What Apps Say About Us: A Highly Scientific Survey

In part because I’m still thinking about Katie Bockino’s The Creepy Side of Technology?, and in part because I recently changed all my passwords (thanks a lot, Heartbleed) and downloaded a new app to store them in, I’ve been reflecting on some of the apps available and wondering about their place in our lives. “Tool time” is one of my favorite Digital Humanities activities, so rather than sharing actually useful apps for fear of stealing someone’s thunder, I’m only going to share apps I’ve found that fall under one of the following categories: funny, creepy, scary but possibly helpful, genius, and but… why? In a way, I think analyzing the logic behind some of these and wondering what this says about our culture might be even more telling (and fun) than looking at the productive tools which now exist.


For the arrogant, self-righteous teens in our lives, the Annoy-A-Teen app allows an adult user to inconspicuously broadcast high-pitched sounds that can only be heard by younger ears. It just annoys those who can hear the frequencies, and they likely won’t be able to tell where the noise is coming from.

For those who can’t control themselves (while drinking or otherwise), there’s Bad Decision Blocker, which allows a user to predetermine at the beginning of the night which contacts should be blocked and for what amount of time. No more regrettable booty calls, butt dials to one’s boss at 2 AM, or temptation to call up one’s ex. I even remember reading somewhere that breathalyzer apps either are or will be available, checking the blood alcohol content of a user before they get behind the wheel.

My analysis: The Annoy-A-Teen app is obviously meant to be light-hearted and tells us nothing new about teen/adult relationships; teens have always been right, and adults have always been idiots with the job of making teens’ lives more difficult or embarrassing. Duh. But the Bad Decision Blocker interests me because like many current apps, it aids with the self-control of adults. This is not to say adults have never struggled with self-control before now, but I think this is becoming more of a public rather than a private issue. In other times, having little self-control was seen as a weakness or as immaturity, but now I think our society regards it as part of being “human” and has ways of assisting those of us who need a little help, particularly when under the influence.


SpCam is an app that allows users to track any motion or sound that happens in a room, and is meant for when users are away from their device. Though I suppose it could work on a phone, it was meant for computers, and aids a user in discovering who was near (or even on) their computer while they were away, and what this person was doing.

For the Creepy McCreepsters who are “in the mood for love” or “just after a one-night stand” (can’t even make this stuff up, it’s on the site) Girls Around Me is an app that allows users to see pictures, get information about, and even make unsolicited contact with females who have used apps like Foursquare to check in at nearby locations. It also has a function to see the current male-to-female ratio of a spot, giving users better chances of achieving their goals.

The Recognizr app takes stalking to a whole new level! The app employs face recognition technology to identify strangers with the camera function on a user’s phone: “Face recognition software creates a 3-D model of the person’s mug and sends it across a server where it’s matched with an identity in the database. A cloud server conducts the facial recognition… and sends back the subject’s name as well as links to any social networking sites the person has provided access to” (Huffington Post).

My analysis: Well, we can’t say we didn’t see these things coming. As we all learned from Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility. Even well-intentioned technology like the cameras in our phones or computers can be used maliciously when the right app is installed. Do apps like these warrant all of us to become paranoid about our safety and privacy? Maybe. But hopefully with some common sense, intuition, and dependable girlfriends, a woman in a bar will be leery of the man who seems to know a little more about her than he should.

Scary but Possibly Helpful

Two mind-altering apps available today are Brainwaves and Hypnosis. Brainwaves is made by the folks at the trustworthy “Unexplainable Store” and is said to aid users in “Spiritual, Meditation, Sleep, Relaxation, Positive Life, [and] Brain Training.” The Hypnosis app promotes an easy method of losing weight.

Type n Walk is “the smarter, safer way” to text while a user walks. It works by making a user’s screen appear as a dim version of exactly what is in front of them, and the text appears in front of that translucent rendering.

