The Information Generation — A response

By Tatiana Plakhova of Complexity Graphics

For those of you that haven’t read my original piece, you can do so here.

To begin, I would simply like to exclaim my surprise. I am immensely surprised, and grateful, that my article was Freshly Pressed. I’m glad that the WordPress gods decided my article was worthy. While I’m not getting millions of hits, as I facetiously mentioned in my original post, I am getting more than I could have ever expected. I hope that those views are deserved, and that my readers are able to walk away with some sort of meaningful experience.

I have been doing my best to follow those of you that have followed, commented, or liked my blog post – assuming I would want to follow you anyway, of course. Without getting too personal, I have created this blog for two reasons. First, like many of you, I would like to be heard, and “find my voice”, to use a cliche phrase. I have a dream of being a writer, in some form or another, and of contributing content to magazines or websites. Writing — and having an audience —  is one of the few things that make me feel proud of myself. The second reason is, in a way, more personal. Recently, my life has become more stressful than I could have ever predicted, and has gone rather topsy-turvy. Thus, I created this blog as a sort of outlet. (I think Freud calls that sublimation, or something).

At any rate, the point of this post is to let you guys know that every comment, every like, and every follow is hugely appreciated. Honestly, you folks don’t know the pick-me-up that this has given me. On a related note, please go out and look at the other blogs, (besides the ones on the WordPress homepage). There are people out there who are so deserving of followers and commenters, and unfortunately have few or none. We are all fighting to be heard, and sometimes the brightest, funniest, and artistic posts get lost in the battle.

Speaking of artistic, if you enjoyed the images in my post, please visit Cargo Collective or but does it float, from which the images were linked. The main image that was used for my original post was by Tatiana Plakhova. You can see her work here.

After my publication of the “The Information Generation”, I initially planned on responding to every comment. But, upon being freshly pressed, and receiving so many wonderful comments, it was clear that this wouldn’t be feasible. So many comments deserved a well-thought out, unique, and intelligent response. I was excited, and a bit shocked, to find that the overwhelming majority of comments on my post were inquisitive, exploratory, and non-combative. I wish I could say this is normally the case with online comments. I didn’t once think, “What a troll”, when browsing the comments. That is quite a feat. So, given a limited amount of time, and finite brain capacity, I decided a general response might suffice. At this point, I have read roughly two hundred comments. From here, I’ll be identifying some of the overarching themes of those comments, and responding accordingly.

1. Intelligence isn’t only about information.

There is no sneaking past you guys. Many of you were quick to raise your inquisitive fingers, teasing apart seemingly synonymous concepts.  You caught me. I equated, or, at least insinuated, that information is basically the same thing as intelligence. Some of you quipped that an increase in information, and its ease of access, doesn’t necessarily cause an increase in our level of intelligence.

No, not necessarily.

Will reading a bunch of books, necessarily make you smarter? Not necessarily. Will having access to information on a level that has been, up until now, unprecedented, make future generations more intelligent than ours? Not, necessarily… but it probably will.

No one is entirely sure what intelligence is, or how to define it. It seems to have something to do with absorbing, comprehending, and rearranging information in a way that is useful, different, innovative, or insightful. Each generation is getting increasingly better at taking in and manipulating information, which seems to point to an ever increasing intelligence among our species. Some people complain that having easy access to information is actually bad for us. They believe it stops us from really thinking about things, and hurts our memories, since we don’t have to hold onto anything. This criticism of easy access to information — of the Internet — reminds me of a passage in Plato’s Phaedrus. In the dialogue, Socrates admirably recounts the tale of an Egyptian King, who says that writing things down will help neither our memories nor our wisdom. The fact that Plato wrote his work down in a dialogical manner probably speaks to his skepticism of the written word. You see, in Plato’s day, writing was something fairly spooky and foreign to the ancient Greeks, and many of them didn’t particularly trust it.

