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[P]
Web to rescue society from television?

By Apuleius in Culture
Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 07:11:45 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

A few days ago my roommate mentioned Niel Postman's book "The Disappearance of Childhood", and recommended I borrow it from him. That quickly wiped out 24 hours of my time. The book is a wholly-recommended page-turner. Postman's book makes a startling claim, which is that childhood as a social institution is derived out of, and therefore built on, widespread literacy. Ergo, television-dependent post-literate society endangers this social institution. Might the Web be an antidote?


Aside: This is my attempt to test the viability of long stories on K5.

Postman strives to demonstrate this by comparing the lives of Eurpoean peasants before Guttenberg and the printing press to life afterwards. His claim is that the Guttenberg press made literacy economically practical, and that literacy allows societies to establish a social convention regarding childhood because a literate society will be gradual in what it teaches its young, using a progression of books to introduce such things as sex to them. Before literacy, a human being was a non-person until around age 7, and equivalent to an adult afterwards. With literacy, we can establish a progression by which a young person is introduced to the Heavy Matters of life, and do so in a matter that best suits our purposes. Without literacy, we have a milestone at age 7, at which a person becomes largely fluent in his native language, and becomes acknowledged as a person, and a milestone at puberty, which does not carry as much significance as it otherwise could.

What is scary about his suggestion is his next claim: the rise of non-textual media is bringing about a non-literate age, and thus causing the disappearance of childhood.

Interestingly enough, Postman goes for many pages describing a European peasantry in which people were a cross of child and adult, and yet pays no attention to a counterexample society that was living alongside the peasants the whole time: the Jews.

Jews held on to literacy at the time even though it was not at all practical. They maintained a rite of passage at age 13 as well as one at age 7 (the introduction of children to literacy is heavily ritualized among many Orthodox Jews). Postman points out that without the printing press, the Latin alphabet was slowly mutating throughout Europe. For reasons of sheer obssession, Jewish writing has stayed uniform the entire time, sticking to the Ashuri script and the Tiberias system of diacritical marks. I'm not sure if a look at the Medieval Jewish population reinforces Postman's point or not (I still have some reading to do on that point), But enough with that digression. Let's talk of a few conclusions.

By Postman's reasoning, television and movies are considerably more of a threat to childhood than the Internet. The use of textual media to introduce young'uns to various aspects of life is an easy means of control over them, even without censorship! First, as a defense of this method, let me point out that you do not teach a 9 year old boy how to drive and then tell him "don't do it until you're 16." Now, as for the lack of censorship, whatever you don't write about at the third-grade reading level, third graders will not get to read. It really is that simple. (Yes, there's the gifted children issue, but really, how many gifted kids read "Henry and June" in third grade?) Since the heaviness of the prose is almost all the discouragement you need in order to have a measure of control of how your children grow intellectually, you don't need to exercise censorship unless you want to shelter your children far more than is advisable. By the time a kid is ready to experiment sexually, he or she had better know the consequences.

Television and movies are a different beast altogether. The movie rating system is a self-defeating joke, and television itself cannot really discriminate by age. The reason behind this is inherent in the medium itself, rather than the result of any effort to make the medium racier or more violent. The moving picture is a full disclosure medium. The moving picture box ever more so, because it is not hidden behind a ticket seller's booth. While an author can (and does, sometimes unwillingly) restrict access to the content he writes by the use of a vocabulary that takes time to acquire, the television screen does not. Television shows the same things to one and all. And in order to get the ratings from adult viewers, television networks have to broadcast content that covers at this point the whole range of human experience (anything remaining could be sent to Jerry Springer for a checklist). So, this is the substance of Postman's objections to television. When Postman published "The Disappearance of Childhood", the Web had not yet gone up, and so Postman's predictions need to be evaluated in that light.

The Disappearance of Childhood displays itself not only in children being treated as adults, but as adults being treated as children, just as in Medieval Europe. On the one hand, we have the recent fashion of prepubescent girls to dress "just like Brittney." On the other, we have colleges having to act in loco parentis all throughout the United States, we have a civil litigation system that step by step takes away personal responsibility, we have parents who act like yobs in Little League games, and I could come up with many more anecdotal observations. Overall, Postman makes a grim set of predictions.

So now, one has to ask, how does the Web fit in? It is far more textual than graphic, a far more cerebral medium, since it requires an amount of interaction, so the question does remain on where it fits. Marshall McLuhan's adage, "the medium is the message", is something to consider. It's not only television that is constrained in what it can convey. Go to any American city, and you will find the established town newspaper (New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe) and the established town tabloid (Chicago Sun-Times, New York Post, Boston Herald). "Tabloid" originally referred only to the page and yet, tabloids are tabloids, in other words, disreputable. This is because a folded newspaper is something you read by a table, with coffee and danish. A tabloid, you, well, don't.

Another issue that Postman goes into extensively is the notion that the instantaneous, long distance nature of the television medium. The telegraph, and the first newspapers to make widespread use of it, were the medium that first provided the amorphous 'they' in the idiom 'they say that'. 'They', be they the telegraph or the idiot box, directly challenged the authority of the parent in the upbringing of a child. The Web also provides a 'they', but a very different 'they', under a different dymamic.

So, the Web as a medium may develop attributes that are difficult to work against. Luckily, the Web is not a medium. It is a large collection of media. We have personal email, mailing lists, Usenet, archived mailing lists, news sites, magazine sites, web logs, genre sites, et cetera. All of the prevailing ones (with the possible exception of WebTV) are a step toward a more literate way to communicate. (We'll see if that holds.) In the last chapter of The Disappearance of Childhood, Postman expresses his concern that the computer will be used by the laity merely as a game console, leaving all other uses to the hands of a technical elite (a valid concern in the late 80's, one must admit).

So, now let's say I had a kid (Cthulhu have mercy). Would I take this to the logical conclusion and give the kid Web access while limiting or disallowing television? To a degree, I would. Communication beyond browsing makes me twitchy, as do privacy issues. And no child of mine gets root before he steals it. But to summarize, the Internet stands to reverse the nasty media-induced social trends Postman frets about (not only in "The Disappearance of Childhood", but also in "Amusing Ourselves to Death"), rather than make them worse, the common fear of the not-yet-clued-in public. Ironically, the worry over net porn is just about the biggest red herring. When I was in junior high I quickly learned exactly which newstand owners could be bribed into selling porn to a minor (and at only a 50% markup - such a deal..) but porn consumption on my part did not go beyond initial curiosity. Why should the net be different in that regard?

Well, since the net is a set of media, not a medium, that remains to be seen. Will HTML prevail? Or will Flash cartoons, streaming audio and video, and animations turn the Web into a medium that is primarily non-textual? Will there be continuing innovation in the way web sites are organized, or will such things as the weblog and shopping cart freeze it? Another issue is that the dynamic behind reading on the Web is different from how we read the newspaper, our magazines, or books. A web page is halfway between a television show and a page of paper in its ability to hold on to our attention. Our ability to click back, click out, or minimize the window, makes it harder for the Web page writer to retain our attention through longer pieces of text (are you still reading this?). (See How to Write Inverted Pyramids.) So an Internet-induced restoration of a primarily literate society is something to hope for, but hardly guaranteed.

There are, however, some hopeful observations on the Web's effect on society. The way television gets eyeballs is titillation ("a look at incest, after these messages!"). The Web gets eyeballs through rejuxtaposition. Every Web site or medium has to compete for eyeballs just like a television station, but the way to do it is to (for example) juxtapose pictures of Brittney Spears with a guide to semiconductor physics, or Hello Cthulhu, et cetera. The epitome of rejuxtaposition as a way of getting attention is to be found at McSweeney's. That form of grabbing and retaining attention looks far more conducive to the idea of a drawn out introduction to the full range of human experience. So, to summarize all this, y'all should read Neal Postman and see what you think. I've started reading a later title, 'Technopoly', and may try posting about it after I'm done.

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Poll
I have a TV for:
o Iron Chef 12%
o Junkyard Wars 12%
o Movies 41%
o Anime 14%
o Target practice 20%

Votes: 114
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o "The Disappearance of Childhood"
o How to Write Inverted Pyramids.
o pictures of Brittney Spears with a guide to semiconductor physics,
o Hello Cthulhu,
o McSweeney's.
o Also by Apuleius


Display: Sort:
Web to rescue society from television? | 106 comments (97 topical, 9 editorial, 0 hidden)
He's absolutely right... (2.33 / 15) (#2)
by Sheepdot on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 02:22:41 AM EST

...just look at the lack of replies or comments about what he wrote!

I say that the biggest concern about the future and mental/physical health isn't about whether kids should read using the Net rather than watch TV, but about the obesity problem. I'm getting larger and larger sitting at my computer, just as much as my roommates get larger sitting watching TV.

Also, I have a strong suspicion that kids tend to only play games on the net rather than use it for reading. Also, I would like to state that literacy is not nessicary for you to do well in this country, many foreign students who work in the English department where I work have horrible grammar, and yet because they are mathematical geniuses, they get along well in the states.

Now a lot of folks will try to demean international students for their grammar, but the way I look at it, they continue to succeed just as well, if not better than those that loathe them. Besides, they can still beat my brother as far as spelling goes.

And I'm no shining star in the grammar arena either.


Computers can be bad in general for young learners (4.33 / 6) (#11)
by vastor on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 03:57:16 AM EST

Obesity is indeed a growing problem. We're polarising towards the ultra fit (with 6 pack abs for the guys and chicken bones for the women) and Mr/Miss Blobbies with less regular healthy people in the middle. Employers and schools can do a lot about this (though I suppose we'd see people complaining about their rights if their boss made them ride an exercise for 20 minutes a day at work or something, though it could be combined for good team building activities too :-).

However computer usage has other issues as well - there are apparently studies starting to show that children using computers at early school ages end up with lower math/literacy abilities etc because of that (compared to students that didn't use the computers in class).

Just look at the effect calculators have on mental arithmatic abilities (we weren't allowed calculators at high school until about year 9 I think and I'd say there was a fairly noticable drop in mental arithmatic speed/abilities across the board).

My spelling has certainly dropped in quality and I've noticed some issues with repetition coming up lately as well. Not sure I can blame computers/the internet for that, could just be because I hardly read books anymore.

It'd cause a huge outcry, but banning computer use at schools until students are 14/15 probably wouldn't be a bad thing. Using the internet is a poor substitute to a good school library IMO.


[ Parent ]
Exercise at work (4.33 / 6) (#25)
by tewl on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 08:30:28 AM EST

Employers and schools can do a lot about this (though I suppose we'd see people complaining about their rights if their boss made them ride an exercise for 20 minutes a day at work or something, though it could be combined for good team building activities too :-).

I would love it if my employer would allow exercise at work! The problem with me is I do spend a great deal of time in front of the computer, etc., often working nearly 13 hour days, include in that a 1 and 1/2 hour (roughly) round trip commute and I've got very long days, and the last thing I want to do when I get home is exercise, I usually just want to hit the sack.

If my employer had the facilities for this, I would definitely use them, if they required a 20 minute bout of exercise, all the better (and if they still paid us for that time too :) ). I live in Boston, most of the health clubs around here are $300+ a month, which I cannot afford at the time being, add into the equation that finding time before or after work is impossible. If my employer provided that, it would be used by all. We all want to be healthy, it's just hard to find the time to include exercise into our already packed schedules.



[ Parent ]
Obesity is a growing problem (none / 0) (#99)
by farmgeek on Wed Dec 06, 2000 at 01:10:12 PM EST

I had to read that twice to make sure you weren't intentionally punning.

[ Parent ]
Literacy Unnecessary? (3.75 / 4) (#13)
by AEtherean on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 04:16:35 AM EST

You state that "literacy is not nessicary (sic) for you to do well in this country," and cite foreign acquaintances who do not speak (read/write) english well, yet have achieved success in the U.S., as examples. Do you really believe that these "mathetmatical geniuses" would have attained such a level of knowledge and success if they were not literate in their native tongue? Just because a person is not yet proficient in a second language does not make them illiterate (or even semi-literate). I would argue that the fact that they are learning another language makes them *more* literate.

This may sound like a nitpick, but it's not. I fundamentally disagree with your downplaying of literacy as less than necessary for the achievement of success in today's world (except for, perhaps, in the entertainment or athletic industries). Literacy does more than allow you to express yourself articulately and eloquently. I believe literacy plays a vital role in the development of the higher functions of the human mind.


