A history of media technology scares, from the printing press to Facebook.

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sylvanworksCLOSED
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Posted Tue Feb 16, 2010 12:12PM
Interesting article on slate. Best quote:

"To date, studies suggest there is no consistent evidence that the Internet causes mental problems."

Clearly they haven't studied the regular users of this forum.
risamay
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Posted Tue Feb 16, 2010 12:32PM
Hm. Sounds like a case of the chicken or the egg.

I'd argue many of us had a few screws loose at the outset, before we even knew about iStock and started posting here regularly biggrin

Exhibit A: Our newest grandpa.
EricFerguson
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Posted Tue Feb 16, 2010 12:34PM
Really neat article Rob, but I think the point that it misses is that some of those anti-information overload prophets were right about the effects of the changes that they observed.

Socrates warned that writing would "create forgetfulness in the learners' souls, because they will not use their memories."

And he was right! Evidence suggests that all this information being available outside our heads really has decreased our memory and changed culture as a result: orality in our daily lives has all but completely disappeared and been replaced with other, more 'modern' modes of discourse.  How many people do you know who can read a poem?  How many people do you know that can recite one?

It's easy to argue that none of this is actually bad, but either way the claims that media critics have made across the centuries aren't entirely foolish, and they're accurate often enough to justify taking a discussion of their implciations seriously.
risamay
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Posted Tue Feb 16, 2010 12:44PM
That's a great point, Eric. Until the introduction of phones with "memory" I easily knew 30 or more numbers of my closest friends and family by heart. Now ... not. Today I probably have a mere 5 or 6 numbers in my mental Rolodex.
Difydave
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Posted Tue Feb 16, 2010 12:48PM

Neolithic Times Headline:

New Technology Of Cave Painting

Causes Mental Disorders In Young

And Loss Of Interest In Flint Knapping
kelvinjay
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Posted Tue Feb 16, 2010 2:16PM
JodiJacobson
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Posted Tue Feb 16, 2010 9:43PM
I already forgot what I just read!
dcdp
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Posted Tue Feb 16, 2010 10:34PM
Posted By risamay:
That's a great point, Eric. Until the introduction of phones with "memory" I easily knew 30 or more numbers of my closest friends and family by heart. Now ... not. Today I probably have a mere 5 or 6 numbers in my mental Rolodex.

So true. I have one of those brains that remembers numbers very well. Since I got a mobile I can hardly remember my own. I should be able to remember something else better as a result of not having to remember numbers, but I just don't seem to be able to. I blame my children.
Whiteway
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Posted Wed Feb 17, 2010 1:30AM
In the early days of the motor car, people thought that their heads might explode if they travelled at over 30mph. To date, studies suggest there is no consistent evidence that this is the case.
EricFerguson
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Posted Wed Feb 17, 2010 10:54PM
I think the winter olympics have showed that there are plenty of ways to let gravity accelerate you to over 30mph without any interal combustion!
Jot
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Posted Thu Feb 18, 2010 1:33PM

How many people do you know who can read a poem? How many people do you know that can recite one?



None, but sadly I know a couple of people who write them.
SoopySue
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Posted Thu Feb 18, 2010 5:33PM
Posted By EricFerguson:
Really neat article Rob, but I think the point that it misses is that some of those anti-information overload prophets were right about the effects of the changes that they observed.

Socrates warned that writing would "create forgetfulness in the learners' souls, because they will not use their memories."

And he was right! Evidence suggests that all this information being available outside our heads really has decreased our memory and changed culture as a result: orality in our daily lives has all but completely disappeared and been replaced with other, more 'modern' modes of discourse. How many people do you know who can read a poem? How many people do you know that can recite one?

It's easy to argue that none of this is actually bad, but either way the claims that media critics have made across the centuries aren't entirely foolish, and they're accurate often enough to justify taking a discussion of their implciations seriously.


I did a course which included an 'oral tradition' component where inter alia they had filmed a very old Gaelic storyteller from one of the islands (I think in the 1960s when he was IIRC in his 90s). He was the traditional storyteller of his village, telling stories which were passed on, with the role, from father to son. They filmed him telling a story lasting about an hour, then went back a year later and he told the same story, with only about six words different. He had never been to school and was totally illiterate.


