From text to visual – we are being transformed

So I woke up this morning to WNYC as I always do, was listening to BBC World Service as I headed out the door and heard an interview with Baroness Susan Greenfield about her research that internet use and networked gaming, all of this time spent in the online environment, is, in fact, changing young people’s minds, their experience of the world and their modes of cognition. And here’s an article in the Chicago Tribune about her research. And here’s an article in the NY TIMES.

 I have been talking about this on this site for awhile and in offline conversations for a long time (listen to my spoken word piece from 1994!). In the past few years I have been asking if the rise in A.D.D. and ADHD is less of an illness and more of a fundamental change in the way people are processing information. I have been talking about the profound change we are experiencing:

…within the past ten years we have hurtled headlong into an information age where the cut-and-paste aesthetic of early modernism has become the lingua franca of everyday experience. We live in a state of de-contextualization, mash-up, sampling, cognitive dissonance and juxtaposition – both intentional and accidental. We are moving from text-based culture to visual culture; an interactive, hybrid, multimedia world which is rapidly and continually evolving, emerging and morphing.

THE SHIFT FROM TEXT-BASED TO VISUAL CULTURE is as profound as electric light erasing the barrier between night and day; highways, cars and telephones changing our experience of distance; television, film and recorded media changing our sense of place and narrative.

I have used this same paragraph in numerous essays recently (okay, I’m lazy) but this is the point – we HAVE to acknowledge this and understand it and guide this development in a conscious, deliberate way. We cannot move forward haphazardly and lose continuity between past and future. Didn’t anybody else read Childhood’s End?

This is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING. This isn’t some hippie-dippy b.s. about the harmonic convergence, nor is it End Times Eschatology – this is a fundamental biological shift in modes of human cognition. The nature of attention that is developed by reading, by one-on-one interaction with written text, is changing. What are we going to do about it???

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