-----

"The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them."
-- Mark Twain


[ Parent ]
Wow, not what I had expected... (2.50 / 2) (#55)
by Sheepdot on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 06:07:06 PM EST

I'm not debating whether or not international students are literate in their own language. I'm explaining that "American English" literacy is not needed for one to achieve sucess in the states. I have worked with many international students in the past on projects in my own major and where I work and they have rarely gotten upset with low literacy grades because they know they will do well in other areas and that they will be working with folks like me that help them convey their thoughts on paper for projects and the like.

I do think literacy is important for folks in Liberal Arts and Business Communications, but I feel that it is useless to waste someone's time to attain excellent literacy when they very clearly can obtain success without it.


[ Parent ]
I'll respectfully disagree (3.00 / 1) (#75)
by SEAL on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 05:30:33 AM EST

I'm explaining that "American English" literacy is not needed for one to achieve sucess in the states.

It is unfortunate for those who feel this way. Right now, the U.S. is in the middle (perhaps peak?) of a particularily strong economic growth period. Jobs are easy to come by, especially in the IT industry. Loans are cheap and salaries are high. People with computer skills have little fear of losing their jobs because it is so easy to get hired elsewhere.

A small examination of economic trends shows that life hasn't always been this good. In the past, there have been depressions and periods of high unemployment. I have no doubt there will be future ones as well.

Literacy in the primary language of your region is important. Certainly, proficiency in speaking the language allows you to argue a point effectively. Proficiency in reading the language allows you to know what you're up against. This applies to many things - dealing with a bank, your employer, legal papers, etc. All together, language proficiency puts people in a position where they are better able to get what they want.

Since computer experts are almost given everything they want right now, this sounds silly. Someday, though, that will change.

Best regards,

SEAL

It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything.
[ Parent ]

I understand your argument.. (none / 0) (#85)
by Sheepdot on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 02:49:22 PM EST

I completely understand where you are coming from. The problem I have with taking up the position as well is that I feel it would be rude of myself to tell people they need to focus on literacy when they can clearly show me otherwise.

I do agree that someday people might not be in the best of positions and the market might not be what it is now, but for me to tell a friend that he needs to work on his or her literacy is like beating a dead horse. I'm not going to get anywhere till the situation actually changes and then hopefully it won't be too late for them to see the validity of the argument.


[ Parent ]
Obesity ... (2.75 / 4) (#26)
by StrontiumDog on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 08:52:33 AM EST

I say that the biggest concern about the future and mental/physical health isn't about whether kids should read using the Net rather than watch TV, but about the obesity problem. I'm getting larger and larger sitting at my computer, just as much as my roommates get larger sitting watching TV.

That's because of excessive calorie intake and too little exercise. The 'Net/TV plays some part in this, but also many other factors: the easy availability of fast food, the cheap price and variety of food in relation to income, the widespread use of motorized transport for even the shortest distances, and controlled interior climate conditions. These are more important factors; in the US (and many other Western countries) obesity is actually inversely correlated with income. The poorer you are the more likely you are to be obese.

Also, I would like to state that literacy is not nessicary for you to do well in this country, many foreign students who work in the English department where I work have horrible grammar, and yet because they are mathematical geniuses, they get along well in the states.

English may not be their native tongue, but in many cases is their second or third language. Most of them will be very proficient in their native language.

[ Parent ]

I understand. (3.00 / 1) (#56)
by Sheepdot on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 06:16:25 PM EST

Like I mentioned in a reply to someone else's comments, I'm not arguing that international students aren't literate in their native language.

I was talking about "American English" literacy and explaining that international students don't need to be exceptionally literate to achieve success in the world.

What I was attempting to do was go from there to explain that by the same token, American students don't need to achieve great literacy as long as they can crack numbers like most of the international students can do.

And to be honest, from what I've seen there *are* American students who have survived through English courses and now work as computer, electrical, and chemical engineers for various corporations. I still communicate with them via email and lack of grammatically-correct writing really shows.

But does it mean anything to them when they are making 60k to 70k a year? I'd hope not. They'd only be wasting their time worrying about literacy at that point.

As you can see from my post, I have problems with literacy as well. Horrid ones at times and it usually ends up depending on the mood I'm in or the type of day I've been having. I'm not going to focus on it though, I'm going to make the most of what I have and hope it gets me somewhere.


[ Parent ]
Also consider the number of choices (3.40 / 10) (#5)
by bgalehouse on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 02:44:11 AM EST

100 television stations is a recent and fairly expensive cable/satellite offering. 100 books is the beginning of a library. 100 web sites is a drop in the bucket - the least expensive to have in your home, by a long shot.

This matters because I believe that kids tend to be curious about whatever is 'right' for them to study next. At some point, this curiosity has been lost in many Americans. Maybe this loss is just part of growing up. But maybe it happens because what passes for an education system in this country doesn't do a sufficient job of saiting this curiosity as it comes up.

And so, I'll be very curious to see what easy access to google at age 5 does to kids.

Curiosity and Learning. (5.00 / 1) (#50)
by spaceghoti on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 03:13:16 PM EST

What promotes learning is curiosity. Quite simply, if you don't spark a child's imagination about a given subject, that child is not going to care a whit what you say about it. A few months ago I was reading an article in ABCNews.com about studies in teaching techniques, and why schools in the US seem to have gone into a tailspin. To quote part of the article,

A top educator once told me that all kids begin their education as scientists curious, investigative, eager to learn. And then somewhere along the way, we beat it out of them.

The article goes on to explain why, mostly that we bore kids to death in school. From personal experience, I have to agree. A majority of school was incredibly boring for me, but I'd already found subjects that fascinated me thanks to some child-oriented science material my parents provided for me when I was young. Because that sparked my curiosity in directions that school generally didn't go, I didn't lose all interest in learning, just what they were trying to teach me.

If good websites are created designed to inspire kids' attention, I think you'll find a huge benefit from the Internet.



"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

[ Parent ]
Net effect... (3.57 / 14) (#8)
by Electric Angst on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 03:35:42 AM EST

I tend to be very defensive when a Postman-inspired argument drops in my lap, and I don't believe that there is sufficient evidence of modern (American) society's anti-intellectualism being connected to its television addiction.

We are currently in the middle of an information revolution that has been gaining momentum and mass, like a snowball down a mountain, for an entire century. This 'information revolution' has been happening since before anyone reading this site was born, and therefor it is tempting to link any rising trend in our society with some element of this event, which acts almost as a constant.

For example, I could give examples and statistics to argue that the maturing of youth acting more 'adult' (although I wouldn't be one to try and make such a sloppy definition) and adults acting more 'childish' is increasing as the life expectancy of a person rises, and the average age of people in the industrialized world. Using the statistical method in another way, I could argue that there has been a noted increase in democratic governments around the globe since the advent and spread of the 'idiot box' Postman so detests. So, anecdotal evidence and sightings of rising statistics are of no use in this situation.

There is also a very important oversight in this argument. After the printing press and before the much-maligned broadcast media, there was the theatre, just as much a "show-me" media as any we have today. Anyone who attempts to complain that Television is presenting adult topics to children in a way that book wouldn't can simply look at the works of Shakespeare to realize the folly of their argument.

With statistics that can draw no strict conclusion, and an analogy to another age that skips very important facts about those times, I can't really see how one could agree with the premise that television is destroying our society's institution of maturity.

Also, as a post-script, I would argue that the web will prove to have many benefits and flaws, and will both help and harm human society, just like broadcast media, the printing press, and every other means of communication that has come to pass.
--
"Hell, at least [Mailbox Pipebombing suspect Lucas Helder's] argument makes sense, which is more than I can say for the vast majority of people." - trhurler
Literacy's last gasp (3.83 / 12) (#10)
by strepsil on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 03:56:14 AM EST

To sidetrack slightly - I've often hoped that the 'net that we all know and love might actually be the salvation of the written word. I'm constantly offended by bad spelling and grammar - mostly in places where people should know better. A McDonald's I drive past regularly recently put up a huge red sign advertising "75c Cheeseburger's". I almost cried. What hope do kids have, if places like that can't even get it right?

But I recall a thread lately - I think on Slashdot - about the relative merits of search engines. One person posted a comment that all search engines were crap (I'm paraphrasing, of course), because he couldn't find any sites about his particular interest. He was searching for "girl's soccor".

One of the most common replies I get when I correct someone's spelling is "Does it matter? You knew what I meant." - well I think it's going to matter a lot more in an increasingly web-centric world, when you suddenly can't operate a search engine. Literacy may well become a major survival skill.

Of course, until someone invents a graphical icon-based keyboard.

Lack of spelling prowess. (3.00 / 2) (#32)
by Alarmist on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 10:43:53 AM EST

"... it's going to matter a lot more in an increasingly web-centric world, when you suddenly can't operate a search engine."

As much as I'd love to believe this, it isn't going to happen. Categorized and catalogued search engines (Yahoo, for instance) allow someone who knows what he's looking for to find it without ever having to type anything--just follow the links. Granted, it takes longer, but you don't have to know how to spell anything.

Of course, until someone invents a graphical icon-based keyboard.

I believe that these may be in use in some fast food places. The advantages, especially when dealing with semi-literate employees, are obvious.


[ Parent ]

Graphic keyboard == touchscreen (none / 0) (#44)
by sugarman on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 01:24:24 PM EST

Seen enough of these, in bars, restaraunts, etc. I think Squirrel is the big manufacturer of them. Anyhoo,

You have a custom-built front end, with a limited number of icons, and a calculator functioon or whatever, and the screen becomes whatever sort of 'keyboard' you want. With the recent big behind the scenes push to webpads (I know, not many products have come to market, but they will...) and other devices with 'locked-down' features. This may soon become the rule rather than the exception.

--sugarman--
[ Parent ]

Barcode Scanners. (none / 0) (#51)
by Alarmist on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 04:09:36 PM EST

You have a custom-built front end, with a limited number of icons, and a calculator functioon or whatever, and the screen becomes whatever sort of 'keyboard' you want.

This trend started with laser-based barcode scanners, I think. The push has been for making things as easy as possible, so that the user has only to do very simple tasks (swipe a barcode, push a button) to register the sale. Anything more complicated requires a manager, because either the cashier isn't trained on it (frequently the case) or doesn't have the access to do so (just as common).

The end result is that we have people working cash registers that can barely make change and are flummoxed if you do something like hand them a dollar and a nickel for a 95 cent purchase so as to get a dime in return. While it provides people who couldn't get a job elsewhere (or who are simply using the job as something to pay the bills while looking for something else), it does mean that our educational system has little incentive to teach people more complicated subjects like math and science. Since we've dropped the bar, so to speak, people have no urge to excel.

I, for one, find this depressing.


[ Parent ]

Google spots your typos for you (2.00 / 1) (#34)
by codemonkey_uk on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 11:10:11 AM EST

Try: google fix my speeling

If google does it, then it won't be long before they all do.

This is a good thing, I hope.
---
Thad
"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]

Do I want it fixed? (none / 0) (#93)
by strepsil on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 08:27:34 PM EST

It's great to hear that Google compensates for bad spelling and typos, but what if I don't want it to?

An example that springs to mind would be a search for "how to organise a convention".

What might happen there, if "search engine X" has a US English dictionary? It's going to assume I meant "organize", and the chances of finding something in my own country get slimmer - and such information may well be better if it's local.

I'm sure quite a lot of us are familiar with entering things into a popular word processor and having half our document underlined in red, even for things that are right, just obscure, technical or only right in one or two countries. Any time a search engine makes a choice for us, without confirmation (asking for which might be an impediment to the interface) we risk having our search mangled by a program trying to be helpful.

The best way to avoid this (short of developing AI search engines - a fair way off in the future yet) is not to tamper with the search in the first place, and place the onus for correctness on the human being who SHOULD be better at this sort of thing than the machine.

Search engines assuming they know better is a bad thing, and I really hope it doesn't catch on.

[ Parent ]
Non issue (none / 0) (#96)
by codemonkey_uk on Wed Dec 06, 2000 at 04:39:39 AM EST

This is a non issue, if you'd follow the link you see that the search returns results for "speeling", but also suggests (as a link) another search using "spelling".

