The consequences of modern media and technology

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?




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