For the parents who just don’t want to spend time getting to know their baby, or are otherwise concerned that picking the baby up might not be one in-the-meantime solution, there’s Cry Translator. Simply click on the app, wait for it to load, hit the listen button (it’s like Shazam for crying babies!), let Cry Translator listen to your baby crying for at least 10 seconds, and wait for the app to tell you what – in its expert opinion and with all its knowledge of your particular baby – needs. Then the user responds appropriately.

My analysis: Frankly, Brainwaves and Hypnosis kind of freak me out. There is so much unconscious stuff happening in my brain already, the last thing I want to do is allow more out-of-my-control processes to happen. No way, Jose. Type n Walk: Or, you know, someone could glance up every few seconds or maybe even pay attention to where they’re going. What’s next, Type n Sports? Type n Drive? Type n Surgery? Cry Translator makes ME want to cry, I mean really, babies are rarely upset for a reason that is so unexplainable, we need to call in expert technology for backup. Maybe try picking them up first. Then go through the usual checklist: diaper, hungry, tired, bored, teething, sick, got scared by a loud noise, etc. It’s not that hard, people.


Fake-an-Excuse: Hang up Now! features a variety of lifelike excuses a user might need to get off the phone with someone. Annoying mother-in-law? Try the “call waiting beep!” Hot mess friend after a break up? Try the “I hit a mailbox with my car” sound. Others include “Someone’s Here (knocking or door bell sounds),” “I’m Being Pulled Over (siren),” and “Bees! They are Everywhere, (buzzing).”

Another genius app based on sound effects is iNap@Work, particularly useful for the employee stationed near his boss’ office. This app allows users to choose from work noises like a mouse clicking, a keyboard typing, papers crumpling, other office sounds (stapler, pencil sharpener), blowing one’s nose, clearing one’s throat, etc.

My analysis: Are these apps kind of sketchy and devious? Absolutely. But sometimes, they are necessary evils for a user to maintain her sanity and/or get in a few minutes of needed rest. What do they say about our society? Sometimes we are unable to be honest with people and wish to spare their feelings (or retribution), so we protect ourselves with these apps made by really smart people who understand our dilemmas.

But… Why?

In my quest for interesting apps, I found WAY more – and I mean a stupid amount – of apps having to do with bowel movements. Places I’ve Pooped and Bowel Mover Pro are among them.

EMF Meter is the perfect app for when you’re, you know, looking for ghosts and other paranormal stuff.

Lastly, where was the Great Pumpkin Weight Estimator app when I needed it? I can’t tell you how often I would have used this if I had known about it sooner.

My analysis: I’ve got nothing.

Well, it’s inevitable that along with all of the great apps out there that help us stay organized and productive, help us do everyday things more easily, and help keep us happy and entertained, there are bound to be those that make us scratch our heads in wonder. I don’t think any of the apps I’ve mentioned have anything profound to say about our society, except to maybe highlight different idiosyncrasies that have always existed among us in more publicly  scrutinizing ways.

A Peculiarly Western Notion

I’m taking a course called “Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages” (INTD 388, I highly recommend it) with Professor Belyakov. Our textbook, Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language (4th ed) by Marianne Celce-Murcia and some of her buddies, has a short section on plagiarism that reminded me of the Lessig, Turrow, Helprin, and Jefferson readings on copyright. This excerpt comes from a chapter called “Considerations for Teaching Second Language Writing,” which covers some of the challenges of working with non-native English speakers, some of whom will have very basic issues (like learning how to form the graphemes of the Roman alphabet) and others who will struggle with more complex problems (like transferring organizational writing skills from their first language to English). Thus saith the textbook:

Things I Love: This textbook. Things I Am Sarcastic About: Things I Love.
Things I Love: This textbook. Things I Am Sarcastic About: Things I Love.