Now, ask yourself, was the creation of writing bad for our intelligence? Has the written word simply given us easier access to information, while making us less intelligent, or less knowledgeable? Now, extend your answer to our current age: the digital age, or the information age. Doesn’t easy access to information aid our intelligence? Sure, we sometimes get lost in the sea of information that now surrounds our lives, but we are are learning how to navigate that sea. Further still, the fact that we don’t have to remember so much, (or calculate so much), frees up some cognitive space, so we can do the things we enjoy. After all, intelligence isn’t about remembering things, or rattling off facts or platitudes, or knowing what to say and when to say it. Intelligence is about knowing how to manipulate information to get the results that you want. Intelligence is about understanding the world you live in on a fundamental and inexplicable level – a level that the Internet helps us reach. When I browse online, and the information that flashes about my eyes, or pours through my headphones doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t mean I’m stupid. Quite the contrary. The confusion that we experience when we wrestle with massive amounts of information is a jumping off point. All understanding begins in bewilderment.

2. Technology and the Internet are destroying our social and communication skills.

As I mentioned before, I marvel at older people’s ability to hold conversations. People my age are always distracting ourselves with smartphones, or blocking out the world with earbuds. We might seem twittery and awkward during some social interactions, but this hardly means we are socially inept, or that we have bad communication skills. It just means that younger people socialize in a different way.

Allow me to reverse the image for people who are older. If I’m talking to someone online who is over the age of 50, I have to prepare myself. I think, “This is going to be a chore”. They respond only when asked direct questions. They won’t just talk. They don’t use emoticons, (meaning I have no idea how they feel). If I stop talking for a few minutes, they think I’ve disappeared. “Are you still there? OK, well I’ll talk to you later”? What!? What are you talking about? Of course I am still here. Don’t you see the status field that says “online”? Explaining the notion of “online friends” to older generations is even more of a chore. “You met some person online? Be careful they aren’t a pervert”. Why would they be a pervert? Not everyone on the internet is a pervert.

Many of you were concerned that, because your kids are constantly on their phones or computers, they aren’t developing healthy social skills. I understand your concerns. I was — and am — one of those kids, and my parents were like you. I know it is difficult to understand, but let me say, entirely nonfacetiously, that the internet saved my life. If it wasn’t for talking to people online, and developing online friends, I wouldn’t have any friends. I learned how to talk to people in real life via talking to people online. My first date and real relationship resulted from chatting with someone online, because neither of us had the guts to talk to each other in person. Fifty years ago, kids like me were the loners or the book worms. If it wasn’t for the Internet, I would have had no outlet to socialize at all. The socially awkward kids of my generation understood ourselves through exploring the Internet. I know that statement sounds strange, but it is true. Parents shouldn’t confuse a changing social environment — one that now occurs largely on the Internet — for a lack of social skills or social development.

3. The accuracy of Information

This is partially related to (1), but I thought it deserved it’s own post, because it is such a pervasive theme. So many people — especially older people — are concerned with the accuracy of information on the Internet. Again, this is an understandable concern. When surfing the net, it is incredibly difficult to separate the misinformation, propaganda, and outright error, from fact. The Internet is a landfill of opinions – many of them formulated on shakey ground and feeble nonsense. But, how is this any different from the everyday world? Aren’t we regularly surrounded by gossip, rumor, hearsay, and lies? At least when browsing the Internet, you can investigate the validity of what you are reading. In everyday conversation, people become rather annoyed by questions like “Where did you hear that from? What’s your proof?” or, “Why do you believe that?”. Unlike people, the Internet doesn’t mind being pestered about the accuracy of it’s claims. On a related note, I’m happy I didn’t come across any comments that said “Wikipedia is inaccurate, because anyone can edit it”, as if written encyclopedias or other websites are absolutely infallible. At least Wikipedia, while sometimes inaccurate, can be retroactively corrected if something is wrong, or some new discovery is made. (It all reminds me of the “criticism” that Bible thumpers use against science, saying it is inaccurate because it is “always changing”. No, its accurate precisely because it is changing).

