February 19, 2011

Adam Gopnik, “How the Internet Gets Inside Us”

How the Internet Gets Inside Us,” The New Yorker (February 14, 2011)

“…All three kinds appear among the new books about the Internet: call them the Never-Betters, the Better-Nevers, and the Ever-Wasers. The Never-Betters believe that we’re on the brink of a new utopia, where information will be free and democratic, news will be made from the bottom up, love will reign, and cookies will bake themselves. The Better-Nevers think that we would have been better off if the whole thing had never happened, that the world that is coming to an end is superior to the one that is taking its place, and that, at a minimum, books and magazines create private space for minds in ways that twenty-second bursts of information don’t. The Ever-Wasers insist that at any moment in modernity something like this is going on, and that a new way of organizing data and connecting users is always thrilling to some and chilling to others—that something like this is going on is exactly what makes it a modern moment. One’s hopes rest with the Never-Betters; one’s head with the Ever-Wasers; and one’s heart? Well, twenty or so books in, one’s heart tends to move toward the Better-Nevers, and then bounce back toward someplace that looks more like home….”

February 16, 2011

Bret Easton Ellis: How Digital Formats are Changing Fiction Writing

Question: How much will digital formats change the way that books are written and conceived? (- Question via Facebook from Catherine Kustanczy)

Bret Easton Ellis: I think people started writing differently once computers came into play.  I think people started writing differently.  I noticed a difference in books when people were writing books on computers and not composing them longhand and not doing them on typewriters.  But books seemed longer and they seemed more extravagant and decorative.  Once you can start doing footnotes in books, a la David Foster Wallace or Dave Eggers, or whoever.  I mean… or I think of a book like “House of Leaves” by Mark Danielewski in terms of how it’s designed, or his follow-up “Only Revolutions.”

Question: How much do you think the form of the novel is affected by the increasing amount of other media people consume?

Bret Easton Ellis: The novel’s affected a huge amount by that, because of all these distractions.  Look, a lot of my friends—college educated, smart people, adults who used to read a lot of fiction—have admitted to me that technology has disrupted their patience with fiction.  There’s so many other things going on that once… I mean, if none of this stuff was available to them, whether it’s checking their Facebook page or reading articles online and then linking to the next article and the next article that they might be sitting down with a novel instead.

// complete text and video on site

February 5, 2011

Georgia considering swapping books for iPads

Senate President pro term of the Georgia State Senate told reporters this week that state officials are considering accepting an offer from Apple to swap textbooks for iPads in Georgia classrooms.

AJC, quoting Tommie Williams (R-Lyons):  “Last week we met with Apple Computers, and they have a really promising program where they come in and their recommending to middle schools – for $500 per child per year, they will furnish every child with an iPad, wi-fi the system, provide all the books on the system, all the upgrades, all the teacher training – and the results they’re getting from these kids is phenomenal.”

He goes on to say: “We’re currently spending about $40 million a year on books. And they last about seven years. We have books that don’t even have 9/11. This is the way kids are learning, and we need to be willing to move in that direction.”

A blogger for the AJC responds: “Figuring there are probably about half a million middle school students in Georgia, how are we saving any money spending $500 per student per year, which is what Williams said at the press conference today? (This morning, I received the actual numbers of middle schoolers:  377,478 middle schoolers reported enrolled this fall. At $500 apiece, that’s $188,739,000. Thanks, Quanalyst).”

February 1, 2011

Information consumption logs

Discussion questions for this thread and your midterm position papers:

What can we make of the quantification of reading:  the number of words consumed; the partition of the day into distinct modes of “information consumption”; the shrinking percentage of reading audiences?  What is the cultural and rhetorical function of these metrics?  Does your own quantification exercise – your information log – suggest that this is a meaningful methodological approach?  What does accounting both reveal and obscure?

January 29, 2011

Marshall McLuhan: I read only the right-hand page

Short video excerpt from the new website, Marshall McLuhan Speaks: “My Reading Habits” (1967)

Serious books he reads on the right hand only; frivolous books he reads every word.

January 23, 2011

Sherry Turkle with Colbert

From The Colbert Report (January 17, 2011): in an interview about her new book, Alone Together, Sherry Turkle makes the case for managing our relationship to technology. Turkle: “Some arguments really do take the long form. Some arguments really do take a book.”

January 22, 2011

More quantitative studies of “knowledge work”

In addition to the NEA studies about reading and the UC San Diego study of information consumption, we might consider some of the data from the study of academic performance by college students that I mentioned on Thursday:

stats from Academically Adrift

Second there is the Academic Time Use Survey for College Students (more data on Bureau of Labor Statistics website):

BLS time use chart

January 19, 2011

In Florida, Virtual Classrooms With No Teachers

From the NY Times (January 17, 2011):

“On the first day of her senior year at North Miami Beach Senior High School, Naomi Baptiste expected to be greeted by a teacher when she walked into her precalculus class. ‘All there were were computers in the class,’ said Naomi, who walked into a room of confused students. ‘We found out that over the summer they signed us up for these courses.’ Naomi is one of over 7,000 students in Miami-Dade County Public Schools enrolled in a program in which core subjects are taken using computers in a classroom with no teacher. A ‘facilitator’ is in the room to make sure students progress. That person also deals with any technical problems.”

January 15, 2011

Discussion of “Growing up Digital, Wired for Distraction”

Post your responses here as comments…

January 13, 2011

“How Tweets and Texts Nurture In-Depth Analysis”

Clive Thompson, “How Tweets and Texts Nurture In-Depth Analysis,” Wired (December 27, 2010)

“We’re often told that the Internet has destroyed people’s patience for long, well-thought-out arguments. After all, the ascendant discussions of our day are text messages, tweets, and status updates. The popularity of this endless fire hose of teensy utterances means we’ve lost our appetite for consuming—and creating—slower, reasoned contemplation. Right?

I’m not so sure. In fact, I think something much more complex and interesting is happening: The torrent of short-form thinking is actually a catalyst for more long-form meditation….”