Three items today relevant to recent posts. First, following up on our series of posts on lifelogging, CNN has a very cursory but still-worth-excerpting article called “Do digital diaries mess up your brain?“:
But recording everything you do takes people out of the “here and now,” psychologists say. Constant documenting may make people less thoughtful about and engaged in what they’re doing because they are focused on the recording process, Schwartz said.Moreover, if these documented memories are available to others, people may actually do things differently.“If we have experiences with an eye toward the expectation that in the next five minutes, we’re going to tweet them, we may choose difference experiences to have, ones that we can talk about rather than ones we have an interest in,” he said.Similarly, a 1993 study led by researchers at the University of Virginia found that undergraduate students who were asked to think about their reasons for choosing posters chose differently and reported less satisfaction than those who did not have to justify their choices.
The opportunity to contact many people at once seems to encourage compartmentalization, as people try to establish different kinds of romantic attachments with different people at the same time.It seems to encourage an attitude of contingency. If you have several options perpetually before you, and if technology makes it easier to jump from one option to another, you will naturally adopt the mentality of a comparison shopper.It also seems to encourage an atmosphere of general disenchantment. Across the centuries the moral systems from medieval chivalry to Bruce Springsteen love anthems have worked the same basic way. They take immediate selfish interests and enmesh them within transcendent, spiritual meanings. Love becomes a holy cause, an act of self-sacrifice and selfless commitment.But texting and the utilitarian mind-set are naturally corrosive toward poetry and imagination. A coat of ironic detachment is required for anyone who hopes to withstand the brutal feedback of the marketplace. In today’s world, the choice of a Prius can be a more sanctified act that the choice of an erotic partner.
Apropos the recent pair of posts here on lifelogging, I might recommend for further reading Christine Rosen’s essay on multitasking from The New Atlantis last year, and Walter Kirn’s 2007 essay on that subject in The Atlantic. From Kirn’s piece:
Productive? Efficient? More like running up and down a beach repairing a row of sand castles as the tide comes rolling in and the rain comes pouring down. Multitasking, a definition: “The attempt by human beings to operate like computers, often done with the assistance of computers.” It begins by giving us more tasks to do, making each task harder to do, and dimming the mental powers required to do them.
… I quickly adjusted to the Kindle’s screen and mastered the scroll and page-turn buttons. Nevertheless, my eyes were restless and jumped around as they do when I try to read for a sustained time on the computer. Distractions abounded. I looked up Dickens on Wikipedia, then jumped straight down the Internet rabbit hole following a link about a Dickens short story, “Mugby Junction.” Twenty minutes later I still hadn’t returned to my reading of Nickleby on the Kindle.
The child’s imagination and children’s nascent sense of probity and introspection are no match for a medium that creates a sense of urgency to get to the next piece of stimulating information. The attention span of children may be one of the main reasons why an immersion in on-screen reading is so engaging, and it may also be why digital reading may ultimately prove antithetical to the long-in-development, reflective nature of the expert reading brain as we know it….The habitual reader Aristotle worried about the three lives of the “good society”: the first life is the life of productivity and knowledge gathering; the second, the life of entertainment; and the third, the life of reflection and contemplation….I have no doubt that the digital immersion of our children will provide a rich life of entertainment and information and knowledge. My concern is that they will not learn, with their passive immersion, the joy and the effort of the third life, of thinking one’s own thoughts and going beyond what is given.
Lifelogging – recording every single minute of your life (or as much of it as possible) – continues its unstoppable march towards the mainstream with the announcement that Vicon will soon release a life recording device called the Revue. The device is worn around your neck and automatically takes photos up to every 30 seconds.