Wednesday, 30 June 2010

WARNING! Hyperlinks can damage your health.

Every time that I go to the airport I buy a copy of the magazine Wired.

The reasons why I buy it are because, a) it looks interesting, and b) I don’t understand a word and feel that I should do.

This morning I was at the airport to meet my niece – let’s call her Charlotte Rose to maintain her anonymity in these pages – who recently said of my blog, “at last I have found something to do when I am bored at work.”

Is that a compliment or an insult?

I first met Charlotte Rose at her birthday party when she was two and it would be very embarrassing for her if I related what went down that day so we will leave it at that. When she was a little older and I asked her to tell me a joke she said - “my best joke is you.”

Is that an insult or a compliment?

Now she’s twenty-beautiful so, being at the airport to pick her up, I got my copy of Wired, which unfortunately is stacked on the top shelf next to the pornography and everyone stares at you when you reach for it.

According to Wikipedia, Wired, “reports on how technology affects culture, the economy, and politics” - and it does this in full-colour. I’m thankful for the colour photos because every time I sit down and try to read it I feel like an ignoramus and spend a lot of time reaching for a dictionary.

So since Charlotte Rose had chosen to fly with the most unreliable flight company ever and was “slightly” delayed I had time to sit down by gate number 5 and confuse myself with the latest, June, edition.

I flicked past the article “The Great Cognitive Surplus” because I didn’t have my dictionary with me and settled on an article called Chaos Theory, because I once heard someone say something about butterflies causing Tsunamis.

And guess what?

I understood every word!!

And it was a 4-page article!!!

Ok, at the end I learnt that it was an extract from a book – The Shallows: What the Internet is doing to our brains, by Nicholas Carr, which is probably why I was able to understand it - but there is a possibility that I’m getting a little more intelligent.
Or at least I have a slightly enlarged vocabulary.

What’s more, it was a really interesting reading, starting off with results from some test run by a(n) - Wired says a – UCLA professor of psychiatry. In my opinion his conclusions were highly debatable as he hadn’t seemed to consider that the same results would have been achieved with very different test parameters, but my opportunity to argue with a(n) UCLA professor of psychiatry was exciting and matched only by the chance to argue with the editors of the magazine over their grammar.

What do you think? Do you pronounce UCLA like UCKLA or YOUCKLA? (or does it depend if you are British or American)?

Anyway the gist of the article, and I’m tempted to read the whole book now, is that the internet and particularly reading hyperlinked text, hang on let me get the term right– hey that was the one they used in the article! – Is basically making us stupid.

In all the other tests cited in the article, continuous joined up text is more easily understood and more readily retained.

Heavy media multitaskers (not my words) are much more easily distracted, have significantly less control over their working memory, and are generally much less able to concentrate on a task.

The term “suckers for irrelevancy” is used and Michael Merzenich, who I learn is a pioneer in the filed of neuroplasticity – without having a clear idea what that is, though I suspect has something to do either with plastic brains or strange cities – says we are “training our brains to pay attention to crap”.

Incidentally spell check in Word doesn’t know what neuroplasticity should be either.

The conclusion- and I think it’s worth quoting – is, “we are evolving from cultivators of personal knowledge into hunters and gatherers in the electronic data forest. In the process, we seem fated to sacrifice much of what makes our minds so interesting.”

And that is NOT a compliment.


Anne said...

When football is over, you simply must watch PBS's "Digital Nation" which supports what Carr is saying (and yes, it's available to mainland Europe)
I love Wired, too; especially the illustrations. I think it's "you-see-L.A." You can see L.A. from there, can't you? I dunno. Never been.

popps said...

You have NEVER been to LA?.!!!?
Actually........ i wouldn't bother.
Thanks for the link but, you mean this football thing is going to come to an end!!!?

Harold said...

American do typically spell it out as Anne said, but now I need to look up whether or not it makes a difference. The "U" is for University which would take an "a" but then shouldn't "U" take an "a?" I'm still working on "a" or "an" with words beginning with "h."

Anne Hodgson said...

A history. An historic novel. Ah, who needs consistency?

popps said...

Ah, thank you Harold, i misunderstood Anne totally it seems. then it would be a UCLA cos there's a "y" sound not a vowel sound .
Anne are you sure about an historic novel ?
ME, i need consistency!!