtual networks of people rather than locally.

These networks allow for ‘collective intelligence’ to increase – they allow us to pool our resources much more easily and to draw on a wider range of talents and sources of information (depending on our needs) than ever before.

NB one question to ask about networks is what the main hubs are, through which information flows. This has implications for power.

Virtual Worlds

New Media presents to us a very different reality from face to face to ‘lived reality’ – for most of us this means a very fast paced flow of information with numerous products and people screaming for our attention.

However, this situation has only existed since the mid 2000s, and it must be remembered that New Media reality is virtual reality.

This is especially true when it comes to social media sites  which give users the opportunity to present themselves in any way they see fit, and while most users don’t go full Cat Fish, most people choose to present only one aspect of themselves.

Simulation

Simulation goes a step beyond the ‘virtual’ nature of New Media as usual. Simulation is most obviously experienced computer games which provide an immersive experience for users into a “virtual life” that is simulated through digital technology.

These virtual worlds are synthetic creations that ultimately rely on algorithms which set the parameters through which events in the gaming environment unfold.

Examples today include not only online RPG games, but also driving and flight simulations.

Sources 

Adapted from  Martin Lister et al – New Media: A critical Introduction (Second Edition).

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The ‘epidemic’ of teens addicted to gambling – a moral panic with little substance?

The Gambling Commission recently released its latest 2018 ‘Young People and Gambling Report’, triggering some dramatic headlines:

Headlines from The Independent and The Daily Mail.

The news reports tended to focus on three statistics to support their narrative of ‘teens in crisis’:

  • 55 000 children under 16 were categorised as ‘problem gamblers’, or 1.7% of the population, a figure which has quadrupled in two years.
  • There were a further 75 000 young people ‘at risk’ of becoming problem gamblers.
  • 450 000 13-18 year olds gambled at least once a week, equivalent to 14% of the population.

The news reports then tended to Segway into the underlying reasons explaining the increasing numbers of ‘teens in crisis’, blaming primarily the increase in T.V. adverts promoting gambling and ‘loot boxes’ in video games.

However, this seems to be just a moral panic….

If you take the time to actually read the latest report by the Gambling Commission (available here) it appears that there isn’t really an epidemic at all…. This really is just a case of a pure media constructed moral panic.

The number of teens with serious gambling problems has increased, but this is due to changes in sampling over the two years:

The report explicitly states:

>”The differences can largely be attributed to a larger number of respondents qualifying for the screening questions than in previous years, due to the addition of a question which enabled us to identify past 12 month gamblers more accurately than before.”

Looked at in the long term, the number of teens gambling is going down:

Granted, there’s been a small upturn in recent years, but the overall trend is definitely down, as it is with drinking and drug use. Basically, the kids are alright!

Of the ‘450K teens who have gambled in the last week, they’re mainly playing cards’!

So teens are mainly playing actual cards with their friends, as well as the odd scratch card. Just like we all did when we were teenagers, it’s just that now this is a ‘problem’ rather than kids just doing what kids do, which is what it was back in the late 80s!

Final Thoughts…

Maybe a more honest headline would have been:

‘Despite advertisers goading them into wasting their money, only 1.7% of young people have a problem with gambling’.

I don’t want to seem flippant, 1.7% of teens, or 55K people, is a lot of people (roughly equivalent to the current number of active steem accounts!), but it’s not enough to claim there is a ‘significant. social problem’. If we were talking about unemployment, inflation, educational underachievement, victims of crime, <2% would be a sign that at the societal level, everything’s basically OK.

So in brief, and on the whole, the kids are alright! 

If you like this sort of thing, then you might like this related posts on the possible moral panic over video games disorder

Picture sources 

The Indpendent – https://www.independent.co.uk/news/child-gambling-problem-betting-tv-adverts-a8643926.html

The Daily Mail – https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6411759/Epidemic-child-gamblers-Experts-blame-explosion-TV-adverts.html

Gambling stats – https://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/PDF/survey-data/Young-People-and-Gambling-2018-Report.pdf

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The Shallows: Chapter nine: search, memory

This is my summary of chapter one of The Shallows: How the internet is changing the way we read, think and remember, by Nicholas Carr.

