Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Tech Time Warp

Check out this BBC article in which a 13 year old Briton trades his iPod for his dad's old walkman for a week. It's as if he traveled back in time centuries, not just a couple decades. Best line: "It took me three days to figure out there was another side to the tape."

I worked in a Christian bookstore in summer 1999. I still remember a little girl in the music department with her mom, asking in that angelic voice, "Mommy, what's this?" It was a cassette tape. I felt old. I still listened to a lot of cassettes at that time (though that was largely because MP3s hadn't yet destroyed the art of the mix tape). My current car is actually my first without a tape player, and I miss my cassettes--especially those mix tapes!

It's funny how we take new technology for granted and it totally transforms the way we think. There was an article in Atlantic Monthly last year called "Is Google Making Us Stoopid?" It talks about how our attention spans are shorter and we are losing the ability to read a long, in-depth argument. (Ironically, I skimmed that article, but that was literally for lack of time.)

Technology HAS warped my brain, and not just in terms of my attention span, which was already short. (Matt was amazed the other night that I managed to watch ten minutes of videos he was showing me on YouTube without getting bored.*) I've also apparently become overreliant on my computer and its memory. One day recently I accidentally erased a phone number I had jotted on a piece of scrap paper. My first instinct was “press Ctrl-Z!” I was disappointed to realize the paper and pencil had no Ctrl-Z, and the number was irredeemably lost. Drat.

I noticed another effect of these media-induced mind-warps when discussing writing styles with one of the authors I work with, Shawn Wood. His style is very colloquial, and his prose is peppered with asides--semi-random comments that are not crucial to the topic at hand, but make the reading quite engaging and often induce a laugh in the middle of an otherwise earnest biblical exposition. An older writer-friend of Shawn's read the manuscript for his upcoming book and didn't really care for those asides. I, on the other hand, think they are great! I realized this generational difference in preferences may reflect the Gen X/Y comfort with random, ultra-brief commentary that we've grown accustomed to through texts, tweets, and Facebook updates. Younger adults have embraced (perhaps invented) a less-is-more style of communication that can paint a great picture and even add extra zest to longform writing... in 140 characters or less.

* While I usually roll my eyes at Matt's viral video finds, these two were hysterical, and I have to recommend them. First, if you haven't seen the "Literal Video" of Bonnie Tyler's Total Eclipse of the Heart, you have to. Secondly, if you've ever known an ultra-cool youth pastor, check out Ignatius.

1 comment:

Katie Z. said...

I feel in some ways like I live in both of those worlds. I love to read long form, and I'm only now learning tweeting. I abbreviate things when necessary in text messages, but mostly take pride in the fact that I type "though" instead of "tho." I try to write "thank you" in online chatting in my MMORPG instead of "ty." But I can definately tell that there is a difference with people even one year younger than myself. And with my youth especially. Our language is going to drastically change in just a generation and unfortunately with our life spans increasing, we may have a HUGE generational and cultural divide that we cannot communicate across.

I helped my grandma set up her DTV reciever - after just not turning on the television for the past 2 weeks because her channels wouldn't come in. And even for tech savvy me, it wasn't easy to figure out. If I hadn't of stopped by, and if she hadn't have mentioned it, she might have gone without here television news (her morning friends) for months. She laments the changes because it left her out...


Blog Widget by LinkWithin