Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A "Lack of Non-Verbal Cues" in our Action-Packed, Balanced Breakfasts Society

A "Lack of Non-Verbal Cues" in our Action-Packed, Balanced Breakfasts Society? I'm torn.
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One the one hand, I've seen the deadened-eyes, the twitching fingers seemingly still curved around a mouse or joystick and the mindless drip of drool stringing from chin to floor, all signs of one, horrible monster: the computer zombie. My mother strictly regulated online gaming, video game consoles and all electronic entertainment for years, but my little brothers still did and still do find every opportunity to get their "fix." I've experienced myself the pointless drivel and real-life-sucking falseness of cyberspace: cyber friendship, cyber chatting, cyber sharing, and now the issue before us, cyber creativity and cyber academia. Can we really have any kind of real discussion without human forms and beings and breath and a physical context for the situation?

I'm a literature student, and emerging participant in the academic conversation about literature, so I guess I have already given in to this idea. I conduct almost all of my "conversations" on paper, through decades, in online library indexes and in databases. I don't even have to talk to a librarian anymore (yes, those light-sensitive library moles previously considered the climax of anti-sociality have been one-upped by ME!) to do my research, write my papers and have my "conversation." I've never met one scholar (except a few professors from my own university) that I've cited in a paper. To exaggeratedly quote from one of my husband's letters to me on my mission "Everywhere you go, you talk to people. You teach people, contact people; you always have your companion to talk to and even argue with. I live in a faceless, heartless pit of words and symbols, working out my meaningless Masters degree in a world of strangers." (Don't worry, it wasn't really that bad... although we did get engaged less than a month after I stepped off the plane!)

His letter continues, "BUT at least I still have in-class discussion."

Or do we? College classes are quick to follow college students' tendencies, and college students are on the web, talking in forums and instant messaging boxes and on walls and through pictures and in comments but anything but in person. Colleges are moving the conversation to the web.

So how do you even know you aren't reading a robot's words right now? :^P

However, the chapter I read in the e-book on online forums did have something important to say on the opposite hand: "Studies of individual personality and internet behavior have revealed that introverted students tend to be more able to communicate with others in an online environment than face-to-face." The author makes a pathos-sprinkled point that as an introvert herself, she has taken advantage of the unbound social hierarchy in an online environment which allows for more democratic and even portrayal of ideas.

So see, I don't know. Is it worth the ease of accessibility, the democratization of debate, the interest of the students and the convenience of onlin-id-iness to lose the person-to-person interaction, the lilt of voices, the actual people participating in the conversation?

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Can't we have the hard-as-rock, health-paranoid grit of Grape-Nuts with the fluffy pink marshmallows of Lucky Charms?

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