Dumbing down and victimhood

I have to confess I get frustrated when people complain about technology dumbing us down. The fear is often expressed that short attention spans will be forced on us by Twitter’s 140 character updates or that we will all succumb to mob mentality as memes sweep through Facebook. Writers like Nick Carr and Andrew Keen appear to be making successful careers out of fuelling these fears. 

What a bunch of wimps. Are we really that out of control? Do we just blindly gravitate to the lowest common denominator of what technology makes possible? I don’t think so. 

Yes people will play and tinker and possibly become obsessive when they first discover the delights of the internet. We all do. I did twenty years ago with Usenet. Part of this is that we have been trained to see our entertainment and education as other people’s responsibility. We are not used to taking responsibility for ourselves but the internet forces this on us eventually. Eventually most of us get bored. Most of us decide to grow up and take responsibility for our time and attention. Most of us discover that the internet is the biggest, best, learning machine we have ever had. It is collective learning on steroids. 

Most of us will be all right.

8 thoughts on “Dumbing down and victimhood

  1. Largely agree with you. I think the tech is interesting though. When all this was about laptops and blogs the emphasis was on what we could individually create and share. Now the emphasis is on tech that isn’t necessarily the best for creating on – phones, tablets etc. They’re more configured for sharing and the popular social media of the time has mirrored that.

    I do feel like we handed back some of the power to big media who’ll build iPad and phone apps to view their content and our role is simply to spread it about.


  2. Interesting irony, maybe even hypocrisy, Euan ? In the previous "rant" you complain …

    "f we don’t find a way to recover our grip on reality we will come a cropper."

    There is a strong memetic effect – ideas circulating (via the technology) do tend to limit our perspective even in IT Education / Education Management in school as you say. We people do tend to take the easy options delivered to us – received wisdom – rather than the personal responsibility to seek out what is "best". The problem is us, and how we know and believe, not the technology. The ubiquity of ICT just exaggerates / accelerates the effects.

    Now that so much is available without the "effort" to seek quality, I suspect the balance of received wisdom is tending to dumb down, with more people intuitively frustrated that something is wrong, but fewer actually putting in the individual effort. A question of habit, rather than fundamental capability.


  3. As for the crit that twitter encourages triviality in discourse, have they checked out the average social conversation? We are wired for trivial, often nasty, frequently libellous conversations. Twitter and Txt just happens to mesh perfectly with exactly who we are. And sometimes our small social conversations start something that changes the world. The net just makes THAT more likely, per David Reed’s law.


  4. Explanation …

    In this mail you seem to be saying we are NOT victims of being dumbed-down in our real-life interactions through ubiquitous technology and apps, whereas …

    In the previous rant, you seem to be saying that unless we "get a grip" – make some conscious effort to avoid it, – we ARE in danger of being taken over by the technology.

    I’d say (said in fact) that there is a (collective / social) tendency for that dumbing down towards lowest common denominator uses of the technology (gravitating towards received wisdom, etc.) that we as individuals have to make efforts to counter in order to find the creative, wise and value-adding uses.

    I think we agree ?


  5. We do indeed.

    The confusion may have arisen because in the rant I was talking about IT, in this post I was talking about technology, in my experience there is minimal overlap between the two!

    Either way we get the world we deserve and using the tools we currently have at our disposal to take responsibility for that fact was meant to be the consistent theme of both posts.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s