As an aside, google.co.uk exists, but simply points to the .com site. It would be nice to see it do something UK specific...
---
Thad
"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]

Big can of fat worms (4.50 / 2) (#43)
by jabber on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 01:12:50 PM EST

I just don't buy the reasoning that the Internet is the "End of Literacy", just because it does not enforce proper spelling, grammar and punctuation. I tend to think that there is more to 'literacy' than following orthographic rules. In fact, I have not found a single definition of 'literacy' that involves spelling, grammar or any sort of rule-set.

Yes, the dynamic qualities of communication over the net do tend to leave spelling and grammar by the wayside, but the same argument can be made for shopping malls and bars - which bring about the "End of Social Intercourse" due to the fact that, while in such establishments, people tend to forego proper diction and rhetoric. Yo, yo, yo, like, whatever dude!

There seems to be a great deal of mental inertia associated with the printed word. Why? Well, it's likely that books have been around for so long, and have become such a staple of our society, that we consider them sacred entities in our intellectual world. But books, just as television, radio and the internet, are just a means of communication - nothing more.

It is Communication that is the thing we as people should worry about. Spelling, grammar, diction and rhetoric are all good and fine, but all they are is a formal set of guidelines (not laws) which help us to standardize our means of communication. Language changes over time, and it tends to do so much more when a new means of communication makes the exchange of ideas easier.

Looking at the dawn of the printed word, the only things which were written were Bibles, and some texts of remarkable importance. Illuminated manuscripts were a bitch to produce, and only the most important of documents were worth the effort. After the printing press became a common means of communication, the type of ideas shared by people became much more mundane and trivial. The Daily paper was printed, along with pulp fiction novels, as well as government edicts and Bibles. Then radio came along, and Little Orphan Annie was broadcast right after the Evening News. Then television gave us Ed Sullivan. Now about bunch of 3l337 hAx0r types send each other Instant Messages from their pagers in between classes. So what? People are still communicating.

What is happening is that we are setting aside the old rules of communication, because they no longer facilitate communication - they now impede it. If I have a thought to share, and I tend to type looking at my hands so I miss typos, I can still share it. If you get the idea I am trying to relay, then the communication is effective. If what I want to communicate can be represented in a dynamic mix of words, ideas and :)'s then so be it. Casual communication does not need correct spelling and proper grammar any more than a casual phone conversation needs people to address one another by their proper title.

It bothers me to see a formal company memo come through the system riddled with cyber-typographical errors (correctly spelled but incorrectly applied words - their, they're, there and so forth) . Literacy is certainly not up to the level where I would like to see it. But (Oh no! A sentence beginning with "BUT"!!) these memos are put out by people whose thinking hasn't been 'twisted' the the Internet. They are simply careless people. They may be under-educated for the position they hold, or not judicious about the image they present with their work, but that is not the fault of the technology.

Keyboards allow people to separate their attention from the 'paper' on which they write. As I said, I look at my hands - a bad habit, but one that doesn't affect the quality of my work when I consider it important to double-check. By not looking at the screen, I allow finger fumbles and poor spacing to creep into my writing. So what? If it matters enough, I check it twice. I make an effort to choose words to have an intended effect. If all I want to do is share an idea in a casual manner - then that's what you'll get. If you judge the quality of the idea by the cover of the book in which it arrives, then yours is the smaller mind. FWIW, I do make an effort to catch typos and poor grammar - but I do not fixate on this. I make a reasonable effort.

The Internet does something very unique. It allows people from different areas to communicate in a casual and informal manner. I say 'areas' specifically to be vague. The areas can be different age groups, educational levels, geography, political systems, incomes, backgrounds... Whatever dude! Here is the strength and benefit of the net. We can set aside the formal systems which once simplified communication for the people in area-proximity, and broaden our area to include a Chinese student, a South African doctor and a semi-poor teenager from Argentina. I can read the words of troubled teens, without them needing to be remarkable enough to be picked up by the popular media. I can easily relate on a personal level with someone from a different culture. Either of these things were not available to me without the net.

Printing brought reading and writing to the common man. Broadcast media brought the performing arts to the common man. The Internet brings the world to the common man, and the common man to the world; and it is the latter that is most significant. I can learn first-hand of the experience of someone in Baghdad, as US bombs were falling near his home. I can respect this person based on their words and thoughts - even if they can not spell very well, and don't know English grammar worth a damn! I can see him as a real person, not unlike myself, instead of believing CNN in the statement that all of Them want to kill all of Us.

And hopefully, in a generation or two, when a conflict erupts half a world away, we'll be able to log in, go to #US_vs_China and ask: "Y do U hate me?", and be understood, and find out that they don't, and that we don't hate them, and that all we want is to be respected.

Language police is arrogance, elitism and prejudice. If you don't like the idea, disagree. If you find it naive, point this out - share your thoughts and try to educate or persuade. But to rule out someone's words based on a few too many commas, or a peculiar sentence structure, is closed-minded and presumptious. English is not everyone's only language, and for some it isn't even their first. Some are young, and as compartmentalized in their cultural 'area' as anyone else. Even 3l3373 hAX0rS have something to say - and writing them off because the're teens, influenced greatly by their peers and popular hype, is not a good example with which to lead them. Ignorant secretaries who do not bother to double check their work before emailing it to 'all' deserve reprimand, but Joe Shmoe on alt.fan.spork.spork.spork is just trying to share a few thoughts, not write the Great American Novel.

Literacy is not being compromised by the Internet, it is being changed by it. New conventions are evolving as this means for communication spreads to an ever broadening population, and so a small and old set of guidelines no longer applies. Now, I am far from being anti-spelling.. I hate seeing myself let a typo slip on by. But I think that too many people over-react. McD's letting a typo go on a billboard? Consider the source... Consider the kid who had to go out there in the cold, and the manager who would rather be elsewhere. I find it embrassing that the CNN home-page stories are so full of mis-spellings and grammatical errors as to give other countries a true and accurate perception of US public education. Why? Because people everywhere judge books by their covers. "So, yer from the HUGH-ESS-AY, eh?" - How badly do the French spell? How is Japanese grammar? ("All your base are belong to us!" is an example of non-conscientious translation. How is their casual conversation?)

I guess the point is that ubiquitously demanding correctness in written communication is Draconian and unnecessary. If it's just a casual point that needs to be shared, and it can be shared more easily without demending correctness, then we should just let the issue go. We don't know whom we are talking to half the time, and demanding them to play by our rules is simply unfair. If, however, it is formal communication intended to not only relay ideas but attitude, then the cover matters at least as much as the content. For the record, I frequently deal with German and French engineers via email, and find their English better than that of my US coworkers - also embarassing.

As always, it is important to speak with actions and lead by example.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

Good points, but ... (4.00 / 1) (#74)
by StrontiumDog on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 05:24:45 AM EST

... the reason spelling on the internet has become worse of late is IMO due to the broadening of the user base, not because of its informal nature. Anybody who has been on Usenet since, oh about 1994 can testify to this. The internet used to be primarily the domain of academics and people with a higher education; now the percentage of well-written academics is declining relative to the absolute numbers of sloppy Joe Schmoeses. Is this a bad thing? No. But it doesn't make sloppy language use any more desirable either.

Communication is about effectiveness, and the better one's grammar, vocabulary, and writing skills, the more effective the communication. This is not just a question of dotting the i's and placing the commas. Informal net-speak can be nearly incomprehensible. On Usenet a question like "netscape dont work on my mchine its crap i thnk is broke help me pls" is simply waste of bandwidth. "I can't connect to my provider using Netscape and a PPP connection. What could be wrong?" is a lot more comprehensible to everyone concerned. Effective and efficient communication is one of the reasons we go to school for so many years.

In addition except possibly in informal real-time fora like IRC or ICQ, your grammar and spelling often dictate the seriousness with which you will be taken. Like personal appearances. A nitwit with a suit will be taken a lot more seriously than a nitwit in jeans and an old T shirt. Society still attaches a lot of value to presentation and neatness, in word and appearance. Sloppiness indicates laziness: a person who does not bother to check his spelling probably didn't bother to check his facts either. The fact that your own post was well-written and practically error-free indicates that you are just as aware of this.

[ Parent ]

Precisely. (4.00 / 1) (#80)
by jabber on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 09:42:26 AM EST

The presentation of ideas does matter a great deal.

The problem with this is that because of good typing skills, some people can speak with greater authority than their words deserve - and with proper diction, certain politicians (ahem, Clinton - Gore) manage to entrance people into believing what is just an opinion. Conversely, those less well-spoken (but likely more honest), tend to be dismissed as quacks and crackpots(Nader?). But that's a separate topic entirely.

You clearly echoed my point though - that it is not the net that is causing poor grammar. The net reflects it's population, as as the mean member of the population becomes less and less prudent/able, the typical communication on the networks begins to reflect this fact.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

Graphical icon-based keyboard? (none / 0) (#102)
by samsara on Wed Dec 06, 2000 at 06:35:48 PM EST

I'm sure McDonald's has these. They're especially helpful when ordering 75c Cheeseburger's. I was actually thinking of something earlier this week that's a bit close to what you're saying. It had to do with the English language as a whole and how out-dated it seems. What if human's developed a written or representational language to convey emotions and tone as well? Maybe we could make good use of colors? Make it compatible with technology (which seems to be a big hurdle so far)

[ Parent ]
Death of childhood, film at 11 (3.33 / 12) (#15)
by Beorn on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 04:55:10 AM EST

What is scary about his suggestion is his next claim: the rise of non-textual media is bringing about a non-literate age, and thus causing the disappearance of childhood.

Well, if the book was written over 10 years ago, we should be able to test his predictions right now. *Has* childhood disappeared? Rephrasing the title this way reveals how ridiculous it is, a nostalgic aphorism.

I suppose childhood has changed. Personally I began with a "cowboy and indian in the forest"-type childhood, switched to "lazy teenager in front of telly", and then to "lazy/busy computer nerd". The time I spent with TV wasn't the worst hours of my life, and I even think I learned something from all those soaps. My younger sisters begun watching TV much earlier, but it doesn't seem to have warped their fragile little minds yet. Based on my experience, I'd say that other children are a larger threat to childhood than TV.

(And in the cities, kids are propably safer inside than playing cowboy and indian in the streets, anyway.)

Well, since the net is a set of media, not a medium, that remains to be seen. Will HTML prevail? Or will Flash cartoons, streaming audio and video, and animations turn the Web into a medium that is primarily non-textual?

Yes, no, both, and it depends. I don't see what this has to do with childhood. What really seems to worry you (and Postman) is that since visuals are for idiots, and text is for intellectuals, the world must be going straight to hell. Well, it's simply not true.

A web page is halfway between a television show and a page of paper in its ability to hold on to our attention.

Not at all. Both books and TV are broadcast mediums where you choose to follow or not to follow the broadcast - but with limited choice in what to watch. The web works more like the brain, with associative limitless links. I simply love hyperlinks, not to mention their less practical but more advanced cousins the search engines.

It's good that those who didn't like your article (which was, by the way, too long) was allowed to stop reading half-way and spend their time more wisely. Had this been a book or TV show, many of them would still be watching. Low attention span forces word efficiency, which books don't.

The Web gets eyeballs through rejuxtaposition.

(Rejux-what?) Webpages get attention through links. This continues the trend of well-phrased headlines (The Disappearance of Childhood!) and to-the-point teasers, (Britney naked!)

The web *holds* attention, on the other hand, by being interesting. This is a new and brutal reality to authors with word-diarrhea. :)

(Ok, I propably overdid the number of links in this comment. Another art to master ...)

- Beorn

[ Threepwood '01 ]

Incorrect hypothesis. (3.66 / 3) (#16)
by Apuleius on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 05:06:13 AM EST

What is scary about his suggestion is his next claim: the rise of non-textual media is bringing about a non-literate age, and thus causing the disappearance of childhood.
Well, if the book was written over 10 years ago, we should be able to test his predictions right now. *Has* childhood disappeared? Rephrasing the title this way reveals how ridiculous it is, a nostalgic aphorism.

Um, no. Postman is talking about a very slow long-term trend in which the social definition of adult and child blend together. The question isn't "Has childhood disappeared?". It's "has childhood been disappearing?" and more importantly, "is childhood disappearing."


