Wired: We’re Changing the Way We Think

30 12 2008

Clive Thompson on “How YouTube Changes the Way We Think”:

So here’s my question: What exactly is this? What do you call MadV’s project? It isn’t quite a documentary; it isn’t exactly a conversation or a commentary, either. It’s some curious mongrel form. And it would have been inconceivable before the Internet and cheap webcams—prohibitively expensive and difficult to pull off.

This is what’s so fascinating about online video culture. DIY tools for shooting, editing, and broadcasting video aren’t just changing who uses the medium. They’re changing how we use it. We’re developing a new language of video—forms that let us say different things and maybe even think in different ways.

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13 responses

31 12 2008
JJ

Which reminds me that my cognitive psychologist guru (Howard Gardner) wrote a whole book on all sorts of ways we change our minds. While we’re using them. Like building a bicycle while you’re riding it. 🙂

“Changing Minds: the art and science of changing our own and other people’s minds”

31 12 2008
themcp

thinking about thought is my favorite thing that humans do.

31 12 2008
Colleen

Hi JJ (and Nance)! Sorry, this comment isn’t really related to this post–I just wanted to say happy new year to you both. I listened to a lecture online recently, JJ, that made me think of you. It’s about learning and how what we need to know and where we get our information has changed over the years…we’ve gone from needing to memorize information (before paper was readily available) to going to people in power for information to today’s world where we, the people, are providing and sharing information online. Anyway, I thought you might like it. Here’s the link: http://www.tvo.org/TVOsites/WebObjects/TvoMicrosite.woa?bi?1227992400000.

31 12 2008
Colleen

Oh, and on that same page there’s a Howard Gardner video!

31 12 2008
JJ

Welcome, Betty’s son! (Would you like us to call you “themcp” or do you have a name you’d like us to use?)

You’re in good company here for that. Maybe try typing cognitive psychology or “thinking” into the little blog search box in the right-hand column, to find something you can play with . . .

31 12 2008
JJ

Thanks Colleen, and happy new year to you too! Now that your first year is well up, will you be changing your blog name to “The Jaded Old Unschooler” anytime soon? 😉

31 12 2008
JJ

Btw, I think this reality of how kids are learning whole new ways to think, is why the Old Guard has to be against the new media, marginalizing and making cautionary tales of it all. Testing the wrong things in schools to try to keep this down (because the authorities aren’t wired to succeed this new way.)

The movie to see that tells the truth of this story? Strictly Ballroom of course!

. . .the best pupil’s best lesson is learning NOT to perfectly follow the lesson plan and the standardized steps, much less the career mapped out by his elders.

And he learns that winning, in terms of his own real performance, may mean LOSING the regulated, judged, scored competition set up and controlled by his teachers and parents.

1 01 2009
Crimson Wife

I just started a very interesting book the other day called Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age by journalist Maggie Jackson. I’ve only read the first chapter so far, but she raises some very disturbing concerns about the effects of technology on people’s ability to focus and think critically.

It’s a subject I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, as I’ve been following the debate between technology enthusiasts and technology alarmists. I’m right at the tail end of Gen X so I didn’t grow up as a “digital native” the way my younger brothers did. While I’m fairly comfortable with using the computer, it doesn’t come as naturally to me as it does to them (particularly my youngest brother, who currently works as a network administrator).

As in so many of these kinds of debates, I find myself agreeing with some of the arguments of both sides. The impact of technology seems to be mixed IMHO, with both positive and negative effects.

1 01 2009
Nance Confer

I suppose we can say that about any “advance” we humans have made. That wheel thing is having positive and negative effects. 🙂

I am at the tail end of the baby-boom generation so I am even farther behind the curve in terms of new-fangled technology, CW. My kids bounce between kindly explaining things to me, just doing it themselves and completely dissing my unbelievable ineptitude.

What’s natural to them is still a struggle for me. But I can enjoy their moving ahead, even if it leaves me in the dust. 🙂

Happy New Year to everyone! 🙂

Nance

1 01 2009
Colleen

I was thinking of the “Not So” New Unschooler for this year, JJ. Next year I should be ready for jaded and old. 🙂

1 01 2009
JJ

Colleen, I like it — it’s got a good beat and you can dance to it!

And CW, your words are so true for me too —

“As in so many of these kinds of debates, I find myself agreeing with some of the arguments of both sides.”

2 01 2009
JJ

It just occurred to me, about CW reading Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age: if the book indeed reveals that important and irrevocable change is already underway, the irony is that the only people likely to sit down and read through such a book in the first place, are those whose brains still haven’t been “distracted” and whose attention hasn’t been “eroded.” But we’ll be a shrinking and fading minority, right?

Hence the concerns of old-brain bookish parents like me (and Nance and CW) may be well-articulated and reinforced by our reading it, but that won’t help at all, to reach and save the already-changing from it. We can write and read about it all we want, talk among ourselves as we’re the ones getting left behind, but we might wind up sort of like deaf advocates who sign with each other and oppose cochlear implants and lip-reading, all the while insisting the human condition should freeze in our form, that it’s better and more natural NOT to be able to hear. . .

Sooner or later untransformed book readers will need ways to come to terms with change that leaves us out — maybe start by reading Darwin’s Radio and Darwin’s Children? 😉

2 01 2009
JJ

Here’s more scientific explanation for why our older brains are less nimble in navigating new technologies. Maybe it’s not our hardwiring or software, as much as our system’s deteriorating energy supply?

(And if that’s so, the new whiz kids themselves with all the new wiring will suffer similar problems when they get to be our age — not sure if that should make us feel better, or worse!)

Spikes in blood sugar can take a toll on memory by affecting the dentate gyrus, an area of the brain within the hippocampus that helps form memories, a new study reports.

Researchers said the effects can be seen even when levels of blood sugar, or glucose, are only moderately elevated, a finding that may help explain normal age-related cognitive decline, since glucose regulation worsens with age.

The study, by researchers at Columbia University Medical Center and funded in part by the National Institute on Aging, was published in the December issue of Annals of Neurology.

“If we conclude this is underlying normal age-related cognitive decline, then it affects all of us,” said lead investigator Dr. Scott Small, associate professor of neurology at Columbia University Medical Center. The ability to regulate glucose starts deteriorating by the third or fourth decade of life, he added.

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