Technorealism

Just finished reading through David Shenk’s The End of Patience (1999) and happened across a term near the end of the book that I wasn’t familiar with: technorealism. Expect more on this concept soon. It has fascinated me.

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Junk Sleep

Reuters reported today on a London survey that says teens do not get enough sleep because they are distracted by high-tech gadgets in their bedrooms.

The Sleep Council polled 1,000 teens aged 12 to 16 and found, on average, they get from four to seven hours of sleep a night, less than recommended; and most fell asleep to the sounds of a television or music player.

The study termed this “Junk Sleep,” the kind of sleep that has neither the length or depth necessary for young brains. Yet only 11 percent of respondents said they were bothered by their lack or quality of sleep.

Maybe this is why I felt so tired throughout most of high school?

Seriously, do we really need a catch-phrase for this, especially one that they felt the need to capitalize? I understand that people are more apt to remember a catch-phrase, especially when it describes something that doesn’t naturally lend itself to short, easy description. Add to that our culture’s obsession with inventing problems for marketers and manufacturers to solve (i.e. waxy buildup and, some believe, restless leg syndrome). A catch-phrase about a medical condition (lack of restful sleep) could easily spawn a generation of drugs to solve that problem, drugs that are completely unneeded.

I don’t want to minimize the sleep problem, but how many cultural references and catch-phrases can our language support before we fall into an apocalypse of idioms?

Bears

“Two houses, both alike in dignity, in fair Verona where we lay our scene.”

Clichéd, yes, but there never was a more fully crafted representation of two parties who did not agree than the Montagues and Capulets.

I bring up the bard’s prologue because I spent the day trying to reckon two accounts of a wild weekend in West Yellowstone.

Unfortunately, no star-crossed lovers will knit the troubles between the two sides in this dispute.

On one side, a pair of campers, one who says he was bitten by a bear in a campground while he slept and another who says the bear tried to get into his cabin. Both are angry that the campground didn’t warn them properly against bears (in their opinions).

On the other side, the owner of the place, who acknowledges the bit, doubts the cabin story, and says he and his staff warned campers about the bear danger adequately.

One side senses a cover-up; the other senses paranoia and overreaction. Who’s right?

No one, of course, and no one is happy at the outcome of the weekend. All that remains are (at minimum) three different bears who have been left to roam around the campground at will (for now) because, as Fish, Wildlife and Parks told me, it would be more dangerous to set a trap and just see what wanders in.

Back to Shakespeare: the entire incident gives “exit, chased by bear” a whole new context. (And yes, this is a line from Shakespeare. I’ll let you look it up if you’d doubt it).

Philosophical Babble

Dan Visel wrote yesterday on the if:book blog about tabs and nonlinearity.

The “tab” connection — thinking of tab in all of its modern definitions, from keyboarding to physical bits of things sticking out — had little to do with his overall argument, other than acting as a point of inspiration and then an awkward chorus throughout the essay. Still, as an introduction to nonlinearity, it served well.

Visel wonders at the number of tabs he has open in his browser at any given time, some tabs open for months at a time, waiting for him to come back and read and consider them. This isn’t unusual; I do the same thing, though my record is only about a month for keeping a single tab open (I eventually gave up on it).

But then he thinks about his print reading habits, how he has a dozen or so books “in progress” at any given time. He jumps between them, picking up a shorter book while he’s already reading a longer one. Starting a new release when he hasn’t finished the one that came before, and so on.

“If something’s changed in the world of reading,” he writes, “it might be defined as a loss of linearity. Before the fall, people started reading books at the beginning, and kept on until they got to the end. Texts were read in series. Now, for better or for worse, we read things – books, texts, web pages – in parallel.”

There it is, another reference to the Eden of reading before the Fall into nonlinearity, as if there was ever a correct way to read a book. Sure, medieval scholars taught students how to read and how to annotate and gloss their texts, but that doesn’t mean the teachers’ methods were the only correct ones. It means that their methods were the most powerful at the time, the ones that students were taught.

Disclaimer: I’m digressing.

Continue reading “Philosophical Babble”

Service Org Offers Volunteer Grants

The Corporation for National and Community Service will make $800,000 in grants available to nonprofits to retain and manage volunteers. Grants between $50,000 and $200,000 are available to organizations to improve their use of volunteers in addressing social challenges.

The grants are available through a competition announced at the end of the National Conference on Volunteering and Service in Philadelphia in July. Applications for the grants are due in early September.

If your Gallatin or Park County organization has applied for one of these grants or if you have received one, please contact reporter Michael Becker.

Oooh, That Smell

An e-bookseller has taken the advice of a poll of college students and begun issuing “old book smell” scratch and sniff stickers with their online sales.

Reuters reports that a poll of 600 college students shows that one of the qualities they most enjoy about their physical books is the smell, whether old and musty or new and crisp.

That’s why CafeScribe will now sent students the smelly stickers after they download their purchases, the company said in a release Aug. 23.

“By placing these stickers on their computers they can give their e-books the same musty book smell they know and love from used textbooks – without any of the residual DNA you sometimes find stuck to the pages of used textbooks,” CafeScribe’s CEO Bryce Johnson said in the statement.

My girlfriend’s first reaction was, “That’s stupid,” and I’m inclined to agree. It’s a marketing gimmick that’s going to drive a few people out there (like me) to write blog posts and spread the word a bit, but that’s about it.

I foresee this sticker thing going away rather quickly, but that doesn’t mean I’m immune to curiosity. I want a few of those stickers, boy howdy.

An interesting thought for those out there who are still thinking about the borders between print and electronic text, though. Is this a sign that the computer is an inferior reading tool, that the computer must emulate the printed word in yet another way for it to be accepted by readers?