Most aspects of modern life are dominated by the input of new media. Most people use new media on a daily basis and it is common to see individuals relying on gadgets that make new media more accessible such as tablets, smart phones, and personal computers.
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Therefore, it does not come a shock to many people that new media has a profound effect on modern life. The attention that is given to new media today has almost become an obsession. Everywhere one looks, he/she is bound to notice an aspect of new media whether it is internet adverts, social media, and broadcast services, among other aspects. New media today is synonymous with household names such as Facebook, twitter, and Google.
The infiltration of new media into the society has elicited a debate concerning the effects this tool has on the society. There are those who feel that this tool is doing more harm than good to the society. On the other hand, there are those who feel that new media is a revolutionary tool that will improve the modern society. The new media debate has attracted various stakeholders including scholars and experts.
Steven Pinker is one of those experts who have weighed in on the new media debate. Pinker’s argument is that the fear that is brought about by the popularity of new media is just misplaced panic. However, his opponents blame new media for the several things including the deteriorating moral fiber and brainpower. This paper agrees with Pinker’s arguments about new media in relation to the views of other experts in this field.
The popularity of new media has often been referred to as a fad. However, new media is not the only fad in the history of human existence. Throughout history, several ‘fads’ that are similar to new media have arisen. Nevertheless, some of the tools that have been blamed for degrading the society’s moral fiber usually have one thing in common, popularity.
Whenever a certain trend becomes popular, marketing practices tend to favor some opposition towards this trend. Some of the trends that have experienced similar negative attention include the rock and roll trend of the 1970s, the comic book trend, the hip hop music trend, and the more recent video game trend. At the height of their popularity, most of these trends were disputed by ‘experts’ on several fields including psychologists.
However, over time it has become clear that most of these expert-based warnings were baseless. In his essay “Mind over Mass Media” Steven Pinker points out that Rock music did not lower the society’s I.Q and video games did not contribute to an increase in crime (Pinker 34). It can be argued that the society panics whenever a product or a trend becomes too popular. This panic can be interpreted to mean that people always want to be in control of their lives.
Therefore, new media elicits the fear that individuals in the society will lose control over their lives because new media takes over the activities they used to perform for themselves. Most of those who are suspicious about the popularity of new media are only fighting over personal control. In his essay “Does the Internet make you Dumber”, Nicholas Carr writes that the internet gives people access to too much information and tends to be confusing and distracting (Carr 22).
The demand for information has been there for several centuries now and people have worked hard to meet it. However, just because what seemed impossible is now possible does not necessitate panic. Mankind is currently looking for solutions to other problems and when these problems are solved it is possible that they will be opposed by critics.
According to those who are skeptical about new media, the domination of new media is its main undoing. The reason for the opponents’ arguments is that new media has a negative effect on people’s attention because it enhances attention disorders due to its short lifespan.
The main effect of new media on people’s attention is the changing content. For instance, there is a trending topic on Twitter every day. Experts dispute this argument by indicating that there are no recorded side effects to consuming too much information. Those who criticize new media argue against it by claiming that the process of receiving too much information has negative effects on the human brain.
This argument also implies that the composition of the brain can be changed by the information that the brain receives. The counter-argument of this opinion is that the neurological composition of the brain cannot be changed. One expert equates this argument to the saying that “you are what you eat” (Pinker 34). Consuming information does not constitute any major changes to the functions of the brain.
The brain can either be improved or enhanced by information but it cannot be changed. For example, it is not possible for anybody to acquire singing skills just by listening or watching other musicians. However, someone who is already a musician can improve his/her trade by watching other musicians. When the brain is required to take in too much information, it often has coping mechanisms that help in the cataloguing of information. Therefore, it is not possible to condense the brain by consuming condensed information.
The over reliance of new media has been shown to have various effects on its users. However, there is no common agreement as to the positivity or negativity of these effects. While some argue that the effects of new media are negative others only point to the positive effects of new media. The two leading voices on effects of new media are Nicholas Carr and Steven Pinker.
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Steven Pinker argues that new media only highlights the already existing personal deficiencies. For example, people with attention deficits are more likely to be negatively affected by the existence of various new media platforms. Pinker however disputes the argument that the attention span of everyone who uses new media can be compromised by continued use (Manovich 100).
When the negative effects of new media are recorded on a few individuals, they should not be used to demonize new media. People’s ability to organize thoughts and functions cannot be affected by the amounts of information that is available to them. However, it is up to any individual to sort out his/her consumed information.
There is still no solid criticism on the effectiveness of new media. Although new media critics use scientific studies and facts to support their claims, most of these facts have already been successfully challenged by other experts. Eventually, the criticism on new media will decline as the trend becomes more acceptable.
Carr, Nicholas. “Does the internet make you dumber.” Wall Street Journal 5.10 (2010): 22-23. Print.
Manovich, Lev. The Language of New Media, California, CA: The MIT press, 2001. Print.
Pinker, Steven. “Mind over mass media.” New York Times 10 jun. 2010: 34. Print.