Today's media has also made content much more concise. It takes a little effort to try to convey a complex message in 160 characters or less. A constant complaint I get from students is that they can't possibly write about a topic for five, whole pages. Which is why I have all of my classes participate in Smith Magazine's Six Word Memoir activity. I give the students an allotted amount of time to write about several different experiences in their lives that have made them you they are today. Then I show them the Smith Magazine challenge and ask them to explain each event or the meaning of each event in six words. In all of the classes I've used this activity the students have agreed that it is much harder to get their point across in six words than in several paragraphs. It would follow that the same struggle can be found for public figures in the 21st century. Lincoln and Douglas had hours apiece to explain their ideologies. Public debates today could never dream of lasting that long if they actually wanted to keep the attention of the majority of their audience. Now they have to cram everything they want to say about their position and ideologies into soundbites that the public can consume in small doses. If not they risk people forgetting or ignoring what they are trying to convey. Instant media may seem to make communication easier by making faster, but faster isn't necessarily easier.
Tuesday, September 2, 2014
While reading Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death I kept comparing all of the examples he gave with today's media culture. In Part I of the book Postman describes the audience of oratory events by stating that "its attention span would obviously have been extraordinary by current standards...[and] these audiences must have had an equally extraordinary capacity to comprehend lengthy and complex sentences aurally" (45). If the audiences attention span would have been extraordinary in the '80s then I imagine it would seem damn near impossible now. Seven hours of talking? Most students in school today can't go a single class period without checking to see if they have a new text or if someone 'liked' their latest facebook post. Television today has evolved so that we can skip through the commercials or, if you're watching something like Netflix, avoid the commercials all together. People today can no longer sit through a ninety second commercial. Our media has been made so instantaneous that if we become bored within a few seconds of a commercial on television we can transfer out attention to something that will bring our entertainment to us even faster, like Pinterest.