Is Dissensus Learning?

josef k.

Dangerous Mystagogue
Or, is the internet learning? Over the last ten or so years, the internet has increasingly become part of our lives, the lives of our generation. It has clearly altered our minds in a complex way; it has made more information available to us than ever before. I wonder if the effect which it is having is educational, or the opposite.

It stands to reason that as we deal with the internet more, and kinds of interactions it allows for (and the limits it imposes) we become more familiar with them and learn to navigate them better. But the internet is changing as well, and by forces with agendas other than human evolution...
 

zhao

there are no accidents
saw a talk on that lecture site forecasting the future of "web 3.0", and how connectivity will spread to basically every part of our lives -- and not just on screen -- as more and more things we use will have little creepy electronic brains that can talk to each other. rather scary actually... in terms of the erosion of human bonds as well as surveilance/marketing...
 

zhao

there are no accidents
shit man... cant for the life of me remember that site... you know, well designed, big san serif logo... easy to remember name (ha)... has a lot of experts talking about a huge variety of subjects... ive seen some good stuff on there.

but a search revealed some articles about the future of the internet that looked interesting... people have some interesting ideas of what 3.0 might be, but i remember a point made in that lecture i can not find is that it is difficult to imagine what 3.0 is before it takes place: like most of us could not have imagined all this "social bookmarking" shit before it happened... but nonetheless he went on to postulate some kind of convergence of "virtual" and "real" realities, and everything more integrated.
 

josef k.

Dangerous Mystagogue
It occurs to me that when television was first invented it must have seen as this incredible, utopian, educating thing that would lead to mass intelligence, an informed populace, a much more radical democracy, and so on. Like the internet, basically. But that this didn't really work out so well.
 

Sick Boy

All about pride and egos
It occurs to me that when television was first invented it must have seen as this incredible, utopian, educating thing that would lead to mass intelligence, an informed populace, a much more radical democracy, and so on. Like the internet, basically. But that this didn't really work out so well.
Not quite. The internet has all but destroyed my attention span.
 
it probably learns or connects to itself the way a syntagmatic chain does. i kind of wonder if it is a hot or cool medium - probably cool because it demands interactivity and immediate involvement. then again should McLuhan's opinion even matter?

As the book progresses Theall becomes more and more irritated by McLuhan who has, apparently, misunderstood, misquoted, mutilated or misapplied nearly every author or idea he quotes or discusses. Moreover he also misunderstands TV and the other electric media, is incapable of a sophisticated dialectical approach, has no theory of progress, moves with the times in a superficial way, has a bankrupt sociology, is unable to appreciate the centrality of man, ignores dance and drama and merely dabbles in Freud and Jung. He is an academic huckster, a demi-clown, a poet-manque, etc.... Finally McLuhan commits the ultimate intellectual gaffe by quoting Heisenberg more frequently than Husserl. A partial explanation of these blunders and inadequacies is advanced by Theall when he points out that McLuhan is, after all, "a typical Canadian humanist of his particular point in time." (In sum, McLuhan's real problem is that he doesn't understand Theall.)
i think McLuhan may have slept with Theall's wife. i'm not making this up. it's kind of sad as i see them as the most important academics from north america in the 20th century.

Internet = merz construct???: http://www.csulb.edu/~karenk/20thcwebsite/438final/ah438fin-Info.00025.html
 

bassnation

the abyss
Not quite. The internet has all but destroyed my attention span.
its done my multi-tasking and semiotic surfing skills a world of good though. we are all changing into something new. i really don't think this is an exagerration as far as the net is concerned.
 

Guybrush

Dittohead
Funny thing this thread should pop up now, what with Blissblog’s recent linking to Michelangelo Matos’ linking to Walter Kirn’s most excellent piece in the Atlantic (or possibly some other convoluted way around ...). Anyway, it’s called “The Autumn of the Multitaskers,” and all you ADD apologists would do well giving it a read.
 

Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
Staff member
Anyway, it’s called “The Autumn of the Multitaskers,” and all you ADD apologists would do well giving it a read.
This reminds me of a (patently somewhat whimsical, but still cool) Robert Heinlein quote that seems to be about being a master of all trades and jack of none:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
Suffice to say there's still one or two on that list for me to tick off!
 

bassnation

the abyss
This is the great irony of multitasking—that its overall goal, getting more done in less time, turns out to be chimerical. In reality, multitasking slows our thinking. It forces us to chop competing tasks into pieces, set them in different piles, then hunt for the pile we’re interested in, pick up its pieces, review the rules for putting the pieces back together, and then attempt to do so, often quite awkwardly. (Fact, and one more reason the bubble will pop: A brain attempting to perform two tasks simultaneously will, because of all the back-and-forth stress, exhibit a substantial lag in information processing.)
this is a fairly pedestrian misunderstanding of multi-tasking though. ok, we are not computers, but the metaphor of multi-threaded processing applies here. multi-tasking does not just present the illusion of more getting done quicker. frequently some tasks require period of waiting for completion (in computing this is known as blocking). the whole point of multitasking is that other things happen while this waiting goes on. its not just jumping from task to task, blithely trying to timeslice cos that doesn't work, for computers or for the human brain. when i'm working, or surfing, or whatever, i want to use my time productively. this involves managing queues of work, some of which move more quickly than others.

the author is right about the administrative overhead required to manage multiple tasks though - there's definitely a limit in the number of tasks before a slowdown.

besides, my brain has always worked that way - jumping from topic to topic. frequently things don't get completed, sure, but some of the greatest minds in information technology work like that (for instance http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ted_Nelson, the man who's work on the xanadu hypertext system pre-dated the web and inspired tim berners lee). their gains, for all of us, seem pretty realistic to me.
 
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bassnation

the abyss
besides, my brain has always worked that way - jumping from topic to topic. frequently things don't get completed, sure, but some of the greatest minds in information technology work like that (for instance http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ted_Nelson, the man who's work on the xanadu hypertext system pre-dated the web and inspired tim berners lee). their gains, for all of us, seem pretty realistic to me.
oh and i'd just like to add that nelson railed against the attitudes in that article, the linearity, the conventional approach to progress and knowledge. the whole inspiration behind xanadu was to create a knowledge system that would make human failures of memory redundant, nothing would ever be forgotten again, as wired.com recounts:

wired said:
Nelson's life is so full of unfinished projects that it might fairly be said to be built from them, much as lace is built from holes or Philip Johnson's glass house from windows. He has written an unfinished autobiography and produced an unfinished film. His houseboat in the San Francisco Bay is full of incomplete notes and unsigned letters. He founded a video-editing business, but has not yet seen it through to profitability. He has been at work on an overarching philosophy of everything called General Schematics, but the text remains in thousands of pieces, scattered on sheets of paper, file cards, and sticky notes.

All the children of Nelson's imagination do not have equal stature. Each is derived from the one, great, unfinished project for which he has finally achieved the fame he has pursued since his boyhood. During one of our many conversations, Nelson explained that he never succeeded as a filmmaker or businessman because "the first step to anything I ever wanted to do was Xanadu."...

As with everything else in his life, Nelson's conversation is controlled by his aversion to finishing. There are no full stops in the flow of his speech, only commas, dashes, ellipses.

"And I remember thinking about the particles in the water, but I thought of them as places, and how they would separate around my fingers and reconnect on the other side, and how this constant separation and reconnection and perpetual change into new arrangements was - "

Suddenly, the monologue stopped, and Nelson reached into his cache of equipment. He retrieved his own cassette recorder, tested it, and turned the microphone toward himself. "OK, I'm at The Spinnaker," he continued, "talking about the old hand-in-the-water story and how the sense of the separation and reconnection of the places in the water made such an impression on me, and how all the relationships were constantly changing - and you could hardly hold onto it - you could, you could not, you couldn't really visualize or express the myriad of relationships."

