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Technology: The Attention-Span Debate

Iphone__oPt There's lots of hand-wringing about kids and computers these days -- when isn't there, really? -- including a front page NYT story on Sunday (Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction) focusing on a school that's trying to limit some forms of technology like texting while encouraging others like online learning.  Oh no!  Kids and computers!  The world will never be the same!  But Virginia Heffernan offers a counter-argument in the pages of the same publication with her post about among other things how difficult it has always been to concentrate, even before computers came along (The Attention-Span Myth).  Which side are you on?  Team Distraction, or Team Attention?

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i suck

Heffernan makes an interesting point about the impossibility of measuring the attention span. Of course, it also makes sense that we have a harder time paying attention to that in which we aren't interested. This explains why I rarely get through one of her articles.

The point is that what we are interested in has changed due to new technology, as Neil Postman persuasively argued in Amusing Ourselves To Death, furthering McLuhan's ideas.

Common folk used to be interested in and entertained by political debates that would go on for hours. Now, we only devote the same focus to athletic events, Hollywood movies, and Facebook.

Clearly, something has changed within us, and the only obvious cause is technology.

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