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December 18, 2012



Sony SRF-18 vs Sony ICF-F10:

Ed S.

This is all a tempest in a teapot. People have been self-absorbed for centuries--when they are deeply into a book they are reading. Does it make a difference if you are staring at a printed page or a smartphone screen? Various Luddites were wringing their hands when the Walkman came out in 1979... oh, people will be so insulated! So, are you insulated when you listen to a radio, whether through the speaker or headphones? When you sit back and enjoy a sound system, are you cutting yourself off from society? How about getting intensely absorbed in viewing a sporting event on your big-screen? How much do you interact with your spouse at those times? Not much I'll bet, except to tell her to get you another brewski...


I'm no Luddite, but the technology affects our brains in ways books don't. Our brains are malleable and "plastic" and dangerous changes--shortness of attention for example--have resulted from being plugged into the Net and our eco-system of interruption technologies.


What Jeff said.

Ed's argument is specious. Yes, reading is a solitary activity, so is listening to the radio or watching tv if you happen to be alone. But the ipad/iphone syndrome is qualitatively different in that it is, for many, a nearly ongoing every-waking-moment activity. Few of us wake up reading a book and walk around, nose in it and oblivious to everything and everyone around us wherever we go, each day, every day. It isn't solely the solitary aspect of pursuits all of us enjoy from time to time (reading, listening to the radio, watching tv, etc), perhaps for a bit of each day that I am identifying, rather it is the day long blinders-on, total self-immersion nature of the iPod experience.

Ed S.

And Doug's argument is pure old-hippy pop- Psy hysteria. The world goes on with you or without you. Get a horse, they yelled at the first motorcar drivers! Damn kids and their Rock n Roll! Can't understand anything they're saying!
Something terrible happens to music every 40 years it seems, and now the same is being said about technology. You use it too much, con earn it! Show me a valid study that unequivocally says attention and memory is worse now. You can't. Because its not worse, its simply different now. They said the same thing when books were printed in mass quantities, the oral memory was being reduced. Perhaps it was, as symbology grew more dominant for the brain. Today, kids learn more through visual imagery--it's not worse or better; it's simply different.


Ed, I am no advocate of "hippy pop-psych", and not being hysterical, merely making an observation, in what I thought were in a measured tone, based on what I see going on around me, and I am definitely not agonizing over the impending downfall of civilization.

Your argument that all day long instant-on, jump-cut nature of living one's life on the Web is "not worse or better, it's simply different" doesn't hold up and, in fact, runs contrary to dozens, hundreds of studies that show more superficial thinking, shorter attention spans (click-click-click....), and "re-wired" brains from too much texting, Web surfing, game playing, etc. However, there have been gains, seriously, in areas such as quicker visual processing and eye-hand coordination. So there's that.

Here is just a brief sampling of what recent studies are revealing:

"We know that the human brain is highly plastic; neurons and synapses change as circumstances change. When we adapt to a new cultural phenomenon, including the use of a new medium, we end up with a different brain, says Michael Merzenich, a pioneer of the field of neuroplasticity. That means our online habits continue to reverberate in the workings of our brain cells even when we’re not at a computer. We’re exercising the neural circuits devoted to skimming and multitasking while ignoring those used for reading and thinking deeply.

Last year, researchers at Stanford found signs that this shift may already be well under way. They gave a battery of cognitive tests to a group of heavy media multitaskers as well as a group of relatively light ones. They discovered that the heavy multitaskers were much more easily distracted, had significantly less control over their working memory, and were generally much less able to concentrate on a task. Intensive multitaskers are “suckers for irrelevancy,” says Clifford Nass, one professor who did the research. “Everything distracts them.” Merzenich offers an even bleaker assessment: As we multitask online, we are “training our brains to pay attention to the crap.”

And a few more:

"In a study published in the journal Media Psychology, researchers had more than 100 volunteers watch a presentation about the country of Mali, played through a Web browser. Some watched a text-only version. Others watched a version that incorporated video. Afterward, the subjects were quizzed on the material. Compared to the multimedia viewers, the text-only viewers answered significantly more questions correctly; they also found the presentation to be more interesting, more educational, more understandable, and more enjoyable."

So much for learning better through visual imagery.

"Navigating linked documents, it turned out, entails a lot of mental calisthenics—evaluating hyperlinks, deciding whether to click, adjusting to different formats—that are extraneous to the process of reading. Because it disrupts concentration, such activity weakens comprehension. A 1989 study showed that readers tended just to click around aimlessly when reading something that included hypertext links to other selected pieces of information. A 1998 experiment revealed that some “could not remember what they had and had not read.”

All this said, I am a regular Web surfer and emailer and online shopper and streaming video watcher. Moreover, I enjoy the time I spend with my iMac and iPad. I am just not plugged into some device every waking hour.


that should be "WAS in a measured tone." Changed it from to singular (an observation) from plural (observations) and forgot to change the verb to "was".

Ditto accidental deletion of "the" before all day long . .

But who proofreads emails?

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