Sayyy, web browsing friend, have you read this?

quote: “Research continues to show that people who read linear text comprehend more, remember more, and learn more than those who read text peppered with links.”

At first, this strikes me as just another dogmatic fear-of-change reaction. ‘we did it one way for hundreds of years, so this new thang must be inferior. or a throwback to primitive animal-brain crap that nobody really wants.’ .
…I guess they do mention that the hypertext distraction isn’t as pronounced as it once was, because people have learned to tune out hyperlinks. but. I don’t think they really believe it.

Anywho. It strikes me as practically a religious zealot reaction. “The web will rewire our brains” might just be another way of saying “the web will change us all into something so new that no on can predict how it will look/act.” maybe people will hunt for information, and we’ll have smaller tubs of knowledge to draw from – but there will be more people doing it, much more often, so maybe it will be better for the human race. (maybe even a return to the human animal’s core ability?)

* Reading on,
I keep thinking of scott mcCloud’s diagram of “text to symbol to photo-real” (the “universality of cartoon imagery“). We understand the photo faster, but invest ourselves more into the symbol. yeah? Everyone agrees on this?
…So maybe we are involving ourselves even more into the older text only presentation? (did mcCloud already suggest this? I guess I’m confusing his cartoon involvement ideas with his break down of text to photo in “map of every possible form of visual art and communication.” or “the big triangle”).

(maybe it is even suggesting that we understand the photo-real faster because: it is clearly distinct from us? externalized = speedy? symbolic = slow, but emotionally intimate? or maybe we just gravitate towards symbols because some small part of our brain feels smarter for having decoded the symbol? Like Harmonix’s rhythm game theory that repeatedly rewarding the player for each note hit correctly creates a reward addiction subtext… maybe we get the same subtle thrill from recognizing each letter in a word and each word in a sentence, before we even get to the bigger picture.)

maybe simple text is so abstract that it becomes so involving: that it really was ideal for knowledge cultivation?

“When we adapt to a new cultural phenomenon, including the use of a new medium, we end up with a different brain, says Michael Merzenich, a pioneer of the field of neuroplasticity.”

This is interesting from the perspective that: we have new cultural phenomenon each week. New mediums each year.

This relates deeply to the gizmo-addict notion that:
A) we buy things (like an iPad) immediately, because within 2 years it may not have worked out. Hot new gizmos have a time window of relevance.
B) everything is cool for a small period of time. People move on.

We want to experience it now, before everyone has a chance to figure out how it will really settle into our lives.
Maybe we’ll even be part of the group that figures out unplanned uses. (feels like i’m describg a group of crowd-sourcing inventors).

I wonder what Apple has come up with while researching this.

* I also keep thinking about recent iPad discussions which claim a touch interface offers a heightened intimacy with our tech. (Most recently stumbled across this is in Christopher Fahey‘s webVisions session The Human Interface
Or, Why Products Are People Too
, the idea that these computers live in our homes. and we want to pet them).

Kinda interesting/ironic that this article is in the Wired issue that just released on iPad this morning (purportedly, I haven’t be able to check it out yet. Goddamn this day job!).

I keep coming back to a daydream that: it would be interesting to offer an app that locked you out of multimedia. Rather than mix it up, this app would forces you to focus on discrete elements for specified amounts of time. a photo for 2 minutes. a song for 2 minutes. a paragraph for 2 minutes. another photo. a word. … i guess it’d be tricky to time it. Because you don’t want people to game the system (looking away from their iPad aside for 1.5 minutes). but you could probably make it jarring enough to demand focus…
… maybe you can’t force focus? (I admire how hours in the wilderness can reprogram you into paying more attention to your surroundings. You notice the smell of the air and such, and think about your life. but is it really possible to force people to have this experience? … er, don’t movies prove that you can, pretty much?)

I like to think that changing the way our brains work is a form of evolution. I also like to think that if we do end up displaying things on/in our eyeballs, someday soon, we’ll evolve dramatically again. This whole fear of what the web is doing to our brains/culture is NOTHING, compared to what’s coming.

* the article ends with this bit: ” 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.”
but totally rings true with other articles i’ve read this past year, suggesting we find the web addictive (and information becomes entertainment) because it ties into our animal urges to hunt.
(i should rename the “search” button on my website to “hunt”)

p.s. On a maybe related note: have you watched this?
Dan Meyer: Math Class Needs a Makeover
It makes me think about the probable shift away from 100 years of formula(ic) learning to some new sort of creative absorption and application. Away from the old model of rigid knuckle-rapping schooling which sought to make us all the same, into a new online intimate education that produces a melting pot of diversely thinking people.

perhaps a crazed cloud of individuals running in different directions, barely able to communicate or collaborate on anthing.
perhaps the end of a productive world.

but very interesting/powerful thing to think about. wee! and away we goooOOOOOOoo!


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