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The Power to Choose

Updated on April 27, 2016

Imagine growing up in a city your whole life and never understanding anything but your local practices and customs. It would be a lonely life that lacked any surprises. Computers and television provide users with a sense of what it would be like to live somewhere else, be someone else, to achieve and learn concepts he or she may have never thought were possible. If television and internet continue to provide information then people will learn to focus on specific interests while ignoring general knowledge.

Communication happens within seconds
Communication happens within seconds

Today’s technology has provided individuals with the advantage of accessing information at a faster rate and allowing a more personable view of reality. With so much variety on computers and televisions, users now have the freedom to choose what he or she wants to watch or learn. Search engines such as Google help find information faster while recent television now reflects a more realistic view of reality. Different opinions and information sources show a preview of understanding a variety of topics, and cultures.

The internet has given every individual access to learn and be heard. In fact, it has given people an outlet to research. It was once the norm to read a newspaper article or book. If the readers had a strong enough opinion about what they had read they would take the time to send a letter to the editor. The internet has given anyone the chance to critique or praise a writer for their work in just seconds. On the Web, one-sentence links are as legitimate as thousand-word diatribes- in fact, they are often valued more (p. 498). People can now participate when they do research rather than just reading a piece of paper.

Wikipedia allows users to post articles on general knowledge. In Marshal Poe's article, The Hive he explains the process of Wikipedia and its revolutionary mode of knowledge. Wiki pages are posted that are than verified by other Wikipedians; through editing, articles continue to improve and give general common knowledge. It is the place where all nominal information about objects of widely shared experience will be negotiated, stored, and renegotiated (p. 520). Wikipedia gives access to any user to get a general understanding of who someone is or what something is about. Blogging is another medium that has allowed famous writers, celebrities, and everyday people to express their personal views on the latest news and even their daily lives. While Wikipedia's facts are continuously edited, blogging allows freedom of speech through blog pages and reader's comments. A Blogosphere helps writers engage their readers into their thoughts opinions and interests. Bloggers have more authority because they are held accountable for everything they say. They can basically state anything they want to be heard. Feedback can be very positive or extremely negative, but it is necessary to hear the people to improve one's blog. While this could sometimes be hard for bloggers self-esteem, a good blogger will use the critical feedback to be more accurate, think deeper and become a stronger blogger. Unlike newspapers, which would eventually publish corrections in a box of printed days after the original error, bloggers have to walk the walk of self-correction in the same space and in the same format as the original screw-up (p. 497). Hyperlinks are used to help further engage readers. They are used to link us to the latest news, photos, and videos. With the internet allowing opportunity for viewers to engage, it's no wonder society loves paying attention to their computers, laptops, and smartphones.

Users now have the priviledge to choose what to watch and end
Users now have the priviledge to choose what to watch and end

Just like the internet, modern television has added variety and created more complex plots which has allowed people to pay more attention to TV shows. By the press of a button one can experience different cities, social circles, and entertainment in the comfort of the living room. Rather than family sitcoms with high morals and simple story lines, popular media today has complex plots and characters. "Think of the cognitive benefits conventionally ascribed to reading: attention, patience, retention, the parsing of narrative threads...programming on TV has increased the demands it places on precisely these mental faculties (Comley, p.87)." Through out the past two decades, TV shows have created multiple complex plots to keep the attention of it's audience. Similarly to the internet, television has also added a variety of TV shows to a variety of viewers. Law and Order lets us in on the life of an undercover cop, while the E.R. gives us a sample of a career in the medical field. Jersey Shore welcomes us into the American-Italian life of partying, while Supernatural reveals a life of power and killing daemons. With such a wide range of perspectives individuals have the freedom to choose which fun and exciting scenarios they enjoy and want to focus on.

Complex plots keep audiences attention
Complex plots keep audiences attention

With such easy access to information concerns have risen about society dumbing down and becoming lazy. Screens have taken over many people’s lives. People can find themselves for days focusing on their favorite TV series or constantly relying on the internet for answers. The 'find' button lets users experience inattentionial blindness when directed right to the word in a paragraph rather then retrieving it in a novel or thinking deeply into a past memory. In Google Effects on Memory: Cognitive Consequences of Having Information at Our Fingertips by Betsy Sparrow, studies show that when individuals research a topic through the internet one doesn't take in as much information, and typically have trouble recalling it. Whereas, people who once relied on books and the people around us for information may have an easier time remembering it. Perhaps, this is due to face to face interaction creating stronger memories. The studies suggest that people are becoming too dependent on computers and TV to get answers and entertainment. Society is developing a very selective memory. People are often more in touch with TV shows and internet sites over their professors, friends, and family. Books can feel useless when we can use the 'find' button or Google to get information

Is having a selective memory so wrong? Through the TV and Internet one discovers what they are truly interested in can delve deep into focus.

While modern technology may effect what humans remember and pay attention to, it has also given one the ability to choose. One can choose what they want to watch or learn. Rather than reading thousands of books and watching a million movies on a topic. The internet has become an expert on extensive research. Through television the Sleeper Curve challenges our mind by demanding more attention, patience, and thought. One has to focus to follow the plot, and exercise the parts of the brain that maps social networks, that fill in missing information, that connect multiple narrative threads (p. 94). Avid computer users are merely filtering out what he or she dislikes, and enhancing knowledge on topics of interest. As a result, modern generations now have the ability to learn what they want when they want and filtering out nonsense.

Is the internet enhancing our human existence, or has it distracted us from more important matters?

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