Xanadu, the ultimate hypertext information system, began as Ted Nelson's quest for personal liberation. The inventor's hummingbird mind and his inability to keep track of anything left him relatively helpless. He wanted to be a writer and a filmmaker, but he needed a way to avoid getting lost in the frantic multiplication of associations his brain produced. His great inspiration was to imagine a computer program that could keep track of all the divergent paths of his thinking and writing. To this concept of branching, nonlinear writing, Nelson gave the name hypertext.
http://www.wired.com/wired/archive//3.06/xanadu.html?person=ted_nelson&topic_set=wiredpeople

this man has turned his ADD and multi-tasking mania into a grand project that every single one of us here is living in, for good or for bad. leave kirn his time to think - personally i'd prefer to follow nelsons unstructured dream and see where it takes humanity. it seems so much more vital to me.
 

josef k.

Dangerous Mystagogue
"nothing would ever be forgotten again"

This is very important - one of the main innovations of the web has to been to make forgetting much harder. People from your past contact you - or you are led by your own desires to contact them. Moving on is more difficult - or at seems to be (it is difficult to say without an index to compare against, and how could there ever be).

Everything is much closer together, more crowded, more intimate. This seems to me to make manners and politeness much more important - like on a crowded Japanese subway train where you are compelled to studiously ignore the proximity of others. The other interesting element here is "snark" - which I don't think really existed before the internet in quite the same way.
 

gyto

Active member
its done my multi-tasking and semiotic surfing skills a world of good though. we are all changing into something new. i really don't think this is an exagerration as far as the net is concerned.
ive definately outsourced most of my memory to the internet. no need to actually retain any info when its a google search away :(
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
"ive definately outsourced most of my memory to the internet. no need to actually retain any info when its a google search away"
True. And how many phone numbers do most people remember? Not many I reckon.

"Everything is much closer together, more crowded, more intimate."
I'm not so sure about "everything", I think that overall there are lots of (call them) worlds that are at different angles to each other and, as it were, slice through each other but, in the main, people that I have contact with on dissensus have no contact with, say, my next door neighboor as they live in totally different worlds which only meet at the point which is me. On the other hand, if you are in several of the same worlds as someone (maybe by that I mean that you both are the intersections of a number of worlds) then, yes, you will be more crowded up with them.

ive definately outsourced most of my memory to the internet. no need to actually retain any info when its a google search away
What's snark, I thought it was just taking the piss in an unfriendly way?
 

nomadthethird

more issues than Time mag
besides, my brain has always worked that way - jumping from topic to topic. frequently things don't get completed, sure, but some of the greatest minds in information technology work like that (for instance http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ted_Nelson, the man who's work on the xanadu hypertext system pre-dated the web and inspired tim berners lee). their gains, for all of us, seem pretty realistic to me.
Bassnation, there are psychiatrists who really, really hate the way ADD has been hyperpathologized, and want to change the name outright. Partially this is because they don't believe that the real "problem" underlying ADD is an attention "deficit" at all, but a surplus. People with ADD actually are able to spend three or four times as long as others either multi-tasking, or doing certain repetitive tasks that other people find too annoying or labor intensive. They're usually people who should be working with their hands/brains in some sort of combination rather than sitting at a desk checking emails all day like most people do at their jobs these days.
 

josef k.

Dangerous Mystagogue
"What's snark, I thought it was just taking the piss in an unfriendly way?"

"Snark" is the thing that New Yorker film critic David Denby thinks is destroying our conversation, way of life, etc... He wrote a recent book on this theme. I haven't read the book, so can't comment on the validity of his thesis. But it is quite an interesting idea - the notion that a certain way of speaking, grown in the digital hothouse, can spread to epidemic proportions, and become a real menace.
 
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