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]

Revolution, not trend (3.40 / 5) (#17)
by Beorn on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 05:21:32 AM EST

Um, no. Postman is talking about a very slow long-term trend in which the social definition of adult and child blend together.

Why must it be long-term? A whole generation of cable TV kids are now old enough to analyze. I mean, TV either has an effect on children or not, and the nature of TV isn't going to change radically.

- Beorn

[ Threepwood '01 ]
[ Parent ]

To answer your question. (3.33 / 3) (#18)
by Apuleius on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 05:31:32 AM EST

It is not how the TV-raised kids turn out, but how society views and treats them.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
To question your answer (3.00 / 4) (#19)
by Beorn on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 05:41:24 AM EST

It is not how the TV-raised kids turn out, but how society views and treats them.

Could you elaborate on that? I don't particularly care about how "society" views me. TV and computers changed my life directly, by what they *are*, not by affecting my social status, (which hasn't changed much over the years.)

- Beorn

[ Threepwood '01 ]
[ Parent ]

To answer better.. (3.00 / 3) (#20)
by Apuleius on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 05:51:15 AM EST

What Postman is saying is this:

1. Until the advent of television, Western society moved into a mold by which people younger than around age 18 were regarded as fundamentally different from those older. I.e, there was a social institution known as 'childhood'. This institution is the product of the Gutenberg press.

2. Now that television is part of our society, the boundaries between children and adults are fading into nonexistence. Children dress the same as adults, and are treated as adults more and more (Postman specifically cites the rise in violence against children and attributes it to children being regarded as adults by their assailants.)

So, your question is the wrong question.




There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
To question better.. (3.60 / 5) (#24)
by Beorn on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 06:30:24 AM EST

2. Now that television is part of our society, the boundaries between children and adults are fading into nonexistence. Children dress the same as adults, and are treated as adults more and more (Postman specifically cites the rise in violence against children and attributes it to children being regarded as adults by their assailants.)

I don't see your point. Parents still treat their children like children, although less strictly than 100 years ago. If anything, society *shares* Postman's worries about Spice Girls fashion.

As others have pointed out, the period in which humans are considered young has been steadily increasing for a long time. It is no longer common for people my age (21) to refer to themselves as men, while before TV and rock'n roll any other label would have been an insult. This directly contradicts your claim. Childhood and youth exists now more than ever.

I'm also curious on what is the direct *cause* of this. Does watching TV make children behave like adults? Does watching children watch TV make adults treat children like adults? How is the visual nature of TV relevant, and why won't the web have the same effect, (after all it's less censored)?

- Beorn

[ Threepwood '01 ]
[ Parent ]

Closing. (3.00 / 1) (#31)
by Apuleius on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 10:23:21 AM EST

2. Now that television is part of our society, the boundaries between children and adults are fading into nonexistence. Children dress the same as adults, and are treated as adults more and more (Postman specifically cites the rise in violence against children and attributes it to children being regarded as adults by their assailants.)

I don't see your point. Parents still treat their children like children, although less strictly than 100 years ago. If anything, society *shares* Postman's worries about Spice Girls fashion.

*sigh* Read the book. I can't post the entire book in a review of it. Postman gives far more examples. And unfortunately, prepubescent girls nowadays have Britney Spears for their model, and that's one notch further from the Spice Girls.




There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
Very open, closingwise (3.33 / 3) (#40)
by Beorn on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 12:23:36 PM EST

*sigh* Read the book. I can't post the entire book in a review of it. Postman gives far more examples. And unfortunately, prepubescent girls nowadays have Britney Spears for their model, and that's one notch further from the Spice Girls.

I'm not going to read the book. And I'm not discussing this with Postman, but with you, so a review would be irrelevant. If you want to end the thread, fine, i'm not offended, but don't hide behind some book.

(Ah .. Britney. Visited my parents, who have MTV, this weekend and saw her latest "Max" Martin Sandberg video. Blew my mind. And no, I'm not trolling.)

- Beorn

[ Threepwood '01 ]
[ Parent ]

Childhood is a 19th century idea (4.20 / 15) (#21)
by Simon Kinahan on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 06:16:53 AM EST

It may be surprising, but the idea of childhood as a period of protected innocence, separate from an adulthood contaminated with responsibility, is very recent. In modieval and early modern times children were economic resources. If you were a blacksmith, your sons could hold the horses and your daughters help in the house. If you were a noble, you sons could help lead your armies, and you daughters could be married off to make alliances. Its pretty recently - not long before Barrie wrote "Peter Pan" - that childhood became what it is today. In many parts of the world, childhood as we understannd it still does not exist. It would not be so terribly surprising if the idea started to fade again. Actually, I think it is not, but thats another matter.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
... that we should not hinder! (4.20 / 5) (#36)
by Mad Hughagi on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 11:33:31 AM EST

I would agree that childhood is a period of protected innocence, however, I would like to think that because of this protected innocence we are granted the opportunity to enjoy a period of curiosity, imagination and unparalleled interest in learning (I'm probably following up on your last line).

If anything I think we should be thankful that for at least a portion of our existance we don't need to bother ourselves with the mundane tasks that we deem neccessary to live. My friends and I always have one of those discussions that starts of with the question:

"If you could be any age for the rest of your life, what would it be?"

Personally, I usually advocate an age of 8 years, while most of my friends allways say 16-21 range. The way I see it is that when I was 8 (or then-abouts) everything was so vivid, new and fascinating. I would sit around all day reading encyclopedias just for the sake of being more knowledgable. I guess I'm digressing, but in any case, it was definately a high-water mark.

I guess that my feelings towards the experience of learning and exploring have pretty much determined the course with which I am living my life. Rather than getting tied up with some company and living the life of simple pleasures (nothing wrong with it, just not for me) I have decided to persue academics, and I see my studies in physics as an extension of my childhood curiosity and instinctive drive to learn. It is my hope that I will be able to live in an atmosphere of new ideas and experiences until the end of my days.

I think it is important to observe a comment made by Albert Einstein (and generally a view appreciated by most influential scientists). I don't remember it exactly, but the basic idea is that Einstein felt that he made much more progress in his work through the effective use of his imagination rather than being intelligent in the common sense. Even in our high-tech industry we covet innovation as being a key asset, and isn't innovation simply the ability to apply "outside-the-envelope" thinking to a problem?

So to sum it up, my question is that if we shorten this period of protected innocence, or if it is fundamentally changed by the way in which children are exposed to their environments (television, computers, books, etc) will it have an effect on the overall character of youth that our society produces? Will it be of such a degree that we will notice significant trends in where our society is heading? If children are pushed to grow up at an earlier and earlier age do you think this will stiffle their ability to be creative and innovative later in life?

I guess the way I see it is that with all the consumer-driven media influences we might be losing the next Einsteins and Newtons to more 'here and now' type professions. In any case, just throwing some more ideas into the pool...


HUGHAGI INDUSTRIES

We don't make the products you like, we make you like the products we make.
[ Parent ]

Minor logic problem (3.62 / 8) (#23)
by jfb3 on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 06:27:25 AM EST

I think that while the rise in literacy happened at the same time that people started to segregate their growing young into a separate class I think it had more to do with their ability to afford the lost labor of those children in the family income.

Not just children (3.33 / 9) (#27)
by theboz on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 09:32:51 AM EST

I'd say that TV is bad for people of all ages. I've known people that set a schedule by what TV shows they want to watch, and would rather watch TV if friends call and invite them to go out to eat.

With that being said, I moved about 6 months ago to my current apartment. I thought about getting cable, but decided I could save the $50 a month to spend on something else. Well, my TV rarely gets used (just to watch DVDs and VHS tapes occasionally) and I have more time in the day to do other things. My schedule is more free and I can easily adapt and switch things around. Also, I didn't watch that much TV in the past. I would mostly keep it on the Travel channel or Univision so I could hear it. I think that people place way too much importance on entertainment like television and movies. I won't insult music, because, well, I've always had a soundtrack to my life. :o)

Stuff.

Cross-eyed (1.07 / 13) (#28)
by Whimsy on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 09:36:12 AM EST

Won't this lead to a world full of crossed-eyed pr0n-obsessives?

Whoa! Free peanuts!


American jokes they tell in Poland (3.81 / 11) (#29)
by sugarman on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 09:56:26 AM EST

The subject is from an old 'Mad' article. From a page of jokes, the one that stuck with me was this:
Q: How do you get an American teen to kick the drug habit?
A: Introduce him to alcohol!

Now, while the web might be the booze in this scenario, I hardly see it as the replacement to TV. The web doesn't promote literacy, it simply more deeply segregates those who are literate and those who aren't.

Those who want the literary web can find it. Usenet, k5, /. still exist. But the vast majority are morphing the net to what they want to see. You don't have to be literate to download pr0n from a thumbnail archive. If anything, literacy is going down the tubes even faster as a host of acronyms serve as a replacement for regular speech, on MUDs, IRC, ICQ. The chat functions, that come with every shiny coaster from AOL that you get, are what a large percentage of people view as 'The Net'. Now correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't recall anyone complaining about the vast influx of literate, articulate, and well-mannered AOL users coming onto Usenet and the like several years ago.

Anyways, the net won't save literacy. Can the net be saved from turning into a tool for the illiterate? AOL, and most browsers, are largely iconic in their use. Heck, even k5 has a different icon for each section. How can we stop this progression? Should we? I think there is another side to this arguement that needs to be explored.

Net != literacy

--sugarman--

Icons (3.00 / 2) (#30)
by fantastic-cat on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 10:08:44 AM EST

There may be icons on K5 but to actually get anything out of it you need to read and at the moment the same is true of most of the web, I think this will change as people start delivering video and music on a large scale over the net which is probably a bad thing. t.

[ Parent ]
The net and literacy. (2.00 / 1) (#46)
by Apuleius on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 01:55:56 PM EST

Net != literacy You may be right. But damn it all, I hope you're wrong.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
Something I've noticed... (none / 0) (#92)
by FenrirWolf on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 07:53:38 PM EST

/. literacy? Ahem. That's a pretty broad view. It's like saying license plates or Windows Device Munger is an example of literacy. ;)

Anyway... I can see what you are talking about. Recently, I've had a lot of trouble trying to get someone who hangs out on a MU* varient to realize that things like punctuation and basic grammar are very important when it comes to communication. He simply could not understand why he was being ignored over everyone else; I tried to explain to him on several occasions that 'howis it gong ppl' simply isn't going to cut it when everybody else speaks normal english. The time it takes to decipher his cryptic post-modern writing style is too much of an effort.

I've noticed over the years that people who communicate on the net frequently do so with an almost bastardized version of english. They use a lot of contractions, skip punctuation and capitalization, and generally mangle grammar. I'm not sure if this is due to people being 'dumbed down' by the net, or if it is a simple case of many just now starting to communicate using their language and literature skills -- when they've had no reason to encourage or polish (or even use) these skills in the past. Or maybe people are just lazy, and prefer to type out 'ppl' instead of 'people'.

Either way, I've noticed it's becoming increasingly common to see such bastardized english on a lot of sites. Even from people who have very intelligent things to say and express themselves concisely.

Anyway. This is OT-ish, so I shall shut up now. :)

[ Parent ]

Ahhh (none / 0) (#106)
by NDPTAL85 on Tue Feb 05, 2002 at 06:44:16 AM EST

Its called the "evolution" of a language. Get used to it ppl!!!!!

[ Parent ]
A Jumble of Thoughts. (4.00 / 10) (#33)
by Alarmist on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 11:08:42 AM EST

This has been percolating in my head for some time now. I might not be able to get it down straight, or even in a very presentable form, but here goes.

The idea that childhood is disappearing is an interesting one. What the original article suggests is that television and the corresponding lack of literacy in our society is responsible for this. I can agree with the notion that children seem to be maturing more quickly, but I disagree that it's a lack of literacy that's the cause. Rather, this early maturity is due to other effects.

Consider: childhood is a social institution, one that fits (to some extent) a person's physical condition. Therefore, the existance and conditions of childhood are dictated to no small degree by the social environment. The dichotomy Postman writes about pre-Gutenberg was due more to the economic realities of the time than to literacy and its lack. Children after the age of seven were old enough to be contributors to keeping the family fed--an important consideration in a time in which every available worker meant more food for all.

