The modern medium of YouTube, Facebook and even Twitter has opened up the opportunity for many people to voice their opinion on just about every subject known to man. While some are intelligent and show their ability to engage their favourite subjects critically they also show their inability to engage dialogue at a basic level especially written conversation.
YouTube offers the opportunity for people to live stream and invite others to join them in conversation. While this can be very informative and entertaining conversations are controlled by the host of said live streams.
Television and radio talk programs are one medium where time is limited so any topic under discussion is limited to short segments so that advertising can be used to pay for these shows. The consequences of this is that the topical matter under discussion is only ever engaged at a surface level.
I would be called one of those keyboard warriors who writes long replies because in live conversation I often digress away from the topic; we all do. We don’t follow the script so to speak. That being said many of those who host live streams seem to have the inability to actually read the comments in response to their discussion even when some one like myself time stamps their video’s in relation to a comment that is made which in one sense is dismissive.
So is it my fault that I write long winded replies? Well, Yes! In my defence I do written replies because that is how we engaged a subject at University. We learned to write essays that taught us to focus on specific area of inquiry although our space was limited. Very often we also were only able to engage a subject in an introductory fashion for the purpose of showing our understanding unless of course we were writing a masters of PhD research thesis.
What bothers me about modern media is that it is easy to sit in front of a camera and broadcast live. If I wanted to I could make myself famous or popular and host my own live stream and shake down all those I disagree with or talk about my favourite subjects. Even if I was to record edit and upload short video’s that helped me to focus on a specific subject I still couldn’t do those things I am passionate about justice.
My angst is that written expression is a dying art form. I am passionate about writing. I am passionate about those things I believe and I want to share my ideas and provoke thought and critical discussion. I don’t always do that very well but it is an art form that with practice we can sometimes excel in.
Why is written expression a dying art form or a skill? Firstly if someone writes on a difficult subject for a length longer than a 150 characters as in Twitter’s case, any real meaning that comment might carry is lost in translation so to speak.
In past times it wasn’t uncommon for people to attend church or a lecture and sit through a two hour sermon or talk. I admit I would find that a difficult task to undertake today but it is like exercise you can do it. At college I sat through two hour lectures at least four times a week as well as two hour tutorial discussions that we focused on a specific subject. This requires concentration.
Some expert has made the claim that the average person can only concentrate on any given subject for ten minutes at a time. And yet I talk to people who have seen a movie once and describe the plot and each sequence in detail. Maybe that is because information may be easier to retain if it is visual.
I had to describe some past events from 7 years ago and those asking were surprised at the level of detail I could recall. Maybe it is because that was a significant event in my life but I do have a very good visual memory. On another occasion some one wanted some information on a particular cult I researched years ago and I mean over 20 years before. I was able to quote sections of a book almost verbatim and recall the arguments authors used against these cults. At times I am also able to recall events from my early childhood around the age of two in detail while other events that occurred later in my life I can’ recall at all I simply have no memory of them. One more example is that I recently caught up with some friends who has helped guide through my teenage years. As they began talking I preempted them on a number of occasions almost as if I was replaying the guidance they had given me some 35 years ago. I am not claiming to be unique I am sure there are many people who could do much better.The point is how well can we recall information and can we recall it in a way that is accurate and useful?
The Internet provides us with both useful and useless information. To my knowledge Google is attempting to collate and record all available information online so that it is available to everyone. That is a wonderful idea so long as the Internet remains viable. So what happens if the Internet becomes our only source of information and we no longer use books? Will there be a time when books become museum pieces. Their is a whole generation out there that have never been without the Internet. I admit It is a useful tool I use it on a regular basis myself for both inquiry and entertainment.
So what happens if that all goes away, what happens if suddenly all that information that is at out finger tips is suddenly gone? Imagine there are no longer any books all our information is electronic. Then BANG! It’s all gone some one flips a switch and all of it is gone and can’t be retrieved. I’m sure we would survive but we would be back to square one it would level the playing field.