For my summary of chapter eight, the previous chapter, please click here.

Desiderius Erasmus was one of the earliest scholars to recommend that his students keep a notebook in which they could note down facts they found to be the most significant, so they remained fixed in the mind.

This idea evolved into a common place book, adopted by Francis Bacon, among other Enlightenment thinkers, serving as a chronicle of the intellectual development of many a gentlemen throughout the Enlightenment period.

This practice gradually fell out of favour with audio and video and the development of artificial forms of memory, committing info seemed less necessary.

With the widespread adoption of the Net, we have come to see memory as something which can be ‘outsourced’ to machines – we no longer regard memorizing facts as an efficient use of our brains – such things are better left to the Net, and our brains saved for more intricate, or more human matters.

Short term and long term memory…

Various experiments demonstrate that physical changes take place in the brain with long term memory formation, and the quality of human memory depends on interactions long after the information is first received, on how the information is processed.

The process of memory formation is complex, involving lots of interactions across different parts of the brain. Botanical metaphors are more accurate as descriptors than machine metaphors. Biological memory is alive, computer memory is not.

The machine metaphor, where memory is concerned, is wrong: the brain cannot be full, it has an unlimited capacity to store and expand. We don’t constrain our ‘other’ mental powers when we store more information, we are not freeing up space when we outsource our memories to the net.

The Internet and Memory

The calculator made it easier for the brain to transfer ideas from working memory to long term memory and encode them in conceptual schemas that are useful to working knowledge – this highly specialized tool was a boon.

The net has a different effect… it places more pressure on our working memory not only diverting resources away from our higher reasoning faculties but obstructing the consolidation of long-term memories and the development of schemas. The Web is a technology of forgetfulness…

Basically because attention is a key determinate of what we remember…. The influx of competing messages hinders…. And learning how to think really means learning to exercise control over how or what you think!On writing this book: He’s not immune!

For my summary of chapter one (which links to further chapters) please click here. To purchase the book (it’s a cracking read!) please click below!

This post will also be published to the social media site steemit on the steem blockchain.

Steemit is a social media site where you get paid for blogging in the crypto-currency steem. There are also similar sites on the steem blockchain through which you can get paid for uploading videos, or music and much more. Check out and join steemit for more information.

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The Church of Google?

Google was incorporated in September 1998, a collaboration between Larry Page and Sergey Brin, helped out with $100K of venture capital. Google a play on googol, the world for the number 10 raised to the hundredth power… showing their ambition of organizing masses of information…

According to Nicholas Carr, the way in which Google is organized reflect Taylorist management principles, and the way its products effect us is not necessarily positive!

This is my summary of chapter eight of The Shallows: How the internet is changing the way we read, think and remember, by Nicholas Carr.

Google = Taylorism applied to information work

Taylor’s principles of scientific management helped shape the organisational form of the industrial revolution. Probably the best known example of applied Taylorism lies in the Ford motor plants in North America, in which turning workers into automatons resulted in extremely efficient production.

In 1993 Neil Postman outlined six assumptions of Taylorism:

  1. That the primary, if not the only goal of human labour and thought is efficiency
  2. The technical calculation is in all respects superior to human judgement
  3. That in fact human judgement cannot be trusted because it is plagued by laxity,ambiguity and unnecessary complexity
  4. That what cannot be measured does not exist or is of no value
  5. That subjectivity is an obstacle to clear thinking.
  6. That the affairs of citizens are best guided and conducted by experts…

What Ford did for physical manufacturing plants, Google is doing for the mind, applying Taylor’s principles to knowledge work.

According to Carr, we find these principles in many aspects of Google’s operations:

  • Google is obsessed with testing. Subjective aesthetic judgements have no place in its software design
  • The way it ranks web pages…. Web pages are like citations… the value of any page could be gauged by the links coming into it. AND an incoming link from a page which itself has more links pointing to it is more valuable than a page with fewer links pointing to it. Larry Page realiszd early on that the relative value of any web page could be evaluated by a mathematical analysis of two factors: the number of incoming links to the page attracted and the authority of the sites that were the sources of those links.
  • The company’s ads policy: placement is determined by the bid but also the frequency with which people click on them.