“Research suggests that many students have difficulty with sentence simplification and paraphrasing without changing the author’s original intent; furthermore, some students consider copying a legitimate strategy for composing (Shi, 2004). Similar cultural issues regarding the use of a source text language have been noted by Pennycook (1996), who was among the first to point out that the idea that individuals “own” ideas and words is a peculiarly Western notion that may not be prevalent in other cultures. […] Learning to identify and avoid inappropriate textual borrowing is clearly an important part of the writing classroom and the teacher should avoid framing it as a moral issue” (227-228).

As a tutor at the Writing Learning Center (come visit me! I work Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays!), I often encounter writing from international students who have pretty blatantly plagiarized. One part of their paper will have a predictable amount of errors, and all of a sudden, the next paragraph is written in perfect English. How do you address something like that? I don’t want to accuse them of plagiarism flat-out… that’s a very serious accusation, one that could even resort in expulsion. So instead, I usually say “This paragraph is excellent – you expressed your ideas very clearly here,” and I hope that this will prompt them to say, “Yeah, I used the Internet to help me a lot with that one…”

“We could have been killed — or worse — expelled.”

(My mother taught me well in the art of guilt-tripping.) Once they say something like this, it opens a dialogue about how to properly cite sources and how to balance your voice with another author’s voice. Sometimes, though, all I get is “Thanks.” And even though I consider myself an honorary member of the moral police, at that point I just have to move on with the tutoring.

So Pennycook wants to make the claim that lifting or actually plagiarizing is a Western invention? To be frank, I don’t know how much of that I buy. I can’t imagine a student in China getting an A on a paper if the teacher knew they copied half of it verbatim from another source. An article entitled “Is there such a thing as Asian plagiarism?” looks at a few specific cases, and concludes that Asian students are indeed taught citation conventions and often plagiarize not out of naivete, but out of stress from the academic environment.

I do, however, think looking at an issue like this puts the four aforementioned readings in perspective. How ridiculous is it that Americans are willing to spend literally millions of dollars suing someone for five seconds of a Simpsons episode (when you can probably stream that whole episode, illegally, online, for free…) or on the Causby asininity when there are people who are actually taking full paragraphs of someone else’s exact words and handing it in, as their own, in order to get a college degree? So what if a TV show is a “bigger deal” than one student’s term paper? The offense should matter more than the scale on which it occurs. I hope this is what Pennycook is talking about when he says other cultures don’t understand our fixation with privatizing ideas. Verbal plagiarism, though, or when one person/corporation clearly steals a developing idea/invention from another? That is a different story, and that’s the story I think Lessig and Jefferson need to turn their attention to. The same way we shouldn’t characterize a religion by the actions of its extremist, let’s not condemn the whole concept of copyrights based on the travesty some Americans have made out of it.

Whoa what how did this get in here??
Whoa what how did this baby sloth get in here??

I really want to get on board with Celce-Murcia, because her passage sounds so sensitive and culturally-aware, and who doesn’t want to be those things? But I feel like she’s not taking this seriously enough. Would she be this understanding if someone plagiarized from her book? If she were talking about ‘copying’ in the context of one of the crazy examples Lessig gives, I would understand; but she’s talking about not punishing someone for stealing words verbatim without giving credit, on the grounds that they probably didn’t understand it was wrong. I am struggling to wrap my mind around this. Maybe it’s just because I’m ignorant. But the thing I agree least with among all Celce-Murcia’s claims, is that teachers should not consider it a moral issue. Serious, large-scale plagiarism is the paragon of a moral issue. And if for some reason the student sincerely doesn’t know it’s morally wrong… sorry to be such a racist, but then they have to learn that it’s morally wrong here! I wouldn’t expect to go to China and get free passes for doing things that are morally wrong there (especially if every class made me aware that it is wrong in the syllabus). Maybe the consequences shouldn’t be as serious as they’d be for an American student, but I’d say the situation would warrant at bare minimum a verbal warning.

Like I tell my clients at the Writing Learning Center – using other people’s ideas is completely fine. Just like Lessig points out numerous times, that’s the fabric on which almost all great inventions, innovations, and art has been based. But you do need to acknowledge that you’re getting the information from somewhere else, properly credit the original source, and make sure to put a substantial amount of your own voice into the work.

