The internet make us smarter, so how long until they dumb it down?

I picked up a copy of Intelligent Life last night and was struck by the letter from the editor, Tim Delisle. The crux of the letter is that, no matter what we’re told, we are all getting smarter (wish I could agree) for a number of reasons, not least of all the internet. Delisle claims that because we have to actively sit up and interact with the internet and be selective in what we do as opposed to passively slumping in front of the TV it makes us more alert, more searching.

I think he might be right; the internet makes us think about what we are looking at, search for something that interests us. I said in my Room 101 post that one of the virtues of the internet is that you don’t go near the sites (except LolCats) you don’t like (Robert Putnam called something akin to this cyber-balkanisation). You can’t help but learn about a subject when you have to navigate to it to see it.

Originally though TV was on for about 4 hours a day and 3 of those were Watch With Mother (I’m just judging from my Dad’s complaints wwm1about the quality of modern television) so you’d sit down at 8 O’clock when you knew that programme you liked was on. You were selective and only saw the bits you liked, you invested a little more in those programmes. programming times got longer, TV sets more affordable more people tuned in and channel surfing became common: television became passive.

At the same time social media and what it can do is growing and advancing. The first social media (online, don’t get pedantic) was a MUD: strictly for uber-nerds who couldn’t buy Dungeons and Dragons anymore then much later there was MySpace and social media got a little bit cool. Finally Facebook made it a part of everyday life.

Earlier in the week, following Stuart Bruce asking what’s next for social media, we were talking about it in the office and I think social media on consoles is the next big thing. graphic chatrooms and world users can walk around in and interact in from the comfort of their sofa. Playstation 3 already have one. If this does take off I think the move from pc to living room entertainment will bring social media to the same level as television, passive and unselective designed to was over you as you lean back on your sofa and play virtual table football with your friend with a mindless flick of the wrist.

When people ask David Simon how he made The Wire so good he tells them he wanted to make a programme you had to sit up to watch, that is what the internet and social media does, but it could lose that very easily.


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