4. Analogue will never die.  

If I can be slippery, and post-modern for a moment, I would say that this claim is both correct and incorrect. Many people noted that the world we live in is analogue. Aside from some weird matrix-esque scenario, our world will always be analogue. This is true. We will, technically speaking, always have to transmute the analogue into the digital. I didn’t claim that analogue won’t exist. I said it will be “dead”. It will be “dead”, in the same way that ancient scrolls or hieroglyphics are “dead”. Still, there is an exception to the analogue-to-digital trend that cannot be ignored. That exception is music, and instruments. In a comment on my original post, pragwater wrote the following:

I play the congas, and there is nothing quite like hitting a drum. Actually, instead of the verb to hit, I prefer the spanish verb “tocar”, which also means to touch, which is more descriptive of what a conga player does. Drumming is truly a primeval force, which I believe is in every one of us. I see this whenever a child runs over to my drums and starts beating on them… there is no way that any electronic drum could provide the satisfaction that a drummer feels when they are playing. However, it very well may be that the listener would be just as happy listing to the digital sound as the real thing, provided that the digital version can produce the rich sounds of a real drum.

Pragwater is undeniably correct. Unfortunately, I play electronic drums because I have immediate neighbors, and they just aren’t the same as acoustic drums. Even state of the art electronic kits, which can sound absolutely stunning, don’t offer the same sensation. Some things haven’t been successfully digitized, and they may never be. Only time will tell.

5. Generalization and Stereotypes

Turns out, a lot of you – perhaps most of you – are around that “older” age, that I referred to in my original post. To be honest, I felt strange coming up with a name and a number to refer to the generation that wasn’t mine. Should it be over 40? Should it be my grandparents? Should I say generation X? No age could be entirely correct, obviously. There are eighty year olds that are technology aficionados, and twenty something’s that are computer illiterate. The purpose of my post was to understand – but also exaggerate – generational differences. In order to do this effectively, and without making a million exceptions, I had to generalize and use stereotypes. Today, we think of those as bad things, but generalizations have their uses.

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12 thoughts on “The Information Generation — A response

  1. SlappyGrind Entertainment says:

    You really do have the resource to be heard and the tools to be amplified. I haven’t had the chance to read anymore of your work, but I’m positive that they are all magnificent and articulate.

  2. Theasaurus says:

    What an interesting post. I haven’t had a chance to read your others (including the FP’ed post – I’ll get to that soon!) but this one raises some important points about the nature of communication and ideas about intelligence.

    Broadly speaking, technology in recent years has altered the way we communicate, but it is not necessarily destroying social skills. I do, however, think that the internet has changed – perhaps even diminished – our capacity to retain information, simply because we are exposed to so much every day. Perhaps this is why there exists the perception that access to information (i.e. the internet) will make us smarter. Large quantities of information do not equate to higher intelligence. Information can give us an edge or an advantage over others, but having ready access to information will not make us smarter. It will only appear to make us smarter.

    As for the accuracy of information – well, it’s easy to get inundated. A wonderful academic I know once said, “There is no such thing as information overload. There’s only filter failure.” He’s absolutely right. If we’re going to rely so heavily on the internet, we need to learn how to recognise the gold from the slush. What’s the point of having all this information otherwise, if we don’t know how to use it?

  3. societyred says:

    Another great post 🙂 You have a refreshing perspective and style and demeanor. I think the nature of many people (much of my generation) to resist change creates in them a false sense of security. Instead of embracing change and adapting to it, their fear or laziness provides them a reason to dig in to a moment in time and refuse to participate.
    Your comments about Wikipedia perfectly illustrate this. The encyclopedia collection displayed prominently in my parent’s living room when I was growing up was the bookmark in time where not only new thoughts and events were nonexistent, but also where any intentional falsehoods could be written into existence and never disputed. Yes, Wikipedia may not contain all truth, but at least it is disputable and fluid. The permission to question anyone’s “truth” represents a higher level of intelligence.
    Love your work. Makes me think in a different dimension. Thank you.

  4. amira says:

    “I would like to be heard” you say.
    and I say, you deserve to be heard.

    great post again – it is an interesting time to live in
    so much is happening in terms of technology 🙂

  5. You do have found your voice. Congrats.

  6. ScottVeritas says:

    You be an inspiration!