The economy began to change around Gutenberg's time, and really changed with the opening of the Industrial Revolution. However, the IR did not suddenly explode onto the scene. Rather, it was a gradual building of conditions over the preceding decades that precipitated in the widespread industrialization of western societies and marked the shift from agriculture-based economies to industry-based ones.

As a result of this, while children were still valuable workers, it was eventually realized that, at least in some areas, you didn't have to keep the kids working to keep the family fed, and that if children were educated, they were sharper people and might be able to earn more money. While these were hardly times of plenty, they did mean that people weren't always dying in droves when there was a bad crop year (exception: the Irish potato famine of the 1840s. The famine, though, was exaggerated by dependence on potatoes as a staple crop. Had the Irish been able to diversify (wheat, say, or barley) more, the famine would not have claimed as many lives as it did).

I'm getting to my point.

Education became a social institution. More importantly, it became a force for socialization. That's why schoolbooks in the west (especially in the United States) hung on to Christian ideas for so long: those were the values that parents wanted impressed on their children. The granting of in loco parentis status to schools is a tacit acknowledgement of the fact that schools play almost as vital a role in shaping children as parents do.

Television is simply another socializing agent, but because the economy has again shifted and because of the standard of living in the United States, it is harder for parents to have much influence on socializing their children. It can be done, but the schools and TV get more time at it than the parents do. As a result, children are no longer being socialized by people who treat them as children. Instead, they are being socialized by forces that do not distinguish much between children and adults, forces that are ostensibly for entertaining and informing adults, but which also entertain, inform, and socialize children. Children are maturing more quickly not because of the downfall of literacy, but because they are being socialized as adults. Literacy has little to do with it.

For some time in the past, children were viewed as miniature versions of adults. Child abuse was just as rampant then as it is today, and the savagery of the acts committed against children was comparable with today's. The difference between now and then is that there are institutions which ostensibly safeguard children's rights. In the United States, a severe case of child abuse close to the turn of the century was handled by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, because there was no organization that spoke to children's rights.

While none of us (or few of us) would say that we view children as adults, children will emulate the adults that they're around. If all the adults they see are on TV, then they will mimic those adults.

Fight the Power.


And a sprinkle of quibbles. (3.50 / 2) (#45)
by Apuleius on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 01:53:38 PM EST

Consider: childhood is a social institution, one that fits (to some extent) a person's physical condition. Therefore, the existance and conditions of childhood are dictated to no small degree by the social environment. The dichotomy Postman writes about pre-Gutenberg was due more to the economic realities of the time than to literacy and its lack. Children after the age of seven were old enough to be contributors to keeping the family fed--an important consideration in a time in which every available worker meant more food for all.
That did not change until long after Gutenberg. Keep in mind that school summer vacations were originally in place so kids could help their families with the harvest.

While none of us (or few of us) would say that we view children as adults, children will emulate the adults that they're around. If all the adults they see are on TV, then they will mimic those adults.
Postman says the same thing, but he also says a lot more.




There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
Mulishness. (4.50 / 2) (#53)
by Alarmist on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 04:28:02 PM EST

Perhaps it's my natural stubbornness, but I find it hard to accept that the spread of literacy created a social institution called childhood.

Economic conditions didn't change much after Gutenberg; the change was gradual, instead of overnight. Even when the Industrial Revolution took off, you still had kids who worked to support the family--it happened in the West until well into the nineteenth century. The difference was that from about the mid-eighteenth century on, stand-alone schools became viable; you could have a school that wasn't connected with a church or a monastery. The school still taught religious values, but access was a little more broad than it had been.

Perhaps I'm being disorganized. Strike that, I know I'm being disorganized. Must be the sinus drugs. At any rate, the institution called "childhood" occurred in Western societies probably after the eighteenth century. One of my textbooks (can't recall which, unfortunately) claimed that children in art up until the mid-eighteenth century were depicted as miniature adults, rather than as children. If that is true, then it speaks to a perception that children are simply small adults. That leads to a lot of interesting things--"spare the rod and spoil the child" was a notion taken literally by many a Western family, especially in the United States, and this is analogous to what was being done with adult criminals. The decline in the use of corporal punishment in schools didn't occur in the United States until at least the 1960s, whereas flogging and similar forms of punishment were made illegal some time before then. Could the obvious disadvantage that children had in defending themselves and having advocates for their rights have been a factor? It's easier to slap around someone who's half your size.

If we are talking about childhood as a time during which children are free to learn, may or may not go to school, and are generally not working themselves to death in the fields or in the factory from dawn to dusk, then this did not really take off until the late nineteenth century and didn't become widespread until the early twentieth century. (I'm speaking of the United States here; shift these dates back perhaps 25-50 years or so for Europe)

I guess what I'm really trying to say is that literacy didn't cause childhood; rather, literacy is coincident with the conditions that favor the development of childhood. If you're not working, you have the time to go to school, and there learn how to read.

The thing that Postman seems to worry about (the disappearance of childhood due to the decline of literacy) will not happen. What will happen is that childhood vanishes, not because people aren't literate, but because we let our children be raised by strangers and expose them to things that they might not be ready for, either because they're not old enough to really understand what's happening or because they have had little or no prior preparation for those events. The fact that people are becoming semi-literate and functionally illiterate is simply concurrent with that.

While none of us (or few of us) would say that we view children as adults, children will emulate the adults that they're around. If all the adults they see are on TV, then they will mimic those adults.

Postman says the same thing, but he also says a lot more.

It's a common enough idea--psychologists have known this since at least the 1960s (Maslow's experiments on children who view violent acts).

I may have to give Postman a gander. At the very least, he seems to have interesting ideas.


[ Parent ]

The Internet as Literacy (2.87 / 8) (#35)
by Woodblock on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 11:15:13 AM EST

Firstly, to claim that the Internet can be seen as some form of literature, I think, is completely preposterous. I've never seen a webpage that was of the same quality of some of the worst books I've ever read. It simply cannot stack up. While both are information media, one seems better suited for ideas and the other for pure, raw, data.

Also, I doubt any "children" browse sites such as k5 or seek out other sites that have a higher sound to noise ratio. I've watched my younger siblings and what they use the internet for is another fix for their pop culture addiction. When you see a 10 year old spend hours looking for everything Pokemon, you begin to realize that the internet is, for children at least, is simply a television with more buttons on the remote.
-- Real computer scientists don't use computers.

Let's see about that (none / 0) (#60)
by psicE on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 07:44:12 PM EST

lol. :)

As a "child" reading this site, and the same one who wrote the Personality Types story (although I haven't written anything besides that; I really should), I laughed out loud reading that comment.

Maybe you should have said that you doubt *many* children browse it, because I've told a number of people about this site and gotten at least two repeat visitors [with usernames].

[ Parent ]
Hrm (2.20 / 5) (#37)
by simmons75 on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 11:33:33 AM EST

I had added this as an editorial comment, but it's important to know that email is not related to Web technology. Neither is Usenet. I'm not claiming that invalidates your arguements; rather, in the future, keep in mind that the Internet is much more than "the Web." :-)
poot!
So there.

As a parent, this is a non-issue to me. (4.27 / 11) (#38)
by theR on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 12:04:04 PM EST

First of all, it is a poor asssumption that the internet is a more literate way to communicate than television. At this point in my eight year-old daughter's life (BTW, happy birthday M!) it is clear to me that programs like Sesame Street have had a much greater influence upon her literacy than the internet has. For the most part, by the time a child gets on the internet without the help of someone else, that child has already started and probably seriously developed a stance on what is important, including the importance of literacy, whether the child realizes it or not.

Sure, my daughter now watches many programs of her own choosing. But I would argue that the advent of cable and satellite television has made for the ability to watch better programs. I would also argue that shows like SpongeBob and Rugrats on Nickelodeon are funny, interesting, sometimes insightful, and do nothing to deter literacy.

So, how about the question of whether or not children are losing their childhood, and if so, is it because of the "television-dependent post-literate society?" I have one basic opinion that answers both these questions. The children that are losing their childhood, whether or not it is because of our "post-literate society," have their parents to blame. I am not saying that parents are always responsible or that that responsibility is completely theirs. But the single biggest influence on any child is that child's parents or guardian, followed by other family. When one or both parents are missing from a child's life by the parents' choosing then they are still just as responsible for that child's development by choosing to not be there.

I pay attention to what my daughter watches. If I am watching a television show that is inappropriate when she comes in the room, I change the channel or turn the tv off. If she is losing her childhood, the majority of the responsibility is on me and my wife. Sure, there are always exceptions, but I believe this usually holds true.

So, now let's say I had a kid (Cthulhu have mercy). Would I take this to the logical conclusion and give the kid Web access while limiting or disallowing television? To a degree, I would.

As a parent, it is your job to limit and guide your child, among many other responsibilities. I do not let my daughter watch any program she wants, just as I do not let her go to any web site she wants. I trust her and respect her judgement, but I also know that eight years of life experience is no match for my 28 years. If she wakes up before me or my wife on a Saturday and heads down to watch tv, if I come down unannounced she will be watching something that is appropriate for an eight year-old.

I also know that she loves to read. Most nights, when I tuck her in, she asks if she can read before she goes to sleep. I always say yes. She sees me reading the paper in the morning, magazines, books, and the internet. I believe her childhood is most definitely not in peril. Children are learning machines, but it is up to us to decide what they digest.



The internet as it stands of course... (none / 0) (#101)
by samsara on Wed Dec 06, 2000 at 06:23:02 PM EST

I completely agree with the fact that internet is not a substitute for TV, but only as it currently stands. I strongly believe as bandwith increases and the quality of service meets demands...we'll eventually see the two merge together or piggy-back in one way or another. I feel that a lot of people share your view. The internet in it's infancy was often coined "The Wild West" and it was quite easy to accidently stumble upon irrelavant or offensive material. But just as everything evolves, the environment will become more familiar, distributed better, and fitting to our needs. We've seen radio stations jump on to the concept. With advances in consumer-end bandwith, interactive TV isn't so far behind.

[ Parent ]
Verbose (1.61 / 13) (#39)
by twistedfuck on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 12:07:14 PM EST

That posting was too long, so I didn't read it.

The more interactive the media, the better for children. Books are better than television, for children above a certain age. And someday there may be applications that are better than books, if they don't already exist.

Neal Stephenson's "Diamond Age, or a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer" is an interesting story on the importance of educating children. I'm only half-way through the book so I have yet to see how the story turns out.

Re: Verbose (3.66 / 3) (#42)
by MeanGene on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 01:09:28 PM EST

>>>>> twistedfuck wrote in #39:
> That posting was too long, so I didn't read it.

;-)

Should there be any further proof that anything with a higher informational content than a 10-second commercial is beyond comprehension of the new generation? ;-)



[ Parent ]
Hmmm... (none / 0) (#48)
by SIGFPE on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 02:30:46 PM EST

That posting was too long, so I didn't read it.
He he! I'm quite happy to sit down and read hundreds of pages of a book at one sitting but reading a one page article online is something that I find much harder. I think you've pointed out quite eloquently why the web isn't going to save anyone.
SIGFPE
[ Parent ]
Hmmm... (3.00 / 1) (#49)
by SIGFPE on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 02:30:48 PM EST

That posting was too long, so I didn't read it.
He he! I'm quite happy to sit down and read hundreds of pages of a book at one sitting but reading a one page article online is something that I find much harder. I think you've pointed out quite eloquently why the web isn't going to save anyone.
SIGFPE
[ Parent ]
Educating kids and reading. (none / 0) (#81)
by Alarmist on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 11:01:07 AM EST

The more interactive the media, the better for children. Books are better than television, for children above a certain age.

I agree, but at what age? I was hooked on reading pretty much from the time I could do it, but I'm an outlier.

Books are wonderful, but I plan to encourage my hypothetical children to do more--art, playing with things that they can assemble and disassemble, Lego, et cetera. The value of reading is that it forces you to use your imagination to see the events described. Toys that are somewhat freeform (modeling clay, Lego, any sort of building toy, heck, just about anything) encourage the kid to imagine and shape things.

Neal Stephenson's "Diamond Age, or a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer" is an interesting story on the importance of educating children. I'm only half-way through the book so I have yet to see how the story turns out.

I won't spoil it for you. But Stephenson's story makes one wonder if you can really do that just by getting people to read and interact with something. History bears him out to some extent--people have fought and died over things that they read about.