How Google effects us…

Google is quite literally in the business of distraction. Google’s profits are directly proportionate to people’s informational intake – the more links that are clicked, the higher the profits. The last thing Google wants is concentrated reading. It actually skimming and breaks in concentration

Then there is the fact that Google’s control of data means, to some extent, it has control over what we see, over our intellectual lives!

Carr also argues that Googles’ book digitization programme isn’t necessarily beneficial… To make a book available online is to dismember it. Fragment it.

When carried into the realm of the intellect, the industrial ideal of efficiency poses, as Hawthorne understood, a threat to meditative thought. The ability of a well rounded mind requires reflection, not just the ability to find information quickly.

We are now dependent on machines to filter information, it use to be human decision and time…. Out of a million books, only a handful would make it through the generations… Emerson again.

Everything that human beings are doing to make it easier to operate computer networks is at the same time, but for different reasons, making it easier for computer networks to operate human beings.’

For my summary of previous chapters please click here. To purchase the book (it’s a cracking read!) please click below!

This post will also be published to the social media site steemit on the steem blockchain.

Steemit is a social media site where you get paid for blogging in the crypto-currency steem. There are also similar sites on the steem blockchain through which you can get paid for uploading videos, or music and much more. Check out and join steemit for more information.

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Video Games Disorder: Just Another Moral Panic about Gaming?

The World Health Organisation recently included ‘gaming disorder‘ as a new mental health disorder in its latest updated draft version of the International Classification of Diseases.

The disorder has not yet been formally recognized as a condition, it’s under review over the coming year.  Not everyone’s convinced that it actually exists: the gaming industry is especially skepital, tending to view this as a moral panic reaction to parents’ raised awareness and dislike of their children spending longer on games such as Fortnite.

Is ‘gaming disorder’ must a moral panic reaction?

What is ‘Gaming Disorder’?

You can read the full definition here. It breaks down into three main elements:

  1. impaired control over gaming
  2. increasing priority given to gaming, such that gaming takes precedence over other hobbies/ interests and daily activities
  3. continuation or escalation of gaming despite negative consequences.

In order for it to be diagnosed, the WHO is suggestion that it needs to be observed over a 12 month period and have resulted in the declining ability of an individual to function in one of more are of social life, such as at work, or within the family.

What’s the evidence base for its existence?

Dr Vladimir Poznyak is one of the main defenders of the idea that VGD is a really existing phenomenon. He points to the fact that the last few years have seen a rising number of cases of ‘gaming addiction’ in several countries around the world, and some governments and charities have even set up treatment programmes, along the line of gambling addiction programmes.

He outlines in his case in this article.

NB – In his defence, Dr VP does say that <1% of gamers are ever likely to suffer from gaming disorder.

Problems with the concept and the evidence… 

UKie CEO Dr Joe Twist argues that the WHO definition is based on questionable evidence, and when pushed WHO officials are quite vague about what exactly it is they are worried about.

For example, it is unclear whether certain genres of games are more ‘addictive’ than others, or whether certain triggers (such as rewards structures) within games are the problem…

This episode of ‘Click‘ on iPlayer does quite a good job of summarising the issues surrounding gaming disorder.

What do you think?

Personally I think it’s perfectly reasonable to establish a new disorder, especially when the WHO is clear that it effects only 1% of users – I mean, check the definition, we are talking about SEVERE addiction here. Even someone who plays 40 hours a week wouldn’t necessarily be classified as having gaming disorder.

I think its fairly clear that some computer games have addictive features, which are going to affect a tiny minority in a negative way (very similar to gambling), and the games industry needs to recognize this rather than just ignoring the fact that their products create serious problems for 1% of users.

Having said that, maybe we do need further research which pins down particular genres and features…?

Image source.

 

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How does the internet effect our brains? A summary of The Shallows, chapter 7.

This is my summary of chapter seven of The Shallows: How the internet is changing the way we read, think and remember, by Nicholas Carr. For my summary of the previous chapter, chapter six, please click here.

