Esther’s Space- journey through my life

January 17, 2008

Today’s Children (in the information age)

Filed under: ENG 597: Literature in the Information Age, Rant — estherspace @ 11:30 pm

I’ve been thinking about it, and I feel the need to publicly state my opinion, probably so I can look back at the end of the semester and laugh at myself for being so sure of something I know so little about. As for the point, when avoiding writing my first post, I did a Google images search for “reading cartoons”. Here’s some of what I came up with:



Obviously I’m not the first to notice it, but these cartoons attest to the fact that (western) children today are undoubtedly in a society that has a very different relationship with literature than I did growing up, and significantly different from the experiences our parents had as children. They have amazing access and skill when it comes to new technologies, and are growing up surrounded by things that are highly influenced by technology. Television has BOOMED. Now we have access to more channels than a normal person should want, and the number is growing every day. Extreme reading, while not yet a television event, has potential.

I think that I would like to make an argument for the the idea that today’s children (tomorrow’s leaders) are developing brains that we cannot even imagine. Of course learning particular tasks develops one portion of the brain over another. These brains will be different, but it isn’t a matter of whether this is good or bad, but rather of attempting to understand it, because the world has changed, and reading’s not coming back in a conventional way.

I am not making an argument for there being great value in a television-dominated child upbringing. There is good research suggesting that, as Caleb Crain noted in the New Yorker, watching something on television is a largely latent activity for the brain.  However, technology extends beyond the television.  If nothing else, figuring out how to program any new technology is a mentally stimulating activity, and these children are simply developing the minds to make it easier.  I am worried about what the future will be for literature, but only because I know that it will be different, and that is always a hard thing.



  1. I’ve read, somewhere (not in a book), that brainwaves measured while people watch tv show LESS activity than those measured while people sleep. So our brains (not yours, you w/o television) are more active during slumber than during Gossip Girl.

    Comment by kmiddleton — January 20, 2008 @ 12:21 pm

  2. I think I read that (not in a book) somewhere, too. But what about technology that is not television? There must be more brain activity involved when someone is banging out a powerpoint presentation or making a digital music video for their band.

    Comment by estherspace — January 21, 2008 @ 8:31 pm

  3. You got it. Marshall McLuhan differentiated between hot and cold media, based on the interactivity level. I’d say that television is the coldest of the cold. Of course, if you look at the Jenkins book, you see that for some people, television is the instigating moment for a flurry of intellectual activity (see the Survivor chapter).

    Gets complicated, no?

    Comment by kmiddleton — January 27, 2008 @ 8:04 pm

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