[ Parent ]

Interesting & Enjoyable Piece (2.00 / 5) (#41)
by Shaggie76 on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 12:56:38 PM EST

Thanks for an interesting and enjoyable piece. It's definitely provoked some thought.

Postman's arguments (4.66 / 9) (#47)
by B'Trey on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 02:27:00 PM EST

First, I question the conclusions drawn by Postman, at least as presented here. (I haven't read the book. He may have made made a more convincing case than the synopsis above.) A great many things were going on in the same time frame as the invention of the printing press and the explosion of literacy. There were advances in a most areas of human endeavor, including agriculture. The whole philosophy of government was being questioned. The idea that people were more than the chattel of whoever happened to be in charge at that particular moment was slowly emerging; the concept of human rights, as we understand them today, was gaining strength. In the midsts of all this turmoil and upheaval, why claim that it was literacy, and solely literacy, which was responsible for the evolution of childhood?

Prior to the modern age, poverty was the rule rather than the exception. Most people were preoccupied with trying to fill their bellies and otherwise stay alive. There was no childhood because there was no leisure time. In pragmatic terms, a child is essentially a burden. They take a considerable amount of time, attention and resources while contributing next to nothing. Neither individual families nor society as a whole could afford an idylic childhood. It seems much more likely to me that a great meany factors contributed to both the spread of literacy and the simultaneous rise of a new view of childhood. Positing a direct cause and effect relationship between the two requires quite a bit of proof.

Counterpoints... (3.66 / 3) (#57)
by Miniluv on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 07:08:52 PM EST

You mention several other things occuring in the same time period as the invention of the printing press, and several of them definitely have potential validity as impacting on the evolution of childhood, but I think the one that does really bear serious examination is the agricultural revolution. Inventions which made argiculture less labor intensive freed up time for a mostly agrarian society to pursue some other things. These inventions were directly responsible for providing time for agrarian societys to educate their young in a structured way rather than through experience.
I'm not sure that questioning methods of government really have much in the way of a causitive link to child rearing practices, but I'm not a sociologist so that's pure opinion. The main reason for this is that government honestly had a minimal impact on the life of the "average peasant" during those days. Kings and their Lords were distant people as far as most serfs and burghers were concerned, aside from the need to pay taxes on their crops or goods.
I think, again opinion here, that one of the leading causes of this demarcation around age 7, aside from mastery of basic language, is that around that age a boy-child is physically capable of performing some manual labor to benefit the family. During this time period children were viewed as assets and liabilities, depending on gender, because of how they could contribute to a family's overall welfare. Rememer, this is the age of dowry's on women for the inconvenience of having to marry them. If you look at literacy and it's evolution into a public school system, both in the American Colonies and in Europe, you see the slow evolution of a structured growth cycle from birth to adulthood. The cycle has gradually lengthened until we have today's standards of "adulthood" usually at about age 18. When you look at societies where this is not the case, you also usually see a lower standard of societal literacy and a less structured educational model.
The other thing to note is that the evolved method of gradual child rearing coincides only vaguely with marked physical changes, as opposed to the old model of ages for marriage and such.

"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
[ Parent ]
Well said... (4.50 / 2) (#78)
by B'Trey on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 09:23:36 AM EST

It's difficult to be exhaustive in this format. Advances in agriculture certainly had a major impact. That was why I mentioned it specifically. My comments on the philosophy of government and human rights weren't meant to imply that it was the changing role of government itself which had a huge impact. Rather, there was a huge transition in self-image as a result of these changes. Most ancient cultures functioned under some variation of the "divine right" belief. The leaders were an elite class appointed by God (or the gods)to rule. (Even the Greek democracy was heavily class-centric, with only a privileged few eligible for election.) The masses were little better than slaves - their entire purpose for existence was to support and obey their rulers. To believe otherwise was not only treason, it was blasphemy. I believe the transition, from seeing oneself as essentially a piece of property to seeing oneself as an individual with intrinsic worth, had a huge impact on childhood as well. The early years of a piece of chattel are a time to be endured until he becomes productive. The early years of an individual are a precious time.

[ Parent ]
lots of holes (4.50 / 6) (#52)
by handle on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 04:22:16 PM EST

My first problem with Postman's thesis is its inherent value judgement: childhood==good. Therefore, if childhood goes away then something bad has happened. I don't think that's necessarily true. As others have noted, what we currently think of as childhood is a fairly recent concept. Humanity managed to get along fine without it up until that point. Furthermore, it's a social convention and as such is always subject to change in the future. Again that's not necessarily a bad thing (e.g., slavery, universal suffrage, etc.). Secondly, he's wrong about childhood being derived from literacy. Childhood is entirely economic. Literacy was only one of the many economic developments that made childhood possible. Currently, it's economically possible for many parents (in the industrialized world, of course) to support their children into their early 20s. This means that the child can spend more time developing and learning and thereby gain a greater competitive advantage over those without that time. It's no surprise that in impoverished societies that it's acceptable for 14-year-old girls to marry or for 10-year-olds to be sold to rug manufacturers and so on. Economically speaking, a book is a tool that allows someone to learn independently of the person with the knowledge (the author) and allows that knowledge to scale hugely through multiple copies and multiple uses. Literacy is just the skill to use that book. Once literacy became a valuable skill to have, it was obvious that the best time to teach the skill to someone is when they are a young child. It's right in line with a child's developmental process, it predicates even greater learning by leveraging the skill to read more later in life, and it has minimal physical requirements so if the investment of time to learn to read is going to be made, childhood is the optimal time to do so since children have low earning potential. I think that the people who get most worked up over the TV/reading thing fail to see that TV is replacing reading only as a form of entertainment. Reading is still the best way to convey complex ideas and highly detailed sets of information. You can't get a college degree by watching TV. People that want to remain economically competitive must read and will continue to do so until something successfully replaces reading. Whatever that is, it won't be TV.

re: lots of holes (4.00 / 1) (#69)
by vheissu256 on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 01:56:55 AM EST

I think you are lumping together 15-25 years of a person's life and calling it 'childhood' and then claiming that it's unreasonable to protect 'children' completely for this entire period. Of course it is! This is something, of course, that our society likes to do: (In america) You can drive at 16, vote and sign contracts at 18, drink at 21. Binary changes from one absolute to another, with immediate granting of a variety of legal rights.

Childhood/adolescence, however, is a process. Children need to be exposed to certain things at certain times. Postman claims that before, we had a built-in protection : Children could only be exposed to what they could read. If they wanted to read a dirty or violent book aimed at adults, they would have to learn the vocabulary and be able to understand the complexity of the situations, the process of which would include a certain amount of maturity. Postman argues that with the invention of television, it is now possible for very young children to be exposed to violence and understand that it is violence they are seeing.

This naturally fucks up this process. Nobody writes a Dick And Jane Rob a Jewelry Store and Torture a Cop, and for good reason. Its inappropriate for kids and boring for adults. And no 6-year old is going to wade through a Puzo novel. When they are able and willing to read it, they will likely have also gained the maturity to understand it and place it. But any kid can watch Resevior Dogs or The Godfather, and while probably not understand the greater picture, see people getting killed and being generally shitty to one another. They may be bored by the full length of the movie, but the violence will always captivate them.

I'm not saying these movies don't have a place in society-they certainly do. All expression, of any form, has a place. The problem with television and movies is that there is no control embedded in the nature of the media. It is simply to easy for children to get.

As for childhood in various socities, the young age at which children work in third world countries is at least somewhat fueled by the first world's ineffeciencies-- we have simply decided that we don't want to pay American (or wherever) workers to make our shoes because they demand a higher minumum wage. If you only earn a few dollars a day in a Nike factory and don't have a farm to grow food on, you have no choice but to send your kids to work or sell them. It is the western companies that are all too willing to hire. In a farm-based economic system it is far easier to school the children and still have them help out with the family--classes can be scheduled away from harvesting and planting, when labor needs are reduced significantly. This was done in rural communties in the US for years. With a money based system it is much harder.

<<just a random string o' thoughts>>
/* this post not warranteed for mission critical applications */
[ Parent ]
re: lots of holes (none / 0) (#88)
by handle on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 03:41:33 PM EST

I think you are lumping together 15-25 years of a person's life and calling it 'childhood' and then claiming that it's unreasonable to protect 'children' completely for this entire period.

Huh? What are you talking about? My post has nothing to do with "protecting children". I was refuting Postman's (rather ridiculous, IMO) argument that literacy historically led to childhood.

[ Parent ]
juxtapositioning is good? (3.40 / 5) (#54)
by kei on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 04:45:12 PM EST

In my earlier editorial I mentioned my concern that the Web, for most people, is nothing more than yet another medium that whittles away the average joe's already tiny attention span. As an example, take a look at the Britney Spears/semiconductor site.

Personally, I gained nothing from being assaulted with images of that slut Britney Spears. How is that any different from the Jerry Springer-esque presentation style of television? Why is it necessary to throw in irrelevant eye-candy to keep a viewer's attention? Is it, and I fear that it is, because we've denegerated to the point where we need to have something scandalous like that grab our attention? If so, doesn't that just show how low the signal-to-noise ratio of the Web is, just like any other medium?

There's a lot of information on the Web, and places like Kuro5hin attempt to filter the valuable from the worthless, and it does a damned fine job. Nonetheless, I bet a lot more people use the Britney Spears filter instead of the Kuro5hin filter, and I doubt prolonged use of that will lead to any improvement in literacy.
--
"[An] infinite number of monkeys typing into GNU emacs would never make a good program."
- /usr/src/linux/Documentation/CodingStyle

Slut? (2.00 / 2) (#58)
by Miniluv on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 07:23:54 PM EST

While I'm not one to defend Britney Spears and her musical abilities, etc. I am going to object to the rather harsh slander being hurled her way. Just because you can't be "punished" for it in this media, you shouldn't be allowed to get away with murder, even though it's only her character you're assasinating in this situation.

"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
[ Parent ]
What is wrong with character assassination? (1.50 / 2) (#62)
by Holloway on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 08:15:32 PM EST

see subject.


== Human's wear pants, if they don't wear pants they stand out in a crowd. But if a monkey didn't wear pants it would be anonymous

[ Parent ]
It smacks of ignorance (2.00 / 2) (#64)
by Miniluv on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 09:28:07 PM EST

saycb (same as your comment body)
"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
[ Parent ]
so... (4.00 / 4) (#65)
by kei on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 11:04:57 PM EST

The fact that she dresses like a slut, acts like a slut, sings like a slut, wears more makeup than the normal slut, and is a sex object among male fans is considered ignorance?

If that's so, I don't even want to think want "enlightenment" would be like. Ewww.

P.S. I really didn't want to participate in a flamefest about Britney Spears, but if you're going to be hypocritical enough to talk about "character assassination" and immediately turn around and accuse me of "ignorance," I'm not gonna just sit here and take it, thankyouverymuch.
--
"[An] infinite number of monkeys typing into GNU emacs would never make a good program."
- /usr/src/linux/Documentation/CodingStyle
[ Parent ]

I agree with the previous poster (1.66 / 3) (#67)
by ChannelX on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 12:04:25 AM EST

It's pretty damn ignorant to call someone something like 'slut' when you have absolutely no idea who the woman is personally. Britney Spears dresses, acts, sings, etc what her PR people tell her to. If you have an issue with it fine but degenerating to childish name-calling isn't going to help.

[ Parent ]
Oops, you did it again (4.00 / 2) (#71)
by Holloway on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 04:49:13 AM EST

With comments like "Britney Spears dresses, acts, sings, etc what her PR people tell her to" you seem to be doing a fair bit of character assassination yourself. What led you to this conclusion?


== Human's wear pants, if they don't wear pants they stand out in a crowd. But if a monkey didn't wear pants it would be anonymous

[ Parent ]
Um.m..... (none / 0) (#94)
by ChannelX on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 11:19:02 PM EST

That is what show business is about. I'm kind of curious how you came to the conclusion that doing what your PR people tell you to is character assassination? When a CEO of a company listens to his marketing department about how to market a product is it character assassination to mention that as well? You think Britney Spears is running her career all by herself? Do you think she's writing all the music and lyrics of the songs she performs? Please explain how the simple truth about teenagers in show business is 'character assassination'. I'll be curious to see what you have to say.

