Dark Bilious Vapors

But how could I deny that I possess these hands and this body, and withal escape being classed with persons in a state of insanity, whose brains are so disordered and clouded by dark bilious vapors....
--Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy: Meditation I

Home » Archives » July 2005 » The Sleeper Curve...

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07/17/2005: The Sleeper Curve...

Been reading “Everything Bad Is Good For You” by Steven Johnson.

Aside from very pertinent points about the increased intricacy and level of depth to TeeVee, Movies, Entertainment and Gaming activities – regardless of the overall “Quality” of these offerings - in what Steven Johnson refers to as “The Sleeper Curve.”

In short, “The Sleeper Curve” is the concept [as demonstrated in his book] that the culture is getting more intellectually demanding as a result of the increased media access to both more forms of pop-cultural experiences and the kind of sophisticated analysis and storyline or plot decoding it takes to watch even the worst offerings of the entertainment industry – be it video games, television, movies or internet exchanges via blogs and on-line activities as simple as IM-ing. That there is a “long term trend in pop-culture … towards increased complexity” and that this is in turn, increasing the cognitive abilities of people as a whole.

Johnson makes a very good argument about the internet and blogging too. He writes about how there is a “trend towards increased social network complexity” and how this has embraced “the many forms of participatory electronic media – from e-mail to hypertext to instant messages and blogging.”

The rise of the Internet has challenged our minds in three fundamental and related ways; by virtue of being participatory, by forcing users to learn new interfaces, and by creating channels for social interactions.

Almost all forms of online activity sustained are participatory in nature: writing e-mails, sending IMs, creating photo logs, posting two page analyses of last night’s (TV) episode. Steve Jobs likes to describe the difference between television and the WEB as the difference between lean-back and sit-forward media. The networked computer makes you lean in, focus, engage, while television encourages you to zone out (Though not as much as it used to, of course.)....
…A decade ago Douglas Rushkoff coined the phrase “screenagers” to describe the first generation that grew up with the assumption that the images on a television screen were supposed to be manipulated; that they weren’t there for passive consumption. The next generation is carrying that logic to a new extreme: the screen is not just something you manipulate, but something you project your identity onto, a place to work through the story of your life as it unfolds.
The second way in which the rise of the Net has challenged the mind runs parallel to the evolving rule system of video games: the accelerating pace of new platforms and software applications forces users to probe and master new environments. Your mind is engaged by the interactive content of the networked media – posting a response to an article online, maintaining three separate IM conversations as the same time – but you’re also exercising cognitive muscles interacting with the form of the media as well: learning the tricks of a new e-mail client, configuring the video chat software, getting your bearings after installing a new operating software.…The same principle holds true for digital technologies, only the interfaces have expanded dramatically in depth and complexity…..

Then there is the matter of social connection…the new social networking application have done something that the visionaries never imagined: they are augmenting our people skills as well, widening our social networks and creating new possibilities for strangers to share ideas and experiences.

Karen on 07.17.05 @ 12:15 PM CST

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