Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Criticisms of a Guardian Article on Technologies Affects on our Brains

The Guardian has an article indicting the effect of new technologies on our brains -- but I think it's criticisms are extremely trite. The article contains fourteen paragraphs, but the actual criticisms are only given three sentences (quoted below) and are not given any jutifictaion.

...the process of traditional book-reading, which involves following an author through a series of interconnected steps in a logical fashion. We read other narratives and compare them, and so "build up a conceptual framework that enables us to evaluate further journeys... One might argue that this is the basis of education ... It is the building up of a personalised conceptual framework, where we can relate incoming information to what we know already. We can place an isolated fact in a context that gives it significance." Traditional education, she says, enables us to "turn information into knowledge."
The flickering up and flashing away again of multimedia images do not allow those connections, and therefore the context, to build up. Instant yuk or wow factors take over. Memory, once built up in a verbal and reading culture, matters less when everything can be summoned at the touch of a button (or, soon, with voice recognition, by merely speaking).
Why do these images not allow these connections? No reason is given.

Does memory really matter less? No justification is given for the claim. Does being able to look up facts really mean that we remember things less? It's not obvious that it should -- for the memorisation processes are pretty unconscious, and memorisation is involves understanding of the content.

Perhaps what the ability to look things up just gives us more leverage?

And why no mentions of how technology may be increasing our cognitive powers? For example, the increasing sophistication of the plots of television programs, requiring greater memory and connecting the dots?

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