[ Parent ]
Britney (none / 0) (#103)
by Holloway on Thu Dec 07, 2000 at 12:48:05 AM EST

I know I don't have a clue whether she writes all her songs - I'm not about to presume an answer because she's part of the pop music industry.

To do so without evidence is diminishing her character without proof. I would say this is character assassination.

I'd like to know the answer - but it seems the only evidence you have to call her a music industry puppet is "the simple truth" ... and despite a google search I couldn't find anything on that ;)


== Human's wear pants, if they don't wear pants they stand out in a crowd. But if a monkey didn't wear pants it would be anonymous

[ Parent ]

Max Martin (4.50 / 2) (#104)
by Beorn on Thu Dec 07, 2000 at 06:49:20 AM EST

I know I don't have a clue whether she writes all her songs - I'm not about to presume an answer because she's part of the pop music industry.

"Max" Martin Sandberg writes her good songs, the rest are propably churned out by chinese child labor. In fact, many teen pop singles I've liked over the last years turns out to have been written or produced by him. He can't be dismissed as a predictable industry hack, (unlike Britneys other songwriters ...)

As for the comment calling Britney a slut, I would think one would have gotten used to scantily clad women in pop music by now. It may not be good for children, but it's good for me.

- Beorn

[ Threepwood '01 ]
[ Parent ]

Actually... (3.00 / 1) (#72)
by Miniluv on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 04:54:01 AM EST

I said character assasination smacks of ignorance, not accused you of it. I didn't take issue with the content of your post, I found it quite well written in my opinion, and I do believe it's doing rather well in ratings. I myself rated it a three, I only took issue with calling her a slut. Doing so is in fact character assasination, despite how she may sing or dress. I would imagine you aren't personal friends with her, if you are please correct me, so you can't honestly attest to her actions or the amount of make-up she wears on any regular basis.

"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
[ Parent ]
no offense was harmed in the creation of this post (4.00 / 3) (#76)
by kei on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 06:06:55 AM EST

Well, doesn't seem like anyone wants to discuss juxtapositioning. Sigh. I am debating whether to respond to this now completely OT thread as I write this. If it turns out to be reasonably anti-inflammatory I will hit post. Otherwise, it will last only as a data in the invalid portions of my L1/L2 cache until it's replaced. Either way, this should definitely not be moderated up. There are far more intellectual comments elsewhere that deserve attention. (The only reason I'm not attempting to take this to email is that I believe a lot less attention is paid by both sides in a private flame-war vs. a debate on a public forum. I promise not a peep more about BS will be heard from me after this post. Have the last word if you want, I doubt there is anything more I could say about such a worthless topic.)

Why I called Britney Spears a slut:

[1] In my book, consciously "selling" yourself in the way she sells her image (dressing in scantily clad clothing, tons of makeup, et. al.) makes you a slut. Really, there's not much more than that.

[2] I know full well she wouldn't do it if it wasn't socially and economically beneficial to her. Why blame her publicists, or anyone else for that matter, as some have done, when it ought to be clear that she knows full well how she is representing herself to the public. If you think her naivete prevents her from realizing that exposing her body directly results in more fans than singing alone, than you're doing a great discredit to her intelligence. She either (a) dresses like a slut for money or, (b) dresses like a slut because she likes it.

you can't honestly attest to her actions or the amount of make-up she wears on any regular basis.

[3] If Alice was a stripper with a heart of gold, would it be character assassination to say "Alice strips, she is a sex object"? Why?

[4] Yes there probably is a "personal side of Britney Spears," but let's face it. She's a public figure and she's getting tons of fortune and fame as a direct result of the side she shows the public. See [1]. She's so ubiquitous that I don't feel the need to say "Britney Spears' public image's sluttiness." Very few people, and certainly not me, know "who she really is," but as a celebrity that "regular basis" of which you speak is meaningless. Just because I'm unfamiliar with her personal, private habits doesn't mean my characterization is made out of "ignorance."

Funny thing is, I'm a hot-blooded male, even though I probably come across as a bit of a prude for my anti-Britney opinion. That's because the extent at which Britney Spears markets Britney Spears has made it impossible for me to be less than disgusted by her very existence. She is so completely fabricated that I can't treat her as a real, flesh and blood human being. She's a slut.

After all this long-winded, maybe I should've just said "yeah, I'm assassinating Britney Spears' public image. that's the price a celebrity pays for being stinkin' rich" and actually get on with my life. I only meant to assassinate her real character a little (see [2], especially subsections a and b) -- having been exposed to the initial wave of Britney Spears marketing I did see plenty of video clips of young Britney displaying actual vocal talent (where did that go? Puberty?), and for a while I could tolerate her, but this camel's back has been broken for quite some time. I've never been a fan of soulless pop music, and the state of the music business landscape has left me very irritable.
--
"[An] infinite number of monkeys typing into GNU emacs would never make a good program."
- /usr/src/linux/Documentation/CodingStyle
[ Parent ]

I understand but... (3.00 / 1) (#87)
by Miniluv on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 03:36:48 PM EST

The thing of it is, while you raise really valid points and I understand your reasoning, I just can't agree that it's fair to call her a word like slut. Sure, she does a lot of things to sell her product. I've yet to see a band that didn't do at least some marketing, if they don't market they aren't interested in any degree of sucess.
As to your third point, that's a completely unfair metaphor. We're not taking a known fact and categorizing it, instead we're taking a section of public image and exagerrating it.
Every commonly accepted, and currently used, dictionary definition implies sexual promiscuity, for fun or profit, for the word slut. THat's the main reason I objected to your calling her that, because there's just no reason to extrapolate that far in an attack on her image or life. You can call her cheap, call her public behavior tantamount to public whoring of her talents, call her any number of rather accurate things and while they might be mean, even close to character assasination, they just aren't that false.
And I'm glad you didn't just give in if it's truly not what you believe. While this may be an off-topic thread, it's still being conducted intelligently, at least I think so, and thus not a flame war or something else that there's no benefit to be gained from. And I'm disregarding your request and moderating your post up because it deserves it on the basis of coherent thought.

"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
[ Parent ]
What century are you living in? (3.16 / 6) (#77)
by spiralx on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 07:16:18 AM EST

The fact that she dresses like a slut, acts like a slut, sings like a slut, wears more makeup than the normal slut, and is a sex object among male fans is considered ignorance?

Did you somehow escape from the Victorian era? Whilst I cannot stand her music, to call her a slut is incredibly unjustified in today's society - she dresses no worse than any other woman of her ages does. In fact, every time I go out clubbing I see women wearing less clothes than she does in her videos, and they aren't sluts, they're just dressing *gasp* how they want to! And, even more scarily, they're nice people! And they don't sleep around! Gosh, how bizarre...

Just because a woman is confortable enough to be showing some flesh in public certainly doesn't make them a slut. If they want to look good, it doesn't make them a slut. And just because men want to have sex with her doesn't make her a slut.

I think it's you that has the problem here. Maybe you should examine why you are so insistant that Britanny Spears is a "slut" in your mind.

You're doomed, I'm doomed, we're all doomed for ice cream. - Bob Aboey
[ Parent ]

Why not to juxtaposition... (none / 0) (#89)
by Miniluv on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 03:45:50 PM EST

First off, see other comments of mine for the real definition of juxtapositioning and why it's a really poor term for this discussion.
This is a current fad on the web, this idea of trying to snag eyeballs with presentation instead of content. It's the same thing people attribute the downfall of television to, and to some extent "they" are right. The problem is many pronged though, and you can hardly blame people in a business for doing what sells. Television producers, and their associated companies, know from market research what portions of what shows grab viewership. Ally McBeal had a lesbian kiss, not because the story evolved there naturally but because it would create a ratings spike when it was carefully leaked as going to happen.
The argument is much shakier on the web though because of two things. The first is the preponderance of sites attempting to do this and failing miserably, either because their presentation doesn't work or people just don't buy it. The second is that there are alternatives for people interested in either of the two aspects alone. If I want Brittney pictures, they're out there without any boring semi-conductor talk. If I want semi-conductor specifications and education, it's out there with out half-naked teens.
I think a good example of this evolution is the porn video industry. They started out with pure imagery, back when the movie house crowd was booming. Then audiences stopped going to the movie houses and "plot" was added to attempt to bring more people in. This trend continued through the advent of the vcr, right up until the porn houses realized that movies with no plot were selling at least as well as those with one. Thus, plot was cut because it cost more, and actually turned some people off.

"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
[ Parent ]
socializing children as adults (3.00 / 3) (#59)
by Friendless on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 07:43:34 PM EST

Time magazine (Australian edition) recently had a cover story on children maturing (i.e. reaching puberty) earlier than ever before. There was no very good answer for this, but it might be that socialising children as adults has some effect. If a little girl wants to be like Brittney enough, her brain will direct her body to produce the like-Brittney hormones.

On the subject of computers and reading, I have a 4yo son who likes to use the computer. I think I am his role model in that regard :-). I believe he has learned to read numbers faster just because he wants to be able to work the computer. Although I am deliberately not teaching him to read, so that he has something to do at school, he understands that the words mean things that he needs to know. While there is advantage to be gained for him in learning to read, he will do it.

One poster mentioned that there's not much good stuff to read on the web. I have found though, that being an I.T. professional, you can read stuff that will turn into books months before the books exist, if you know where to look. Most of my non-fiction reading these days is from various on-line journals. k5 is an excellent source for this.

[OT (Slightly)] Whoa... (4.33 / 3) (#68)
by Giant Space Hamster on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 12:30:25 AM EST

You are deliberately not teaching your son to read?!?!

I can barely comprehend this frame of mind. Everything I am, or will ever be, I attribute to the fact that my parents taught me to read very early.

I am sorry, but I can't help but feel that you are doing your son a great disservice.

-------------------------------------------
The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.
-- Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]

He's got to learn something at school (none / 0) (#91)
by Friendless on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 07:14:29 PM EST

I couldn't read until I went to school. By the end of the first year I was reading (kids) novels so fast that my Mum couldn't afford to buy more for me. I'm confident he'll be similar. I ended up with a doctorate, so I don't think it harmed me :-).

Of course, I am teaching him a bunch of other stuff, like how plants grow, how electrical devices work, how to solve problems, how to make up stories, and so on, most of which they won't teach him at school. If I can get him interested in all of these other things, he will want to read to learn more about them.

My parents didn't explicitly teach me much stuff, but they did demonstrate the use of knowing it. I never knew what the point of algebra was till I saw my Dad use it. My Mum played Scrabble against me till I started winning (when I was 18!). And of course, I read my boy a lot of stories, so he knows there is good stuff in books. This strategy seems OK to me, and it's a lot of fun for him.

[ Parent ]

Generalities and stuff... (3.50 / 2) (#61)
by Miniluv on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 08:14:29 PM EST

The Chicago Sun-Times is not a tabloid in anything other than printed format, nor is the Chicago Tribune the "established town newspaper". Chicago is, in fact, a three major paper town, with several smaller papers also getting decent readership. Content wise they're all around equal, with certain sections being the major focus of each paper and thus getting their reporting talent.

As others have pointed out the web is in fact a medium. The Internet is neither medium nor collection of media, but is instead a physical framework over which any manner of electronic communication may flow according to established protocols and standards. I think what you mean is that the "standard" classification rules do not apply as stringently on the Internet, and most especially to web content.

As far as content through "rejuxtapositioning", the high traffic sites simply don't do that. Rejuxtapositioning is also not a word with a dictionary definition that I can find, and juxtapositioning is inherent in the web. Since it simply means placing things next to each other, and page layout really rather demands that, then your argument is rather spurious. Grabbing eyeballs, as you call it, versus creating brand recognition and repeat visitors are two totally different concepts, as any marketdroid can tell you. Amazon.com is an example in building a brand, they package similar content as what you're searching for, attempt upselling, and do other things that fall in line with brand building. The sites you've listed have are flawed for building your argument. They have no categorizing similarities. Hello Cthulu is merely a satiric play on Hello Kitty whereas McSweeney's is written content titled with misleading headlines which attempt to grab attention in the style of the Weekly World News.