This is finally the chapter where Carr gets to the real point of the book!

What can science tell us about the actual effects that internet use is having on the way our minds work?

Dozens of studies point to the fact that when we go online we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning. It is possible to think deeply while surfing the net, it’s just not the kind of thinking that that the technology encourages or rewards.

The Net delivers the kind of sensory and cognitive stimuli – repetitive, intensive, interactive, addictive – that have been show to result in strong and rapid alternations in brain circuits and functions. With the exception of alphabets and number systems, the Net may well be the single most powerful mind-altering technology that has ever come into general use.

The Net encourages all our senses simultaneously – except, so far, smell and taste. It also provides a high-speed system for delivering responses and rewards:

  • When we click a link, we get something new to look at.
  • When we Google a key word, we receive something interesting to appraise
  • When we send an instant message, we often get an instant reply,
  • When we write a blog post, we get comments and new users.

The Net commands our attention with far greater insistence that TV or radio: just look at a teenager on their phone as an example, what you see is a mind consumed with a medium, oblivious to everything else going on around them.

smart phone addiction

The interactivity of the Net amplifies this effect…. The self-consciousness magnifies the intensity of the involvement… particularly for the young.

One of the paradoxes…. The Net seizes our attention only scatter it. The Net’s cacophony of stimuli short circuits both conscious and unconscious thought, preventing our minds from thinking either deeply or creatively.

What we’re not doing online is just as important as what we are doing… web pages crowd out time we spend reading books, bite sized messages crowds out the time we spend constructing sentences and paragraphs, time hopping across hyperlinks crowds out the time we devote to quiet reflection and contemplation.

Evidence on how the Net is changing our Brains

The rest of this chapter Carr devotes to outlining the evidence on how increased use of the Net is changing our brains, most of it decreasing our ability to concentrate, but he does note that not all changes are necessarily bad!

I won’t outline the research extensively, it seems to make more sense to link to some more recent research in forthcoming blog posts, so just the gist here…

Garry Small conducted some research in 2008 in which he found that a region in the brain – the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex was more active in experience net users compared to novice net users. He also got the novice net users to surf the web for an hour a day for six days and on retesting found that this part of the brain was much more active.

When reading regular text, experienced net users have active prefrontal cortexes, while less experienced surfers do not – this is the part of brain associated with decision making and evaluation rather than interpreting.

The mind of a book reader is calm, the mind of a surfer is buzzing.

The depth of our intelligence hinges on our ability to transfer information from our working memory to our long term memory and weave it into conceptual schemas – but we can only store a certain amount of information at a time… our cogntivie load – when this is breached, info is not transferred.

Two of the biggest sources of cognitive overlaod are divided attention and extraneous problem solving, both things the internet encourages.

Frequently switching between tasks can greatly add to our cognitive load.

Evidence that web pages are skimmed…

Carr now cites various pieces of research that people who get information from just one source remember more information when tested. It seems that multimedia education do not work to improve learning, necessarily.

Compensations

There are a few upsides to our changing brains in the internet age…..

  • Encourages speed of shifting visual focus
  • Fast paced problem solving
  • Expansion in capacity of working memory.

However, overall, multitasking hampers our ability to think creatively and deeply….. it odes not make us more productive.

For my summary of chapter eight please click here. To purchase the book (it’s a cracking read!) please click below!

This post will also be published to the social media site steemit on the steem blockchain.

Steemit is a social media site where you get paid for blogging in the crypto-currency steem. There are also similar sites on the steem blockchain through which you can get paid for uploading videos, or music and much more. Check out and join steemit for more information.

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The Shallows by Nicholas Carr:  How the internet is changing the way think. A summary of chapter 6

This is my summary of chapter six  of The Shallows: How the internet is changing the way we read, think and remember, by Nicholas Carr. For my summary of the previous chapter, chapter five, please click here.

Book sales (of paper books) have remained fairly robust with the mass adoption of the internet.

There are many advantages of books compare to mobile devices on which you might read the same text. (As if it wasn’t obvious by now, Nicholas Carr loves paper books!)

