Monthly Archives: January 2012

When Old Myths Were New: The Ever-Ending Story

“There is something powerfully compelling about the culture of today’s communication technology, including the digital sublime, but this magnetic power extends back in time to earlier examples of the electrical sublime and further back to the technological and the natural sublime.”

Vincent Mosco

As a teenager living within this digital sublime, it is difficult to think that there were teens just like myself many years ago who were awe-struck over the telephone, electricity, radio or television. Fast forward to today and the word telephone is slowly fading away and is being replaced with words like cellphone or Skype. Electricity for that matter, is only considered something which is required to run our new technology, not some sort of “exemplification of Christianity, science, and progress.” Radio has also changed drastically, thousands of channels are available through services like Sirius Satellite Radio and the number of podcasts available online grows larger each day. Finally the television, which is the newest form of technology mentioned, still shares the general concept with which it began. Like the radio, television providers now offer thousands of channels covering every subject of interest. Most recently television has become easily available on handheld devices like cellphones or tablets.

I feel somewhat inclined to defend the sublime which I am a part of, but I would be wrong to do so. There is no doubt that the communication technology widely available today is powerfully compelling. There is no doubt that the folks who were raving about electricity back in the day would be absolutely dumbfounded by what is now available in the digital sublime. But truthfully, if I was alive during the electrical sublime and not the digital sublime I believe I would be equally, if not more compelled by the creation of electricity. Consider a creation which allowed you to safely travel out doors at night. A creation which allowed you to light your home at any time without having to use a candle. That was absolutely revolutionary at the time and they deserved to celebrate and drool over it. Like Mosco states, this isn’t the first time the masses have been compelled by technological breakthrough… nevertheless the second, third, fourth and so on.

Without the sublimes of the past the sublimes of the present and future would not be possible. Without the telephone, electricity, radio and television there is no way that we would be able to create the technology which we now use today. Just like the sublimes before it, the digital sublime will have to fade away one day and make room for the next sublime. As of right now, it shows no signs of stopping.

Could this technology be part of the next sublime? All I know, is it really raises the question…

What Have We Turned Into?

– Ian McDougald

Works Cited

Mosco, Vincent. “The Digital Sublime.” Scribd. Web. 30 Mar. 2012. <http://www.scribd.com/doc/44930029/The-Digital-Sublime&gt;.

Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction

“Students have always faced distractions and time-wasters. But computers and cellphones, and the constant stream of stimuli they offer, pose a profound new challenge to focusing and learning.”

Matt Richtel

This quote by Richtel is one which I, along with most students can closely relate to. Just in the time it has taken to get to this point in my writing I have already sent two text messages and changed the song which is loudly playing in my headphones… make that three text messages. As quoted in Richtel’s article, “developing brains can become more easily habituated than adult brains to constantly switching tasks”. This quote doesn’t suggest that how we are doing our work is directly correlating to lower test marks or poor attendance, it purely suggests we are “less able to sustain attention.”

So maybe our brains are slowly becoming “wired differently” than before, but is this such a bad thing? When language, writing or the wheel were created they also changed the framework of our brains, but do the majority of people consider these breakthroughs negative? Of course not. I’d like to think that more principals around the world are acting similarly to David Reilly, the thirty-seven year old principle mentioned in Richtel’s article who “sympathizes when young people feel disenfranchised.” I think the more that technology can be used in education the better. Everyone has become accustomed to being connected to their technology outside of school, so why not work with them and bring them technology that can actually teach them. Educational strategies such as blogging for classes like my Communication, Technology and Culture class or using a SMART board for in class activities are excellent steps, but I wouldn’t be a surprised to see much more in the future. Personally, I’d embrace the opportunity.

Yes, our brains are being re-wired. Yes, education is changing. Yes, the world has become a different place than many years ago. Is this all news to people? I understand the resistance to change, but this could be a very good thing. We are still only breaking the surface of neuroscience so how can we already be making claims about how technologies (which we are also only breaking the surface of) are affecting our brains?

Like Vishal, who “discovered and pursued his passion: filmamaking”, technology and the Internet especially has helped me choose my passion which is media. No matter how much education you have, if you’re not passionate about your work it will not be your best. John McMullen, a fifty-six year old retired criminal investigator says it best: “If you’re not on top of technology, you’re not going to be on top of the world.”

So whether you believe these changes are positive or negative, it certainly raises the question…

What Have We Turned Into?

– Ian McDougald