While I agree with your fundamental argument, that the web is not necessarily the destabilizing influence it's often painted to be, I find the bulk of your reasoning in attempting to prove it flawed. The Internet, and the web in particular, do not conform to the traditional models of media and are more difficult to classify. In a sense they're not that different than the initial situation of when Playboy first entered publication. It broke several models of what a magazine was and what pornography was. Combining intelligent articles with enticing pictures was brand new then, in the mainstream anyhow, and has proven very effective for it's target audience. The thing about it is that it's now old hat, and is not being done particularly effectively in the examples you've talked about.

"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'

What Chicago are you living in? (3.00 / 1) (#66)
by ChannelX on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 11:56:54 PM EST

In the Chicago I live in the Tribune is most definitely the established paper. The Sun-Times simply doesn't have the same reputation. I agree that its tabloid in format only but it is not as respected as the Tribune. I'm also curious which paper is the 3rd paper? There are of course smaller papers all over the burbs but the Trib and Sun-Times are the two major papers.

[ Parent ]
It's all interpretation... (none / 0) (#73)
by Miniluv on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 04:59:11 AM EST

The Chicago Tribune is a decidedly north side of the city newspaper, whereas the south side tends to prefer the Sun-Times. Content wise, the last 5 years of reading both on a regular basis has led me to conclude that for the most part they are staffed by equally competent teams of professionals. The Sun-Times edges the Trib in sports coverage, and vice versa on world news. The third paper is the Daily Herald, which does have a more local focus and is much more widely read in the burbs, but has distribution which rivals that of the Tribune when you count total readership. That being my staple paper after deciding I didn't like my local news being so incredibly city of chicago centric, I can honestly say I do believe they have as competent a newsroom and editing staff as either of the "big" papers in the city.
For the record I'm a much bigger fan of the Wall Street Journal and USA Today for a news fix. I like the Journal's financial insights, go figure, and USA Today has good foreign connections for getting a complete world picture. Lately I've taken to reading the daily papers section of Slate to see who ran what as lead stories and catching up with them on the respective websites.
It's really kind of sad that Chicago, third largest population area in the nation, doesn't have a nationally respected newspaper. Judging by the fare being published here, it doesn't shock me either. I don't really consider the NY Times or the LA Times to be much superior, the Washington Post is somewhat better but not much, but the Tribune and Sun-Times both fall down in comparison.

"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
[ Parent ]
Agreed (none / 0) (#95)
by ChannelX on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 11:28:35 PM EST

I agree with what you had to say. I think its a matter of perception but I think the perception is that the Tribune is the "established paper" in Chicago. I agree on the quality of the writing that you spoke of. I myself generally dont read any of the local papers. I usually get any news I'm interested in off of the net. I definitely agree about the chicago-centric bent of the two majors even though they do have county editions. I've never read the LA Times but I always liked the coverage in the NY Times on the occassions I've read it. I'd be interested to see who owns the papers mentioned above. The Tribune company owns quite a few.

[ Parent ]
Childhood. (2.50 / 4) (#63)
by Holloway on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 08:51:17 PM EST

Childhood is a crock.

I think that the role of a parent is to teach and control their child until the child can do it themselves. A parent's primary concern is to create a person that can control themselves; to show them your values (religion,morals,whatever) and let them become their own (which will probably be your religion and beliefs anyway - natch). I don't believe in talking down to children, which means I don't believe in sheltering them from any concept at any age. If they talk about it in a calm fashion a kid can deal with any topic: be it paedophilia, merry-go-rounds, murder, sex (they shouldn't be having sex until developed - but they should always know about different kinds of sex, in explicit detail if necessary) ... or war, religion, divorce/relationships, politics. It sounds like a simple thing, but I have seen many parents sidestep questions about homosexuality, or say that advertisements in which kids comically manipulate parents shouldn't be on tv (really, people just don't want to be manipulated by anyone - it has little to do with their children). Children are adults with less experience, one should treat them as such.


== Human's wear pants, if they don't wear pants they stand out in a crowd. But if a monkey didn't wear pants it would be anonymous

Children are not little adults ... (4.50 / 2) (#70)
by StrontiumDog on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 04:34:28 AM EST

Children are adults with less experience, one should treat them as such.

There are significant differences between children and adults.

Children are physically smaller and weaker than adults. This has definite ramifications for the way they interact with society: children are essentially unable to defend themselves against adults and need protection. This may seem exaggerated, but society has built up complex cultural structures to protect children, structures that are so pervasive that we are often unaware they exist.

Children are not sexually mature; below a certain age boys are not able to achieve prolonged erections, girls do not menstruate, and have underdeveloped secondary sexual characteristics. They also often do not have the hormonal characteristics (including sex drive) that come with puberty. This again may seem trivial, but it means that children do not always view sex matters with the same attitude that adults do. A child may view oral sex, anal penetration, or homosexuality in a quite different light from adults, who experience different hormonal and emotional associations with sexual matters.

Children do not have the same emotional structure as adults; their concepts of identity, ego, empathy, conscience and social etiquette differ from adults'. There are great differences between children in these matters, and even greater differences between children and adults. Some children have little or no social conscience, and have a very different attitude towards films with adult manipulation than children with a more developed social conscience.

There are no hard and fast rules, on how to raise children, and what is harmful for one child may not be harmful for another. But you can't make blanket statements like "children are little adults" or "children have a right to know everything" because that simply doesn't work for all kids.

[ Parent ]

Sorry, can't agree. (4.00 / 1) (#79)
by pwhysall on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 09:41:35 AM EST

ObObligatoryDisclaimer: I am a parent.

Children are not adults.

Children are not adults.

Children don't have something that adults do : a sense of incredulity. Given sufficient "evidence" they'll believe anything you tell them or show them.

Children are small and weak compared to adults.

Children are capable of the most horrendous cruelty because they don't properly understand the effects their actions have on other people, creatures or things.

Children are not good at contextualising and rationalising horrible events; if they see something awful on the TV or in a book or in real life, they cannot understand that (in the case of the media) it's not real, and they can't understand that "nasty things happen, get over it".

Children need to be loved, cared for and nurtured - that's why we are not abandoned by our parents early on in life, in the normal case. Guided properly, I believe that all children can grow up into normal, well-adjusted people. No-one's born bad.

Further, humans seem to learn slowly compared to other species - see how a dolphin or killer whale, both of which have similar lifespans to humans, become self-sufficient within about 10 years. On the other hand, people have a much greater capacity for learning more stuff.
--
Peter
K5 Editors
I'm going to wager that the story keeps getting dumped because it is a steaming pile of badly formatted fool-meme.
CheeseBurgerBrown
[ Parent ]

Incredulity. (none / 0) (#82)
by Alarmist on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 11:19:45 AM EST

Children don't have something that adults do : a sense of incredulity. Given sufficient "evidence" they'll believe anything you tell them or show them.

Many adults I know lack a sense of incredulity. I attribute this more to the decline of education in the United States and the societal lack of emphasis on critical thinking skills than I do on childhood vs. adulthood.


[ Parent ]

You are, of course, quite correct. (none / 0) (#83)
by pwhysall on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 11:41:38 AM EST

And it's depressing.

However, children, guided correctly, do have the potential to have a healthy sense of incredulity.


--
Peter
K5 Editors
I'm going to wager that the story keeps getting dumped because it is a steaming pile of badly formatted fool-meme.
CheeseBurgerBrown
[ Parent ]

Children and credulity. (none / 0) (#98)
by Alarmist on Wed Dec 06, 2000 at 10:37:32 AM EST

However, children, guided correctly, do have the potential to have a healthy sense of incredulity.

I agree, which is why it's something I'll be working on with my own hypothetical children.


[ Parent ]

I've taught it to my kids intentionaly (none / 0) (#105)
by error 404 on Fri Dec 08, 2000 at 12:41:05 PM EST

The youngest is six, the oldest sixteen, and all of them have come to the point where they are pretty good at realizing that the statements of even trusted adults need to be compared to experience.

Yep - I tell them baldfaced lies on a regular basis. But only in situations where they have the sophistication and evidence to catch me. For example, my youngest and I had a thing going for a while where I'd greet him by saying "Hi, Dad!" and he'd answer "Hi, Erik!" Actualy, I think he started it. And when we work on math together, sometimes I claim 3+4=27. I'd never say 3+4=8, though. I'm not out to trick them. They trust me to give them the real answer when it really counts, or when they don't have easy access to it and I do. Part of the reason they trust me is that I am willing to say "I don't know, let's find out" when that's the case. But they are in the habit of checking my statements against what they know. And that carries over to other people's statements.

Sometimes it is hard having to deal with four independant-thinking little people, particularly when those little people aren't working with the complete set of facts or have started with postulates that aren't conducive to survival or family harmony. My life would be much easier if I had established more absolute authority, but now it's too late. If they learn to hide it (I'm a bit worried about one of them) when appropriate, I think they will go far.


..................................
Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
- Donovan

[ Parent ]
Adult credulity is one thing that Postman points t (none / 0) (#90)
by Apuleius on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 04:40:47 PM EST

Postman doesn't just say childhood is fading away. He says adulthood is fading and people are becoming adult-children. Your observation is one of the things he points to.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
Adult-children? (none / 0) (#97)
by Alarmist on Wed Dec 06, 2000 at 10:35:52 AM EST

Postman doesn't just say childhood is fading away. He says adulthood is fading and people are becoming adult-children. Your observation is one of the things he points to.

Did he offer any suggestions as to why? Or what we could do about it?

I really got into Carl Sagan about four years ago when I picked up a copy of The Demon-Haunted World. He spends a lot of time in that book talking about skepticism, how to do it in a reasonable manner, what tools are involved, and how not to be gullible. I highly recommend it to everyone who can read and understand it.

He spends a bit of time talking about why US society has become credulous. The failure of education is a big factor--not just in that critical thinking methods aren't taught, but the students and teachers in some cases actively discourage critical thought. Add to that the fact that US society as a whole discourages critical thought and you have a formula that produces credulous people, young and old.

Fight the Power.


[ Parent ]

No rescue operation in sight (3.50 / 2) (#84)
by nutate on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 01:46:20 PM EST

I think it has always been easy to follow trends in the web. At first, the only sites willing to use animation, video, pop-up ads, etc. were the pornographic sites. Now from Amazon to Netscape to Yahoo!, it's all over the place. Sadly, I haven't been checking on the latest porn trends, but chances are, with music taking the place of pictures as the largest bandwidth taker on USENET, the pornographers of the world are treading new ground in some other young media. Wireless most likely.

I mean really, the bible is pornography which defines a moral standard by which all porn should be judged And is hence the limit as acceptable porn saturation approaches infinity of the print media. (pornography as defined beyond the description of prostitutes and their associates, into the world of well... this quote from the OED sums up my definition: 1977 Listener 17 Nov. 655/4 Turgid moralising..is the real English vice, the pornography of our day.). Now as for the saturation limits of other media, we will have to wait. No doubt, despite all of our hopes, a mean will be reached in which the Web may become a text for readers some millenia into the future... imagine what readings and misreadings would be discovered then... oh, i can't wait for the html transitional crusades.

Anyhow, the New York Post is on par with the Onion for good breakfast reading. My childhood was owned by TV and books, imagine that. And, kuro5hin should form into a labor union.

The net will not save childhood (4.00 / 2) (#86)
by shadarr on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 02:57:03 PM EST

Accepting Postman's assertions for the moment, I doubt that the web will combat the disappearance of childhood. One of the things that stuck out for me was that the content viewed could be stratafied by the presentation. You write at a grade 3 level only things that you want to tell to an 8 year old. The web doesn't do that. Most content on the web is written at between a grade 5 and 7 level. Maybe kids under 10 will stick to sites intended for them (although I doubt it), but once they hit that mark everything is wide open to them. Then the stratafication disappears, and also there is no incentive to progress beyond that level of literacy.

literacy and the web (3.50 / 2) (#100)
by extarbags on Wed Dec 06, 2000 at 05:24:36 PM EST

i can't speak for the kids, but i know i've become a far more sophisticated reader since i discovered the stile project.

seriously though, the internet can affect childhood literacy in both ways, just like anything, and the past has shown that potential is far removed from actual effect in these things.

remember, if kids only watched educational shows, no one would be complaining about tv rotting their wee minds.


"I just stare, with my two glass eyes, hoping you won't come back again" - They Might Be Giants

Web to rescue society from television? | 106 comments (97 topical, 9 editorial, 0 hidden)
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