  • They are more robust – you can spill coffee on them without ‘killing’ them!
  • You don’t have to worry about batter life
  • You strain your eyes less when reading them.
  • They are less distracting than reading on a screen.

Carr now muses that new ebooks such as the Kindle may well take over from books. (Remember he wrote this book in 2010 when ebooks were still relatively new.) This seems likely given the cheaper production costs, and improving manufacture which improves the reading experience with ereaders.

However, E readers are likely to change our experience of reading in the same way as the Internet. They have many of the same features embedded into them, such as hyperlinks and browsers.

Carr now cites various examples of people’s experiences of reading using E readers, all of whom say they were more distracted (by looking things up on Google, for example), than when reading a regular book.

How E readers might change our writing

Carr now suggests several ways in which E readers might change the way we write….

  • They do according to Nicholas Carr in 'The Shallows'
    Do E readers change the way we read and write?

    In Japan, ‘cell phone novels’ have become increasingly popular – these are novels written via text message, with shorter sentences and less plot structure than regular novels.

  • Vooks are ebooks with videos embedded
  • Publishing is seen as an ongoing process rather than a finished product.
  • The impact of social media means that reading a book becomes less private.

Carr makes a lot of this final point, as he did in his previous chapter. He reiterates the idea that when silent reading became the norm in the Enlightenment, this transformed reading into an intimate, private relationship between the reader and the author. This then encouraged people to ‘write privately’ – to think and write deeply as if inviting someone to personally engage with them – this was the style of writing adopted by the great philosophers and novelists such as Marx and Tolstoy – writing was still done to be published, but the process of writing was a very deeply personal one…. And that style of writing in turn encouraged generations of people to engage at a deeply involved level with the novels and thus the authors, creating the good old virtuous circle. (It follows that in Carr’s analysis, deep reading and writing were probably central to the development of early sociology.)

A groups of Northwestern University professors wrote in a 2005 article in the Annual Review of Sociology:

‘The recent changes in our reading habits suggest that the era of mass book reading was an anomaly in our intellectual history. We are now seeing such reading return its former social class base: a self-perpetuating minority that we shale call the reading stage…. The question that remains to be answered is whether that reading class will have the power and prestige associated with an increasingly rare form of cultural capital, or will be viewed as the eccentric practitioners of an increasingly arcane hobby.’

Today there are those who suggest that the decline of the book is nothing to lament….

Mark Federman, an education researcher argues that the time has come for teachers to abandon the linear, hierarchical world of the book and enter the Web’s world of ubiquitous connectivity and to develop the skill of discovering emergent meaning among contexts that are continually in flux.

However, in reality, to enter the world of the net may just be to enter a context of constant distraction…

For my summary of chapter seven please click here. To purchase the book (it’s a cracking read!) please click below!

This post will also be published to the social media site steemit on the steem blockchain.

Steemit is a social media site where you get paid for blogging in the crypto-currency steem. There are also similar sites on the steem blockchain through which you can get paid for uploading videos, or music and much more. Check out and join steemit for more information.

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Bake Off 2018 certainly packs a strong middle class punch…

While there’s a lovely ethnic and gender diversity shine on this year’s Great British Bake Off pie, the social class balance is just way off!

I’ve done a rough analysis of this year’s 2018 Bake Off contestants by social class background and compared these to the percentages of people working in different social class occupations (1) and found the following differences:

It’s all about class 2 in this year’s 2018 Bake Off!

There’s a very strong upper middle class skew, and a corresponding under-representation of especially the traditional working class.

The 2018 Bake Off contestants by social class…

Focusing purely on social class, and categorized using the National Statistics Socio-economic classification (NS-SEC), in this year’s 2018 Bake Off line up we have the following:

Class 1 – Managers, directors, senior officials – COUNT 3

  1. Antony the ‘Bollywood’ Banker,
  2. Briony the stay at home mum
  3. Dan the stay at home dad.
Antony: representing all actually working higher professionals

My logic for including the two stay at home parents in class one is as follows: only the very wealthiest of parents can afford to have one of them staying at home permanently, and given that class 2 (see below) is already well over-represented it follows that the most likely class fit for these two is in class one. NB – this isn’t necessarily the case, just my best estimate in the absence of any data on what Briony’s and Dan’s partners do. 