I couldn't imagine learning a whole different alphabet before even getting to the language itself. Respect.
I couldn’t imagine learning a whole different alphabet before even getting to the language itself. Respect.

In all fairness, though, I have to end by acknowledging that second language acquisition is a terribly difficult, and often disheartening, process. Since I am majoring in a foreign language, I know what it’s like to go from being a verbal Olympic gymnast in your mother tongue to a toddler trying to walk in your second language. Because I have been brought up in a culture where plagiarism is strictly forbidden, I am never tempted to lift passages from other works… but man, it sure would be nice to find a way to express my thoughts in French as eloquently as I could express them in English, so I am sympathetic to students who have the same feeling but not necessarily the same background.

And if you can’t find the right words in your own voice, sometimes jumping gets your point across just fine:


The Creepy Side of Technology?

A few weeks ago when I was casually (or is mindlessly a better word?) browsing through some articles, I came across this one entitled, “This Creepy Digital Rendering of a Human Face Will Follow Your Mouse Pointer Around” Without giving it another thought I knew I had to click on the link.

Basically, if you click on the link in the article, it will direct you to a page where a digital (but very,

Ugh it's like he's looking into my soul...
Ugh it’s like he’s looking into my soul…

very realistic) face fills up your whole screen and just stares back at you. That’s. All. It (HE?!). Does. It will follow your cursor around for hours on end if you want it to. Saying I was disturbed might be a slight understatement. I couldn’t help but wonder why? Why is this a thing? And why can’t I stop looking at it?

This brings up a question I believe has crossed peoples’ minds, but hasn’t actually been explored. How far does the creepy side of technology go?

A slightly less random example is Google Glass. According to one Washington Post article,

well hello there!
well hello there!

Google Glass is swiftly becoming one of those inventions that might be more creepy than useful. The scenario they offer is how a department store, via Google Glass, can receive an alert that a customer (who scanned a bar-code for that store into their smartphone) is coming in that day. They then can recognize that costumer through their Facebook photo. Fun? Useful? Or plain old creepy?

Another great article I found about some “creepy” technological advances is from Yahoo. It actually offers a great insight about certain drones. They say, “Hackers have developed a drone that can steal information from smartphones.” Should I even continue? Well…if you really want to

This personally creeps me out a LOT
This personally creeps me out a LOT

know…. “The drone’s technology is called Snoopy, which sounds innocuous and is anything but. It looks for mobile devices with WiFi functions turned on, then sends out a signal pretending to be a WiFi network the smartphone is familiar with. Snoopy can then intercept all of the phone’s messages.” I sat stunned for a while after reading that.

And now I am 100% freaked out.

Trust me, I love reading about new gadgets and new “toys” to play with. But is there a line between being cool and creepy? Or, is it because we aren’t used to it yet?

My Grandma liked to tell me that when land-line phones were first becoming popular, her

There's my Grandma everyone!!!! And...my dad I guess... (just kidding he's great)
There’s my Grandma everyone!!!! And…my dad I guess… (just kidding he’s great)

mother (and many others) thought it was ridiculous and crazy. Mimicking her mother’s voice, she would cry, “The invasion of privacy! Can you imagine how annoying and intrusive a phone in your home must be?” Laughing, my Grandma would continue with, “If only ma could see the crazy things they have in 2012!”

But that’s so true. Each and every time something “new” or revolutionary” becomes popular, many people believe it will ruin some part of life. And yet, we always adapt, and figure it out as we go along.

My final thought, however, is will there ever be a day where we fully crossed the line and cannot go back? Do you think a time will come when we cannot adapt, and actually lose some feature of our daily lives?

