Large-amounts of short information-chunks are overflowing us. Meaning and understanding is breached in favour of shortcut demands. The development of the digital world is in this line of thinking just another step in the development of the industrial society’s mass-production and mass-media where quantity always is more important than quality. Beside new technology especially younger generations, New Millennium Learners, are often criticised to be the main driving-force of this development. However, it is time to rethink.
Stuart Jeffries excellent article “Think digital distractions have killed our attention spans? Think again” in the Guardian November 5 gives an interesting review that counteract with the deterministic fears of a society where shortcut messages occupy all of our attention. And perhaps the next step is that people are cut off from sending the messages and machines take over that task. A theme that is common in scifi-movies as well as in technological determinist thinking.
However, Jeffries shows that besides the shortcut-world of news-headlines, ad-banners, chat-codes and social media-messages there is other driving-forces based on human desires like curiosity, understanding and inspiration that shortcuts rarely can satisfy. But that long novels and complex TV series like “House of cards” and “Sopranos” that invite peoples mind to reflect is the answer to. Jeffries writes:
“What’s striking is that some figures show that those most likely to read are not old people but those aged 18 to 24: in the US, at least 88% of 18-24s have read a book in the past year, compared with 68% of over-65s. It’s young people, traditionally viewed as the irresolute, attention-lite problem, who – more than the rest of us – don’t like the way our culture is working.”
Could this be an over-going trend? Or is it perhaps a movement in order to cope with the increasing shortcut-distractions of the world? As Daniel Chandler puts in his essay “Technological or Media Determinism”: “Television didn’t replace radio or the cinema, and computers seem unlikely to replace books.” They fill different demands.