Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Didn't You Know?

So, on a listserv devoted to all things McLuhan, run by Peter Montgomery, someone recently posted a link to this video, Did You Know?, which I've embedded below. I was impressed, and therefore decided to add it to Blog Time Passing. But that doesn't mean that I actually like it.

At first glance, it reminded me of some of Mike Wesch's YouTube videos, only slicker. But the sense of urgency conveyed by the music and rapid succession of images in this video strikes me as over the top, resulting in a bit of vertigo and nausea, which I assume is intentional.

In some ways, this video reminds me of Alvin Toffler's Future Shock, a popular book published in 1970 which was all about the fact that change was occuring so rapidly that we were unable to manage it, resulting in the temporal equivalent of culture shock--future shock. Interestingly, Neil Postman in an essay entitled "Future Shlock," which appears in his book Conscientious Objections, claims to have actually coined the term future shock, not that he was making any big deal out of Toffler's claim to have invented the phrase himself. But it was Toffler who said that change itself was changing, that the rate of change was accelerating, and that we need to learn to cope directly with change itself, not just the effects of change.

Of course, that was the way things seemed back in the sixties. By the mid-seventies, things seemed to slow down a bit, and appeared to become more manageable. So forgive me if I find myself wondering if this isn't a lot of sound and fury signifying, well, if not nothing, then at least not as much as it seems to be signifying.

Certainly, I can hear Neil Postman questioning the value of all this turmoil. Is education all about imparting the most current technical skills and information? Or is it about cultivating minds, helping to develop thoughtful, reflective individuals capable of critical evaluation and creative thinking?

I did like the reference to MySpace as a nation. And speaking of nations, it's important to realize that there's a big difference between native speakers of languages like English, and folks who learn it as a second language, and with varying levels of fluency and competency. Having been graduate director for my department at Fordham University for three years, I can tell you that there is a big difference between test scores on the GREs and TOEFL examinations that appeared on the applications of students coming from abroad, especially from students from Asia where the language and writing system is quite different from our own, and their actual ability to understand what is being said in class, take part in discussions, and write papers.

The video ends by posing the question: SO WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN? The search for meaning is as old as history, older than recorded history, as old as human culture. It's a question that cannot be answered by information, or technology, or science. It is a question of human value, and wisdom.

But hey, look at me going on and on. Why don't you just go enjoy the video... if you can.



Dan said...

How would we have reacted in the 1960s if an equivalent statement were published about how things would be in our current time now?

There are the implications of a kind of logic hinting at possible outcomes. I think that logic is false.

Peter Montgomery

Jurate said...

"especially from students from Asia where the language and writing system is quite different from out own"

Did you mean OUR own, or is this a trap for us obsessively-correct grammarians/spellers :)

Lance Strate said...

It's always instructive to look back at predictions of the future made in the past, and see how off the mark they really were. They might get one or two things right, but on the whole they fall flat. Back in the 60s, no one anticipated the rapid collapse of the Soviet Union, back in the early 90s no one predicted the swift diffusion and adoption, and prevalence of cell phones.

Jurate, thanks for the error-checking, I've made the correction.

Jurate said...

What does it all mean?

"Make good friends with "Hal"