“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
Computers as printed media? I have mentioned Amusing Ourselves to Death in this blog before, but I’d like to bring it up again. In Sociology today as we began talking about Postman’s book it became quite evident that the professor sympathizes with Postman’s argument, namely that TV as a technology for encouraging serious discourse is a negative thing. Postman and my professor suggest that TV as entertainment is fine because it’s blatant: you don’t watch Saturday morning cartoons and call it educational. On the other hand, they lambast such shows as “Sesame Street” because “Sesame Street” teaches children from a young age that education should be fun and entertaining. Additionally, we discussed televised political debates with the view that, because it’s televised, you’re more likely to take away what the candidate looks like and how good his one-liners are than what his serious political views are. I do think that being raised without television for the most part endowed me with a longer attention span, which TV’s rapid changes doesn’t incubate. However, I’m less interested in that than this: where do computers fall in on that spectrum?
Newspapers and books are indisputably print media, thus conducive of more intense, serious thinking. Television, according to Postman’s way of thinking, is composed to fully of sound bites, hastily spoken phrases and film footage, none of which allow a person to think slowly about an issue. With a book or newspaper you can reread a paragraph or a page if you need, while with TV even if you record the show they’ve geared it towards shallow, quick thinking so reviewing the recording cannot offer any further insights. Where do computers fit into this dichotomy? Amusing Ourselves to Death builds a veritable Berlin Wall between books and TV, but computers and specificially the internet seem to be the sneaky people risking being shot to climb over. The internet is built on words: not printed ones, but literacy is crucial to using the internet. Additionally, the internet allows re-reading text and moving at your own pace of thinking; in that way, it is a written source. However, it is displayed on a TV-like screen and offers constant distractions, even within text. Links offer constant distractions for the short-attention span – off you go on a tangent that interests you and never finish reading the article. Unless previously published in a paper journal, book, or newspaper, many online articles are shorter than the average newspaper article (I think). It appears to me that the internet can be what you make of it: if you go to JSTOR to read scholarly articles, that’s using the internet as a print source. If you go to CNN to catch the latest Democratic primary scores (Kerry made a pretty clean sweep of Tuesday’s states) and catch up on the latest news, that’s using the internet as television because CNN doesn’t offer seriously in-dept articles about anything.
Overall, then, it seems you have a choice online: read scholarly sources such as this site or use it as television, but the internet cannot be easily categorized into the “Print Media” or “Visual Media” boxes.
“It’s good to be confused.” – My Soc. Prof’s husband, a mathematician who thinks confusion indicates a complex idea. As another interesting side note, I have periodically jumped up and down in excitement today when I realized I’m leaving tomorrow to be with my husband. Finally! Wheeeee! Today I had Kristin and, nominally, Lesley over for soup and grilled cheese sandwiches; Luke and Jos are coming for a chicken casserole-type thing I’ve never made before. Looks easy enough, but I have to hope it doesn’t turn out like my parents’ Pumpkin Surprise or whatever that was called. Then I go to the WCCN thing tonight, hopefully sleep late tomorrow (cause everybody does that on the night before a highly-anticipated event), and leave at 2:40 for Boston and a long wait in Logan. Dear God, patience for your servant!
– KF –