I often tell pupils that memory gets poorer with writing - if we need to remember 20 things we must get at the shops, we can just write a list - no nned to remember anything (except where you put the note!)


Reciting poems would be pretty general in people of my age - most of us can do at least one Burns poem, courtesy of learning them for Burns Federation competitions. For some reason, learning poems 'off by heart' was considered an important element in our education.  Actually the tradition continues: lots of the primary schools still enter weans for Burns Federation competitions.


I usually do Matilda as a party piece for the S1s around Fireworks Night. Great fun. Huh - one secretly filmed me on his mobile and I had to threaten GBH to force him to erase it before it got to his Bebo page.
Whiteway
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Posted Fri Feb 19, 2010 1:01AM
Posted By Jot:
How many people do you know who can read a poem? How many people do you know that can recite one?

None, but sadly I know a couple of people who write them.

With a bit of brushing up I could do Nod (Walter de la Mer).

On the other hand there are many folk and pop songs that I can quote from end to end.

However, the words of many pop songs are at least partially indistinguishable. I love the song Ironic (Alanis Morissette), but it wasn't until I heard a very good 'tribute' version that I heard the lyric clearly.

Regarding knowing people who write poetry, it is true, there is nothing more embarrassing than having someone pin you to a wall and regaling you with verse after verse of self-generated rhyme. I think it's uncomfortable because you are under pressure to 'appreciate' the output. At least with the Vogon (Hitch-hikers' Guide To The Galaxy'), he knew that offering to read his poetry out loud constituted a threat.
Down2theXRoads
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Posted Fri Feb 19, 2010 2:36AM
Posted By SoopySue:





I did a course which included an 'oral tradition' component where inter alia they had filmed a very old Gaelic storyteller from one of the islands (I think in the 1960s when he was IIRC in his 90s). He was the traditional storyteller of his village, telling stories which were passed on, with the role, from father to son. They filmed him telling a story lasting about an hour, then went back a year later and he told the same story, with only about six words different. He had never been to school and was totally illiterate.

Studies have been done on oral and written speech patterns to show that The Illyiad and The Odyssey were oral poems handed down for generations before Homer put them on paper.  I can barely lift the books, let alone memorize them.  The same seems to be true of the first five books of the Bible, attributed to Moses.  They had to be handed down orally in the original Aramaic because the stories were told for people who would have had no way of getting their hands on something written.  If they did have written documents, it would have been illegal with a penalty of death.

In my day, we had to memorize the Gettysburgh Address and a bunch of other stuff.  I'm not sure why it was required, but it may have had it's roots in the Christian practice (probably Catholic) of Lectio Divina.  That's memorizing a scripture and repeating it over and over again until the scripture begins to pray you, which seems to me a mental practice with the aim of seeing the object that casts the shadow on the cave wall.  I know I've read several books many times over and been stunned at the multitude of layers that emerge with each reading.  We're probably missing a bunch by skimming over so much information.  But perhaps that brings us to something new that's more relevant to our times--gaining a broad picture of a complex world that is impossible to know in detail but important to grasp in concept.

The only poem I can recite these days is a little quickie by Robert Frost:

"Forgive, oh Lord, my little jokes on thee,

And I'll forgive thy great big one on me."
Down2theXRoads
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Posted Fri Feb 19, 2010 2:44AM
Posted By sylvanworks:

"To date, studies suggest there is no consistent evidence that the Internet causes mental problems."

Clearly they haven't studied the regular users of this forum.

Awwwwwhhhhhh, that's so sweet of you to notice  
Jot
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Posted Fri Feb 19, 2010 12:16PM

I was travelling on a boat in Turkey twenty years ago and we stopped at a little port and went out for dinner at the only restaurant in town. There were ten of us. The waiter took our order for drinks and didn't write them down but brought them all out correctly which was quite impressive. We nicknamed him "The Memory Man". When it came to ordering food we decided to test him so we all chose different starters and main dishes and side orders - maybe thirty different dishes, with as many extras and special requirements as we could think of. He still didn't write them down and brought our order - each dish correct and served to the right person.  We went back the next night and instead of ordering, we sat round the table in a different seating plan and ordered the same again! Of course it all came perfectly once again. It turned out he had been a fisherman and had never learned to read or write, hence the fantastic memory.
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