The New Newspaper

Over the weekend I attended a faculty concert in Doty hall. I arrived a little early so while sitting in the waiting area, I took out a book I was reading for class. A few minutes later an older gentleman walked over to me and basically said, “I’m impressed you’re reading and

What I hope I look like reading in public

not just on an electronic device. People these days will be with each other and be on their phones and not talk out loud”. I looked over at him and tried to explain that it was for a class I was desperately behind in, but he just looked so happy that someone wasn’t glued to their phone I dropped it.

However, it got me thinking. Is it really any different for me to be reading a book and not socializing with anyone, than to have my phone out? Usually with my phone I’m liking someone’s status on Facebook, snapchatting a friend a dumb picture or something really cool I saw, or even just texting. Somehow this idea of being secluded in my own fantasy world is now so novel that I was being applauded for doing something I need to do by myself.

Snapchat really brought these friends together. Now they don’t even have to have a photo forever, just 10 seconds!

This begs to question, is our constant use of our phones really breaking down communication or have we as a society always gravitated towards being anti-social. All I can think about are those pictures of men going into work on trains reading the paper. Why is that a more acceptable than checking up on my twitter feed?

The Fault in Our Copyright Laws

The conversation in class last week about freedom and copyright reminded me of a video that John Green made a year ago about the importance of copyright. For those not familiar with him, John Green is a Young Adult author who also makes YouTube videos with his brother, Hank. In the video, John discusses a poster design that he found on tumblr based on his novel, The Fault In Our Stars.

To summarize: the poster was created by one person, combining a painting created by someone else with a quote from the book. As confusing as that sounds, this is a relatively common situation on the internet. People are constantly collaborating with one another to create all kinds of artwork. Copyright would only inhibit this creative process. Copyright is meant to protect the creator, but what happens when it stifles creativity rather than fostering it?

Copyright is an incredibly important means of protects creative license, but sometimes it can go too far. For instance, an author would have a copyright on their book meaning no one else can use that material without their permission. But this means that fans of the book would not be able to create anything based on the book, as the creative content is under copyright. But these creators are only trying to express their love and enjoyment of the novel; shouldn’t they be able to create artwork inspired by the original work?

The issue of money further complicates copyright. Take the situation with the book from before. Imagine that someone created artwork using a quote or some other integral aspect of the book and then sold that artwork. We can probably guess that author wouldn’t be too happy about someone else making money off of their creativity, especially if the artist claimed it as their own.

I probably haven’t explained this well, but I think copyright law boils down to one simple thing: ownership. What can we legally claim ownership over? Ideas? Writings? Artwork?

And the Copyright Goes to…

After last week’s discussions on copyrighting laws and the rules with which copyrighting is defined, I took a look at an instance that to me seemed a little curious. This isn’t a super insightful instance, but if inspires a dialogue then great, I just thought that this was an interesting scenario.

A lot of college students nowadays are familiar, or at least have heard in passing, about a television cartoon known as Avatar: The Last Airbender. It was a fun cartoon, had a cool concept and had a cast of very relatable and engaging characters. As is common with such shows, it gathered quite a following and a huge fan base exists for the show. A few years later, the blockbuster James Cameron hit Avatar came out, which managed to cash in an absurd amount of money. Now the really unusual thing about this is that one of the reasons Cameron pulled in so much money was by purchasing the copyright on the name Avatar, which essentially barred the name from being used in other productions, including the aforementioned television series. The live action movie that was made from the cartoon series had to be called just The Last Airbender, and the sequel series that the cartoon made had to be called The Legend of Korra to avoid paying royalties to Cameron for an unrelated series.

This to me seems ridiculous.

Why should productions made BEFORE a series have to pay someone else for using their original name? Not to mention that the word “avatar” is a title that has existed long before CGI blue people borrowed it for their description. Robbing former projects of their identities by using bought rights goes against the very point of copyrighting, which is to ensure the artist doesn’t get robbed of their due respect.

