Friday, September 30, 2011
Mark Twain on Gadgets
Shortly after the phone was invented, Twain satirized its impact on the character and quality of human interaction. Overhearing just one end of a phone conversation, Twain says, is the solemnest curiosity in modern life. We've gotten a lot better--or at least a lot more accustomed--at listening to one side of a conversation, so now we think little of it.
But we're not much deeper into the texting/tweeting/Facebooking age than Twain was into the telephone age in 1880. (The digital tools are far more widespread today than the phone was then, of course.) And I'm the age Twain was when he wrote "A Telephonic Conversation." And I'm about as befuddled by the digital communication tools as Twain was by the telephone.
For the last few days my 8th graders and I have been reading about our brains on gadgets and the effect excessive electronics use has on not only our attention and performance, but brain biology as well. Nearly all the research shows that we don't multitask nearly as well as we think we do, excessive use of gadgets tires out our brains and diminishes performance even while we think we're being more 'efficient,' gadgets can become bio-chemically addicting, and gadget use is rewiring the circuitry of our brains.
What in the world would Twain make of that? We'll find out today! We've written and will today perform brief plays in which Twain time warps into a contemporary scene, replete with teenagers conducting their multi-level interactions. They will, for instance, talk to Twain while they are texting each other about Twain...all in presence of each other.
My hope is that they will be at least a little more mindful of the ways in which they communicate so that they might be a little bit more aware of how and what they're communicating in their interactions.
Posted by Andrew Milton at 6:16 AM