What I find interesting about this longish, “the-Web-causes-all-sorts-of-problems” article in the New York Times titled “Texts Without Context” is a) that a lot of it resonates, but b) that there aren’t any solutions offered. Basically, if you pick through the many references and quotes in the article, you can make a long list of what’s wrong with the whole social media/Interent thing, bullet points like:
- Copyright and intellectual property are no longer respected
- Plagiarism is rampant
- Originality and imagination are being lost
- We are losing our ability to think deeply and creatively
- We now just want immediate gratification
- Information overload
- Further polarization of political views
- A loss of the ability to read extended texts
- An impatience with nuance
- A loss of focus in a world of distraction
- The sense of immature entitlement on the part of social media users
- Decrease in overall quality of work
- “Cyberbalkanization” or a growing comfort in the echo chamber
- Loss of serendipity
- Loss of an objective reality (i.e. the debate over climate change)
- The end of authorship
As I said, I really can get to much of this, though I’m not sure these shifts are necessarily worse as much as they represent simply a different way of doing things. But it seems that while we lament all of these “problems” we offer few if any solutions. Are we to pull the plug on the Web? Should we just treat it like some dangerous drug and “Just Say No”? What do we do?
I’m thinking none of this stuff is going away any time soon, and that if we are really concerned about these perceived negative shifts, we’d better start teaching kids to deal with them, right? All the hand-wringing in the world isn’t going to make them better or make them go away. Maybe we can use these as starting points for developing skills and literacies and habits in kids that they’ll need to maintain a healthy relationship with the Web, the same types of skills and habits we need to develop in ourselves. If we do that, we have to start early, with our youngest kids, and we have to make it a part of every curriculum, not just a unit in English class.
Wondering what on that list resonates with you, feels most challenging to you, and what you think we should do (if anything) about it.
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