Welcome back all. Here is Digitally Literate, issue #325.
My publication of this newsletter has been inconsistent over the last month. I have been traveling a lot in between classes as my father quickly fought, and ultimately lost a battle against lung cancer. I will travel again next week as we’re holding a celebration of his life near where I grew up.
My father was a regular reader of this newsletter and my writing. Not long after I would post an issue, he would call me up to talk through how great the entire issue was, or a specific post that I wrote. I often highlight when readers reach out to me to say thanks. I would be remiss if I didn’t say thank you to one of my longest, more ardent supporters. (▰˘︹˘▰)
Manson details three waves of the outrage cycle that ensue after a significant event occurs.
- Wave One – The Primary Viral Wave. Within 72 hours we see a deluge of initial primary source reports, followed by a series of hot takes, followed by critiques of the initial primary sources that suggest that this is all a hoax and that you’ve been duped!
- Wave Two – The Reactionary Viral Wave. After everyone takes a breath, over the next two weeks we see multiple combative takes on the initial significant event. “Whereas the Primary Viral Wave generates a sense of unity and desire to understand in everybody, the Reactionary Viral Wave blows everyone apart and cements them back into their own little tribal camps.”
- Wave Three – Anti-Reactionary Viral Wave. At this point, a third tier of influencers comes in and tells everyone to calm the f*ck down. These takes educate people to the point of boring them enough to calm down.
“Thus, their attention moves on to whatever else is shiny and exciting—tonight’s basketball game, whether the stock market is going to crash next week, their kid’s piano recital…
…until the next Significant Event occurs and they are thrown down the proverbial stairs all over again.”
In a publication titled “The ‘Online Brain’: How the Internet May be Changing Our Cognition,” researchers suggest that “the Internet is becoming a ‘supernormal stimulus’ for transactive memory—making all other options for cognitive offloading (including books, friends, and community) become redundant, as they are outcompeted by the novel capabilities for external information storage and retrieval made possible by the Internet.”
The paper suggests that “reliance on online searching may impede memory retrieval by reducing the functional connectivity and synchronization of associated brain regions.” The researchers also suggest that this process may free up cognitive space for other tasks. I’ve noticed this before as I save bookmarks for processing at a later date.
The authors suggest “increasing reliance on the Internet for information may cause individuals to ‘blur the lines’ between their own capabilities and their devices.”
It is too early to really understand the long-term effects of all this on our brains. What is clear is that our habits, practices, and the ways in which we interact with the world are changing us in ways we’re not fully aware of.
Technology is advancing far too fast for our brains to keep up and know how to healthily interact with it, or for our institutions to understand it and wisely regulate it.
How do we get more people to go from being typical users of social media and other tech to being humane technologists?
The post suggests that it starts with raising awareness and educating ourselves.
I’ve written quite a bit about assessments and ungrading in my classes. This post suggests that course grades should be 100% determined by performance on a final exam—an exam that could be taken repeatedly, with the last attempt being the course grade. The resulting discussion on Reddit was really interesting.
The link above is from Dynomight’s blog and shares a great overview of the different ways we usually assess students and the ways in which this negatively impacts their progress.
An interesting trend is showing up as I write this newsletter. The trend suggests that everything is not as bad as we think it is. Put a different way, if you look on social media, life appears to be a giant hellscape. But, different threads seem to suggest that it’s a small number of vocal, bad actors that are creating a bunch of noise and influencing others.
This post from Axios suggests that a silent majority of folks are friendly, busy, normal, silent, and not picking fights at school board meetings.
When tough times arise, work through your feelings via these seven emojis of grief, so that you can heal.
First Emoji: 😱
Second Emoji: 🙃
Third Emoji: 😬
Fourth Emoji: 😤
Fifth Emoji: 😑
Sixth Emoji: 😐
Seventh Emoji: 💅
The real problem of humanity is the following: We have Paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions and godlike technology.
Edward O. Wilson
Just leaving this here for a second.