As I was perusing through my last few blogs, I noticed that the last 5 or so were categorized under “personal.” I definitely like blogging about different subject matters and my life and relationships are certainly part of that, yet it is about time to get back to something a bit more academic and exercise that other half of the brain –the half that is not quite so touchy feely and does not care much for singing bowls or drum circles.
This upcoming Friday, Crafton Hills College will be hosting the Southern California Speech Educators Forum. As the Director of this forum, I, among other duties, will be discussing with Speech Geeks like myself, issues in the field of teaching Communication Studies in the college context.
Thus, I come to you, my blog readers, and to the educators this Friday with an issue that is so vastly important, pervasive and transformative in our culture right now that most of us are utterly blind to it as that which encompasses becomes our norm and thus becomes invisible.
So, if you are not into technology and the brain, go to the “personal” tab above and read all about my emotional and psychological shortcomings as I whine like a little bitch. For today, I am an academic; though still a little bitch to be sure. I have blogged about this before though then the focus was comparing digital natives (my kids) with digital immigrants (me); I believe this distinction is not so great as I once believed.
We are all currently in the process of getting our brains completely rewired through technologies not thought possible just a couple of decades ago. The hyperlink world is creating hyperlink brains. Our brains are turning more “status update” than detailed diary, more snapchat than manifesto, more Wikipedia and less encyclopedia.
Gary Small UCLA professor of psychiatry tells us that “…the current explosion of digital technology not only is changing the way we live and communicate but is rapidly and profoundly altering our brains (the daily use of computers, smartphones, search engines and other such tools) stimulates brain cell alteration and neurotransmitter release, gradually strengthening new neural pathways in our brains and weakening old ones.”
I am not a brain scientist and at the risk of monumental oversimplification, I have read enough literature to know that those parts of the brain we do not use shrink and get adopted by other parts of the brain we are using. For example, if one were suddenly struck with blindness the part of the brain responsible for vision would lend a hand to the auditory function of the brain. If we lose one of our senses, our brain becomes more acute in the other unaffected senses as a form of brain compensation.
In a famous study of London taxicab drivers detailed brain autopsies as well as brain scans reveal that the part of the brain responsible for memorizing streets and having a sense of direction, the posterior hippocampus, was significantly larger than the general population and, depending on how many years on the job, the more experienced drivers had a larger posterior hippocampus. Interestingly, the anterior hippocampus was smaller –meaning the part of the brain overused was yoked- though it was at the expense of another unused part.
Kind of like my bulky biceps grow at the expense of my little tiny schoolboy calves. Yeah, just like that.
Nicholas Carr suggests “with the exception of alphabet and number systems, the Internet may well be the single most powerful mind altering technology that has ever come into general use, At the very least, it’s the most powerful that has come along since the book.”
So, what does this mean? It means all of our brains are changing in some very humungous ways that researchers are still trying to figure out. This is an extremely important period of history in our biological neural evolution.
We are certainly seeing a lot of evidence that our collective brains are becoming much more acute in the area of multi-tasking and much less acute in focusing while finishing what we start. We are losing many abilities related to memory as we no longer need to memorize numbers, addresses, or, for that matter, nearly all information as we simply pull it up on Google.
The GPS is completely retarding our collective senses of direction; yet, ask me to find 10 addresses and I can provide them all in under 30 seconds.
I am neither a technological dystopian (our brains and the world are going to hell) nor utopian (technology will save us) and I am quite open to nearly all possibilities. I do believe “Google Glasses” (you must check that link out people, seriously, check it right now and come back) and the concept of singularity -where biological brain and technology become as one- are very real possibilities and, most likely, probabilities.
So blog readers, how do we Speech educators teach effectively to multi-tasking, hyperlinked, multi-tabbed brains?
So blog readers AND Speech educators, do we realize this is taking place? Do we want it to take place? Are we losing control of our own brains?
I don’t have any answers though I know for certain we need to be asking the questions. If not, we lemmings may just follow that technological pied piper over the cliff. Or not.
Just stuff worth thinking about….told you I would still whine like a little bitch. Sorry Jesus.