    Response to section 1: No information exist in a vacuum. People will interpret everything they read, see, or hear, whether consciously or unconsciously. I often wonder which is worse: intelligence without knowledge, or knowledge without intelligence. Intelligence without knowledge is a gun without ammunition; knowledge without intelligence can be a gun with no safety. You know what I mean?

    Response to section 2: I hate texting. I prefer calling over texting, and I prefer meeting over calling. In my life technology has allowed lonesome activities (e.g., gaming) to become social, but it’s not like my true socialization is online. And is it bad that I’ve chatted with people from Ireland, Jordan, and Sao Paulo?

    Response to section 5: As much as I hate to say it, I agree. Stereotypes have their purposes. As long as you keep the scope in check, they’re fine, but it can be argued that they can slide down a slippery slope.

    Misc. responses: Freud was a crackhead (literally), and I’m going through my quarter-life crisis.

    Hey, what’d you get your degree(s) in, what is your job, and what state/country do you live in? Just curious; please don’t feel obligated to answer.

  7. Just0rdinary says:

    I’m not into your gaming posts (sorry not much of a gamer) but the reason I’m reading your blog is because of posts such as “The information Generation” & Money etc. I did leave you a tweet appreciating your work but this post that I’m in completely in awe with, definitely deserved a better response hence why I am leaving a reply. There are many blogs that I read on a daily basis yet hardly ever find the time to leave any praise…I’m lazy & it’s life however I guess that habit has gone out the window now! =P

    On some level I can relate to some of the things that you have mentioned here. For example socializing through the internet to get better at socializing in the “real world” LOL. It sounds like a “pathetic absurd concept” as I was once told by a big-mouthed friend of mine yet here I am, a person with better social skills which I gained through (yes you guessed it) the INTERNET! I find it funny at times and often think about how odd this concept of socializing is but then again we are humans and we all have our unique ways of getting along in the world & I guess we are a part of that bunch.

    Like ScottVeritas mentioned in his reply, Freud really was a crackhead (literally and figuratively in my opinion). I’m currently studying a Psychology degree and of course Sigmund always makes an appearance here and there! I often wonder where in the world did Freud come up with his theories and concepts? Intriguing as they may be, they are equally insane & not realistic in my view. However that’s a debate for another day!

    I too am going through my quarter-life crisis. Or perhaps that’s just my state of mind or my thinking…whatever I’ll just take life’s stress as it comes and deal with it…somehow! 😉
    Have a good day, I will look forward to your next blog post…hopefully it’s not a gaming one! =P Oh and accept my apologies for the essay that I’m sending your way…sometimes I forget that I’m not sitting in an exam & don’t need to write so much just to get my POV across. Alas another “crisis” of my life! -_-

  8. Jetty says:

    Hey there. . .You’re original post was well worth fresh pressing. 😉 http://captivecontent.wordpress.com/2011/12/17/technology-rewrites-the-rules-of-relating/

  9. Honie Briggs says:

    Thanks for the follow up. I too understand finding a voice in the midst of stressful, topsy-turvy events. Those are the best kind (after they are over). My first published work of fiction, “Summoning The Strength” was the result.The full force of a young heart brings strength. The full force of a mature heart brings tenderness. Words are a gift to those who are willing to listen AND able to discern. This “old” gen-something-or-other is keeping Faster Than Light in the “blogs to watch” category. All the best to you in 2012. Keep writing.

    • jandrewhickey says:

      You as well. I will definitely google around for your work, and check out your blog, of course. :]

      Cheers.

  10. Jean says:

    Our technology tools give us the ability to communicate anywhere, anytime. Great if one needs it for an emergency/help when lost/injured.

    But do people really need that cell phone on themselves 24/7?

    I just prefer to exist without my brain cluttered with phone conversations that…are very trivial or consulting my partner on useless things. We know what we need for the fridge when we are away from each other.

    With the loss of sister recently, it becomes even more clear that too much time networking with social media tools with complete strangers, really shows a skewed use of time.

    So do the FB, twitter, email, etc. by prioritizing it for those who you know face to face/love.

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