Class 2 – Professional occupations – COUNT 6

  1. Imelda, the Former teacher, now countryside recreation officer
  2. Kim-Joy, the Mental health worker
  3. Luke, the Civil Servant
  4. Manon, the Software Project Manager
  5. Rahul, the Nuclear scientist
  6. Ruby, the Project Manager
Kim-Joy: a good candidates this years social class Bake Off ‘median’

Classes 3-5 – count 0

Associate professional, technical profession (class 3),  administrative and secretarial (class 4) and skilled trades (class 5) have zero representation on Bake Off this year.

Class 6: caring and leisure – COUNT 1

Representing the 3 million workers in class 6…. retired air steward Terry

Class 7 – sales and customer service – COUNT 1

Karen represents the 2.5 million working people in class 7…. at least she is actually ‘working’.

Class 8 – Plant and machine operatives – COUNT 0

No representation from the ‘traditional’ working class at all. I guess custard creams are off this year’s Bake Off menu!

Class 9 – elementary occupations – COUNT 1

Finally…. Blood courier Jon represents those working in class nine.

Jon also represents all of Wales too. Quite a burden!

A few observations on the problems of social class analysis…

I had to limit myself to categorizing the contests by occupation, as this is the only valid, ‘objective’ data I’ve got about their class background. I would have like to have used the more up to date ‘New British Class Survey‘ (scroll down for details), but I can’t tell how much cultural capital etc. each contestant has got just from watching them of the T.V.

I might have mis-categorized a couple of the contestants: especially the two who don’t work, but even so, there’s still a middle class bias!

Discussion Questions….

Does this poor representation of the lower social classes matter? I mean, we all know that ‘trophy baking’ is a middle class affair, so maybe this sample of bakers actually does represent those who ‘trophy bake’ – i.e. those who can actually afford to spend that much time and money on baking?

Or should Channel 4 be trying a bit harder to find a machine operator to get their ass on Bake-Off?

Sources/ Find out More…

  1. U.K. population social class breakdown based on Office for National Statistics: Employment by Occupation, April 2017 figures.
  2. The Great British Bake Off web site (source for contestant images).

 

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The Shallows by Nicholas Carr:  How the internet is changing the way think. A summary of chapter 5

This is my summary of chapter five of The Shallows: How the internet is changing the way we read, think and remember, by Nicholas Carr. For my summary of chapter 4, please click here.

The computer has become a universal information and communication machine because so many different sorts of information – words, numbers, sounds, images and moving images, can all be translated into digital code. All of these sources of information can be ‘computed into a series of 1s and 0s.

And today the internet is a computing machine of immense power, which differs from traditional media because it is bidirectional. We can connect with businesses and each other through the internet, something not possible with traditional forms of audio and visual media.

As the internet has expanded, so our time online has grown…

time online

Correspondingly, our reading of books has been in decline – the number of minutes 25-34 year olds spent reading print media per week fell 29% between 2004 to 2008, to just 49 minutes per week. (It’s kind of depressing that it’s ‘minutes’ rather than ‘hours’!)

Until the net arrived, the history of the media was one of fragmentation: different media progressed down different paths. With the arrival of the internet, that changed: the boundaries dissolved. The internet, founded on 1s and 0s, is a medium of the most general nature.

The Internet: A Technology of Distraction

In this section Carr makes a concise and convincing argument that the way information is presented to us on the internet makes for a more distracted media experience. This is because of interactivity, hyperlinking, searchability and the multimedia ‘nature’ of the net.

Interactivity….

You’ve probably never thought about it, but reading text online is a very different experience of reading text on a physical page… simply because on the net we can click and scroll around a page. The fact that we can actively click and scroll has changed the cognitive process of reading – we are now less likely to concentrate on a page in a linear fashion, we are more likely to scroll down to the bottom or click away all together.

Hyperlinks 

Links don’t just point towards related sources of information, they propel us towards them, they encourage us to dip in and out of text. They are designed to grab our attention and take us away from what it is we are presently reading!

