Saturday, April 3, 2010

You are Not a Gadget - Jaron Lanier

Creativity and humanity threatened as people are forced to act like artificial constructs

Lanier discussed how artificially reproducing music through electronic midi has forced musical notes to fit into a static, unchanging pitch as opposed to the warm, irregular, organic sound of live instruments. He believes that the Web 2.0 formats such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs, are forcing people to change their thoughts to fit these artificial formats. On one hand, I tend to agree with him about Facebook. I (possibly erroneously) think that my daily experiences and thoughts cannot be fit into a brief Facebook post, especially one that could be used against me in the future. In fact, I now try to post as boringly as possible with the exception of the odd interesting link.

However, most art forms form creative people to fit into artificial constructs. Poets are constrained by the sonnet or the haiku. Musicians are constrained by the symphony. Writers of Broadway musicials are constrained by the need to write snappy songs that will be hummed once the show is over. Is the haiku any different from the Tweet?


Oscar W. said...

I have found it interesting how conventional mass media, e.g., newspapers and magazines have adjusted their formats to more closely simulate a web page. Information is compressed into tiny blocks of a sentence or two. It's not conducive to getting more details about the subject, because you often aren't provided with more details elsewhere in the periodical. The Web has trained us to "graze" for information, grabbing isolated bits from various sources. I feel that helps to more quickly obtain multiple perspectives, but too often at the expense of depth.

Tracey said...

How about the Atlantic magazine article "Is Google making us stupid?" at:

Ironically, one of my friends admitted that she had a hard time finishing the article because of its length.

Oscar W. said...

It is a good article (but I confess that I skimmed through it quickly). I was glad that the author discussed how some, even in ancient times, bemoaned the changes in how people learn and act due to some technological advance. Who can say where the Internet will eventually take us? One might argue that it will force authors (just as Nietzsche's writing changed as he typed) to become better because they have to write more economically? Maybe the increased range of topics or articles that people digest on the Web will help. Frankly, after having recently completed a large research project using Web-based tools, I appreciated the ability to access large amounts of information through a Web browser. It's a new and powerful window on the world, and it's up to us how well or badly we use it.