I believe that to solve this sort of issue, a change to the function of copyrighting should be made. If a project is published, sent out and reaches a certain profit quota, then the work should have a copyright applied to it immediately. That way, works that have come before other works of the same name can get their due, rather than having the rights be mad bid for ownership. It might be a bit on the unorthodox side, but I know if i created something, I’d want to maintain ownership of its identity, especially if I produced it before a project of the same name. Just a topic for thought.

It’s Written All Over Your Screen

So this isn’t my most thoughtful or deep post, but I’d like to backtrack a moment to possibly the number one concern I hear from people who are wary about digital texts: reading off of a screen. And it really can be uncomfortable! We’ve all experienced tired eyes and headaches after staring at our laptops too long, and the glare from the sun that forces you inside if you need to use your computer. According to one article, “the issue has become so prevalent in today’s work environment that the condition has been officially labelled by the American Optometric Association as ‘Computer Vision Syndrome.'”

I would also argue that there’s a more philosophical relevance to this concern; the screen is the face of the computer. The field of interaction between user and machine is primarily located on the screen (although the tactile experience of typing is of course also relevant, but perhaps less complained about). So, if this interaction is to be comfortable and integrated into every-day life, the screen needs to be user-friendly.

Let’s see what’s being done to improve this experience, focusing on laptop computers (of course ebook tools such as Nook and Kindle have done more on this front, but these aren’t the devices people are using for hours on end).

Laptops used to be black and white, prone to blurry screens and ghost images. But, by about 1991 color LCD screens came into use, which improved visual quality as well as cost for consumers. Nowadays of course, laptop screens are at a whole new level, with the emphasis

The MacBook Pro Retina Display...does seem to reduce glare!
The MacBook Pro Retina Display…does seem to reduce glare!

being on resolution and the implementation of touch screens. MacBook has a new “retina display” that’s supposed to have incredibly high resolution (the MacBook Pro 15″ Retina Display is literally advertised as “eye-popping”). However, there seems to be little to no push for these screens to be easy on the eyes. Improvements generally focus on bright color and high definition, but that “brighter and bolder” sort of thinking would intuitively seem to me to make things worse.

In fact, there are articles dotting the web about how to avoid eye-strain yourself. These range from buying computer glasses to sitting up straighter to taking breaks. Clearly this is a common concern. However, the physical screens themselves are not being made more ergonomic and healthy by engineers. I could only find one company that is on a mission to reduce eye fatigue

So my mom WAS right when she said I should sit up straight....
So my mom WAS right when she said I should sit up straight….

through engineering better screens. They are concerned with using direct current to reduce perceived flicker. However, this is not a mainstream laptop producer truly implementing revolutionary technology into their products.

Does anyone else know more about this, or have special tips/screen appliances they use to reduce eye-strain?

The fairness of Computer Based Testing


As many of you have probably experienced, there is a push right now for computer based testing. Computer based tests are becoming the norm for taking standardized tests like the GRE and NYSTCE. As with many things there are pros and cons to these exams. But the question is do the pros outweigh the cons? Or do the cons make these tests unfair?

Some of the benefits of computer based testing include: timely feedback, more efficient monitoring and tracking of students’ results, a reduced number of resources (as they are replaced by computers), easier storing of results records, and electronic analyzing of data that can be used in spreadsheets and statistical packages. Some downfalls of computer based testing include: costly and time consuming implementation of the exams, assessors and staff implementing must have IT skills, close monitoring of the software as there are chances it could fail or malfunction during an exam, the absence of an instructor, issues to prevent cheating, and computer anxiety.

This last disadvantage is a big one for students taking the exams, and it brings up the question of fairness. I am not saying that paper exams are entirely fair, as some people are better test takers than others to begin with. However, the computer based tests may give an advantage to students who are used to using a computer and have better skills using a computer. For example, a student who has not had a lot of experience typing on a keyboard may be at a disadvantage when taking a computer based test. Or a student who struggles when looking at a computer for too long may not be able to complete a long computer based examination.