Searchability 

As with hyperlinks, the ease of searching online also encourages us to flit away from the present object of our attention. It follows that our attachment to any one text becomes more tenuous – we are less likely to finish one particular text and more likely to dip in and out of fragments of multiple texts.

Multimedia 

This is probably the most obviously distracting feature of the internet. Carr wrote The Shallows in 2008, and talked about the flickering adverts on most web pages which were competing  for our attention back then. Fast forward to 2018 and most news paper web sites have so much advertising on them that reading the actual content has become unbearable.

The Decline of other forms of Media 

As the internet has expanded, so other forms of media have contracted. The most drastic example of this is the decline of print newspapers.

A Vicious Cycle?

With the increased adoption of the internet, media companies have changed the form of their content to meet the changing expectations of their audiences:

  • Web based media companies are now chopping up their content, adapting it to their audience new expectations and shortened attention spans.
  • The design of online publications have changed: pages have become ‘busier’ and articles have become shorter.
  • T.V. shows have become more net like… with information tickers at the bottom of news feeds for example.
  • The way we experience real world performances has also changed – with our portable devices now ever-present to engage through social media.
  • Even Libraries have changed.

For my summary of chapter six please click here. To purchase the book (it’s a cracking read!) please click below!

 

Sources 

 

 

This post will also be published to the social media site steemit on the steem blockchain.

Steemit is a social media site where you get paid for blogging in the crypto-currency steem. There are also similar sites on the steem blockchain through which you can get paid for uploading videos, or music and much more. Check out and join steemit for more information.

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The Shallows by Nicholas Carr:  How the internet is changing the way think. Summary of Chapter 4: The Deepening Page

This is my summary of chapter one of The Shallows: How the internet is changing the way we read, think and remember, by Nicholas Carr.

Chapter Four: The Deepening Page

For my summary of chapter three, please click here

Shallows Carr Book SummaryIn this chapter Nicholas Carr covers the evolution of writing technologies and their impacts on the human brain and the development of knowledge.

When people first began to write, they simply scratched their marks on anything that was convenient, such as smooth faced rocks, or strips of bark.

The Sumerians were the first to use a specialised medium for writing: specially prepared blocks of clay, and then the Egyptians began manufacturing papyrus scrolls around 2500 BC.

The problem with scrolls is that they were expensive, but the development of the wax tablet meant writing technologies spread to more people: these were much cheaper than scrolls as they could be wiped clean and thus reused. In order to store lengthier texts people would lash together several wax tablets.

The wax tablet also served as the model for the first book. This was created by an anonymous Roman artisan who first lashed together several sheets of parchment between a pair of rigid rectangles of leather to create it.

However, it wasn’t until the introduction of the printing press in the mid 15th century that the book found its perfect medium. The printing press led to a ‘virtuous cycle’ in which the increased availability of books further stimulated demand for books.

The 16th century saw the printing press go global and the first great flowering of printed literature: from Shakespeare to Milton and from Bacon to Descartes. Of course, there was also more ‘tawdry’ literature available, but this just help spread literacy to the masses.

Carr argues that the arrival of movable-type printing was a central event in the history of Western culture and the development of the Western mind.

For the medieval type of brain according got J.Z. Young, making true statements depended on fitting sensory experience with the symbols of religion. The letterpress changed that: As books became common, men could look more directly at each other’s observations, with a great increase in the accuracy and content of the information.

The social and cultural consequences were as widespread as they were profound….. reading and writing became two main attributes of citizenship in a new ‘republic of letters’.

Carr now argues that there is something of an intimate relationship between a writer and a book, and a reader and a book: the book encourages a focussed and sustained intellectual effort in a way that simply was not possible before the invention of the book.

To read a book, at least one of the great literary works, one must follow an argument, a sustained narrative… this encourages intellectual development.

Simply put, our great literary tradition of the last 400 years simply would not have existed without the technology of the book and the influence this had on the ‘neural pathways’ of so many of our great writers.

However, with the infiltration of media and especially 2.0 technologies into the mainstream, the pathways of our brain are once again changing.

For my summary of chapter five please click here. To purchase the book (it’s a cracking read!) please click below!

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