Sunday, September 21, 2014

Long live #DelayedAdulthood!!

On the web site of the NYT, psychology professor Laurence Steinberg makes “The Case for Delayed Adulthood” (and also pitches his new book on that timely topic). The phenomenon of prolonged adolescence (a.k.a. “emerging adulthood”) is now well established, and psychologists, psychiatrists, and neuroscientists are busy making a positive spin on it the new cultural norm. Here is Prof. Steinberg’s hopeful conclusion: “If brain plasticity is maintained by staying engaged in new, demanding and cognitively stimulating activity, and if entering into the repetitive and less exciting roles of worker and spouse helps close the window of plasticity, delaying adulthood is not only O.K.; it can be a boon.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The year that changed everything?

#NicholasCarr has a new article out. It’s crowned by an ominous title (“The Manipulators: Facebook’s Social Engineering”), but in fact carries a hopeful message. Carr begins by with a look back at the founding and relentless expansion of virtual behemoths like #Google, #Facebook, #YouTube, #iTunes, #Twitter and the like – whose stamp on sentient life has been boosted exponentially with the rapid spread of hand-held devices. In his words, “it has been a carnival ride, and we, the public, have been the giddy passengers.” But don’t be dispirited, for “this year something changed” – courtesy of a scholarly paper exposing Facebook’s experiment involving the manipulation of users’ moods, plus the European court ruling obliging Google and its kin to erase information citizens might deem inaccurate or outdated. “Arriving in the wake of revelations about the NSA’s online spying operation, both seemed to herald, in very different ways, a new stage in the net’s history one in which the public will be called upon to guide the technology, rather than the other way around. We may look back on 2014 as the year the internet began to grow up.

Who needs meaning?

According to the programmatic statement published by a new European framework formed to study e-reading, “empirical evidence indicates that affordances of screen devices might negatively impact cognitive and emotional aspects of reading.” This may (or – more likely – may not) raise some curious questions related to the following “causal” chain: if e-reading evokes a weaker affective response, and neuroscientists say “meaning” comes primarily from this sort of neurosomatic arousal, would an evocative text read from a screen have a less vibrant meaning? Of course, the whole beauty of a screen-based life is that it can make you immune to sensing such minor deficits – and asking such potentially troubling questions. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

#CNN means business!!

This is how #HoraGorani, one of CNN’s own “leading women,” wrapped up her “show” the other day – much of it dedicated to the beheading of the second American hostage by the ISIS lunatics: “Stay with CNN – which means business is next.” Indeed – after the commercial break. Gorani also bragged CNN was showing only a still image from moments before the gruesome execution – but, of course, #QuestMeansBusiness had to show a moving image, just shy of the real thing, too. The strategy to overdramatize “stories” which are almost unbearable in their own right – with all available means, topped by the inescapable Richard Quest – may be a bit pathetic. But it has probably bumped up their ratings – as if to prove that no, there is no cosmic justice after all. Or who knows?