Monday, March 5, 2012

Random thoughts from a late night, short attention span

Our generation can’t pay attention.

 “Those who are growing up in "today’s networked world and counting on the Internet as their external brain will be nimble analysts and decision-makers who will do well," some experts told Pew [researchers]. But others "expect that constantly connected teens and young adults will thirst for instant gratification and often make quick, shallow choices."

Richard Lanham’s “Stuff and Fluff” mirrors this sentiment. With the advent of the Internet and Web 2.0, he describes the seemingly perpetual challenge facing current advertisers, marketers, bloggers and social media enthusiasts alike—which is, how do you break through the clutter and get noticed? Information, after all, “doesn’t seem in short supply. Precisely the opposite. We’re drowning in it. There is too much information to make sense of it all”  (p. 6).

This then, I think, raises the question as to whether we can ever really have too much information. Sure, democracy is nice, but are we better off unplugged and in the dark at some point? I, personally, have struggled to write this blog among the competing forces of Facebook and Bethenny Ever After that are calling my name. 

Also interesting to me, though, was Lanham’s early questions about the validity of the information sources today. Gone is the era of beloved “antiques”—as “the hunger for stuff is paralleled by a hunger for style” (p. 3).

A likely culprit here: The iPad. (Damien gasps). Society’s one-stop-shop for all things life, news, social media, and Words With Friends related these days—what else do we need? Devices like this have increased, distracted and diversified our consumption of information. Sure, we might still access the New York Times online--but the stories compete with random, intrusive and irrelevant commentary at the bottom of the page. Music info might originate from NPR, but we only see it from a biased RT on Twitter. Many of us often find the screens littered with live updates from the 2 seconds we set the device down. Info. is. everywhere.  

Ending personal thought: I was recently made fun of for buying a tangible CD instead of purchasing the digital copy of the album on iTunes/Spotify. Now, I like the "collectible" nature of the shiny, durable CD case (WITH the lyrics and fold out poster included, of course). In a world where we are all so addictively IV-ed to technology and electronics, am I (and, likely Lanham) the only dinosaur that still does this? Same with books--do the words not seem more real when you're thumbing the actual paper pages?  

…Looks around the silent room awkwardly. Ok time for this loner to go!


  1. Interesting points, all, Megan. I do feel like the "era of beloved antiques" has really just morphed into a new age love for our iPads, Pinterest, and Etsy.

    "Stuff and Fluff" and the two readings by Winifred Gallagher ("Choosing the Focused Life" and "Pay Attention: Your Life Depends on It") reminded me of a recent report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project about how this generation will both benefit and suffer from their "hyperconnectivity." It's an interesting read, for sure, and I think it alludes to some of the concepts from this week's readings.

  2. First, I'm with you Megan! Another dinosaur here;)
    Second, you brought up some great points. Nicholas Carr's "The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains" is a really interesting read, despite how depressing it sounds. He actually reviews the physiological and largely neurological changes that are taking place as we continue on the path of increased interaction with digital media. I want say much more because we are reading an excerpt from that in a few weeks and I don't want to spoil it.

    I also recently watched "Midnight in Paris", a recent movie of Woody Allen's and I loved it. You definitely would, too. It's about the main character's (Owen Wilson) love of a previous time... an ideal time. For him it is the 20s. I won't ruin the ending, but the movie is a playful yet thought-provoking piece about those of us who idealize the past. I DO still wish I could live in a time without all of the bells and whistles we have now, but the reality is that 1)apart from creating our own version of M. Night Shyamalan's Village away from everything, we can't easily extract ourselves from this environment, and thus 2)I guess we have to learn to deal with it. I'm really interested to see what develops in the realm of media literacy like Damien was talking about last week (or the week before?).

  3. I just wanted to join the crowd and say I'm a dinosaur too. Group hug!