Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Wracking my brain

Sr Helena and I will be in Boston in mid-November to give a social media in-service to the religious educators of the Archdiocese, so that is what I have been working on when I'm not (a) praying (b) cooking (c) grocery shopping (d) airport running or (e) exercising. As you can imagine, I haven't gotten all that far just yet. And the fact that there is a Catholic Press Congress going on right now at the Vatican, generating even more valuable content is not making it any easier!
One of the areas we were asked to touch on is the issue of brain development and the media. This has been a critical area for decades (I just found some notes I took at a seminar by Dr. David Walsh; it had to have been about 1990); now with neuroscience getting more and more tools for studying the brain in real time, there is more information than ever about how we interact with all sorts of media, even on the level of neuro-muscular electrical impulses!
Literacy--the original, text-based kind--is undergoing a shift. E-readers are designed not just to give you that (free!) Jane Austen* title to enjoy, but to sell you a commentary, or a zombie version, and to let you take (and share) your notes, and maybe find another Austen fan's notes and book recommendations--which  you investigate and perhaps purchase--while you had your virtual thumb on that passage where Mr. Darcy is just about to...
According to Nicholas Carr (in a highly controversial article!), Google (by extension, the hyperlinked world you are inhabiting right now) is making us stupid by training our brains, reinforcing the neural networks that help us flit from subject to subject lightly, rather than rewarding more reflective (i.e. deeper!) investigation. I confess: I see myself in that mirror. And you? (Did you click on any of those links yet? Gotcha!)

*Had to correct my spelling of the venerable author's name; I had Texas on the brain!

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