How is this relevant? It’s an example of how we have become stunted intellectually. All that information out there isn’t helping us progress if anything we have regressed! Think about this; We no longer write letters we use email. We no longer have to use cheques or sign our signature it’s all electronic. Many of us including myself don’t carry money anymore we just tap our little bank card to the pay wave device and its done. Now even that is becoming old hat; you can incorporate you bank card information on your smart phone. People look at me in surprise because I don’t even own a cell phone. The once reliable landline phone is now being upgraded to a digital network so that information can be transferred quicker. The danger is that if there is a power outage you can’t access any of that information or even dial some one in an emergency. You can’t even go to a bank and withdraw money from an ATM.
Lets pull back a bit and return to the human subject in this. Will there be a time where when writing becomes a lost art? We already have that technology you can train your computer to record your voice and turn it into written form… It reproduces your words and spells them correctly it can even suggest a better way to express yourself and correct your grammar and English or whatever language a person speaks. It may be a very useful tool that saves time however it is making us incredibly lazy.
I mentioned earlier that it is stunting us intellectually. What I mean by this is all this information that is out there isn’t all good however people treat it like the Holy Grail. Knowledge is wonderful I love knowledge people can recite all this information that is recorded online or quote their favourite guru with astounding accuracy because they watched it on YouTube. Seconds latter they bring it up on their smart phone so they can share their new insights and you discover that it is the biggest load of nonsense. Then you’re sitting with some friends having a deep discussion or debate and someone tries to defend their point of view by showing you some web page only to discover there are no links to external or authoritative sources to back it up!
Okay I’m guilty of rarely sourcing information I admit that; however most of what I say is common knowledge that can be found on where? oh the Internet! Forgive my sarcasm I can see the irony of my situation. Again in my defence I’m not claiming to be an expert on the subjects I write about. I do acknowledge that much of what I write is my opinion although I do acknowledge that many of my thoughts and ideas come from others So I’m not committing academic suicide by plagiarising others work or ideas.
Now to the crux of the issue which happens to be one of my major gripes…. Comprehension of subject matter and thinking about information critically I follow a person I call a friend who podcasts regularly that hounds on about seeking truth but his interpretation of truth is relative it is something that changes over time. Truth is something that can be verified as real it is something that is certain. I am a seeker of truth but some would say I take truth to far because I believe in absolutes that is something that is true doesn’t change. Can I prove all truth with certainty? No I can’t!
Dr James White often admonishes people not trade truth for certainty and I whole heartily agree. My friend whom I watch on his podcast says the same thing. If I was to be so black and white that I was absolutely certain that something is true the question needs to be asked and I should be challenged as to how certain I am of that truth. My friend rightly asks what would cause me to doubt the truth I believe. This often pertains to the subject of the existence of God and I think it is healthy to maintain a certain amount of doubt because it allows for further inquiry but my friend thinks that doubt is a virtue. We both analyse and assess knowledge in different ways but we disagree on many levels.
Once a person reaches a point of absolute certainty on any subject there is no more discussion to be had, it’s that simple the debate is over. The person who has reached absolution in their thinking often looks at the world in such a convoluted way that their thinking often becomes impenetrable. Does this mean my mind can’t be changed? My friend is right once more that something is only true until further investigation proves that it is not true. It is fair to challenge my stance that there is a God and we can know Him. However that is different from making all truth relative so that truth becomes consensus rather than something I then have to sacrifice my personal beliefs for. Once more if we cherry pick our information so that truth supports our beliefs that is equally dishonest. Truth as someone else has said doesn’t care about our feelings. Truth is brutal it is that simple.
Where the internet and information is concerned the problem is that there is more bad information than there is good information. We have to sift through it to find accuracy not something that some one feels is true or right… Critical thinking requires that we be honest about our own ideas and beliefs not just those we agree with.
Technology is dangerous in the wrong hands it is even more dangerous when it just thrown out there to fill a void. Information needs to be purposeful and it needs to be critiqued. How many of us critique the information out there?