I am interested to see how far computer based testing will go. Will students soon be taking SAT exams as computer based tests? And will it go so far that using paper and pencils on exams becomes a thing of the past and all tests taken in college and high school are taken through computer software? I do see the advantage of computer based testing, but I think it would be beneficial if students had a choice, especially right now for students who have not necessarily grown up taking all exams and assessments with a keyboard and a computer screen in front of them.





You Can Lead a Horse to Water

I do a lot of commuting: from Churchville to Geneseo, Churchville to Victor, and Churchville to Greece, all on a regular basis. I recently realized that rather than suffering through Eminem & Rhianna’s “Monster” for the 700th time (don’t get me wrong, I liked this song the first 699 times), a better use of my time in the car is to listen to Ted Talks.

Just today, I found two talks that apply to our course in TONS of different ways: Jennifer Golbeck’s “The curly fry conundrum: Why social media ‘likes’ say more than you might think,” and Lawrence Lessig’s (yep, he should sound familiar, and so should some of this video!) “Laws that choke creativity.”

I could write a post about either of these really interesting and relevant-to-340 videos, but I won’t. Instead, I will leave them here for others to “stumble upon,” particularly others who maybe haven’t found anything inspiring to write about in a while. The end of the semester is in sight, and many of my fellow bloggers have only posted once, or worse, not at all; hopefully these videos will help.

Are online skimming habits making us worse serious readers?

keep-calm-and-embrace-technology-2 (2)It seems appropriate, given the previous post about the ways in which technology helps or hinders our communication, to discuss how these new tools have also impacted the way we interpret the information we’re given. It’s nice to think that we as English majors can transition seamlessly between old and new media outlets, appreciating the feeling (and let’s not forget the smell!) of an actual tangible book while still keeping up to date with the new helpful technologies available to us. But the truth is that getting used to reading in the newer and more common formats, such as on a computer screen or smartphone, really can — and does — influence how we read “real books.”

In an article from Sunday’s Washington Post, Michael S. Rosenwald points out that our reading behavior with more serious texts has come to mimic our online, internet-surfing reading habits. One neuroscientist described this reading as “superficial” and said she worries that it is affecting us when we have to read with more in-depth processing. I’ve certainly noticed this in my own reading habits, and find it endlessly frustrating.

weapons-of-mass-distractionOn the internet, we skim. We look for important words that are of interest to us and if we can’t find them, we click on to the next page. I know I’m not alone in this. In our class discussion today someone from the group working on the Walter Harding website talked about including things like a letter from Albert Einstein to give the audience a reason to be interested and stay focused, since the eye is so easily diverted on the internet. It’s true! If we don’t immediately find something that piques our interest, we move on.

When I have important readings for class that are online, I have to close all other tabs and even use the Readability add-on that Dr. Schacht showed us earlier in the semester just to keep myself from getting distracted. It’s like my brain automatically assumes that if I’m reading on a computer monitor it must not be important, so my eyes start looking for “clickables.” To quote from Rosenwald’s article, “The brain is the innocent bystander in this new world. It just reflects how we live.” Clearly our leisurely habits are sneaking into our serious work as well.

ac4bb8a5ec3201c597967935c7ccfa94-617x411I encourage you to think about how you’ve experienced this just over the course of your time reading this blog post. You probably looked at the pictures, clicked the links to other websites (and maybe even other links on those sites), went to another tab to answer a Facebook message, and countless other things. I did all of that while writing the post too! Most of us are guilty of this habit, and that’s just what it is: a habit. We’re like little squirrels running around on the internet. Our focus is on one page until something more interesting (and not even necessarily better) comes along, at which point we leave our first focus entirely, sometimes struggling to remember how we got there in the first place. On one hand, it’s great that we have so much information readily available to us, and my guess is that there has to be a study out there somewhere regarding benefits of technology on our multitasking abilities! But when we’re so used to being bombarded with all of this, taking the time to slow down and isolate ourselves for a task without so many distractions can be a challenge.