As a follow up on my post on the Reading and Watching conference a few weeks ago, I recently came about this very nice post by Michael Bhaskar over at The Digitalist. In his post Bhaskar talks about a blog post from ReadWriteWeb in which a trend amongst the new YouTube generation is discussed. Instead of using the search function from Google, they are typing questions directly into YouTube. It seems that the new generation is increasingly preferring the video based search results from YouTube to Google’s text based results. Bhaskar goes on to reflect on the developement from a text based culture to an image based culture and the inevitable loss this will mean to the mental and social capabilities of the human species as a whole, as Bhaskar sees reflected in the book Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain by Maryanne Wolf.
Bhaskar states his worries as follows:
“But this is something we should be thinking a about. While in many ways we live in, and have always lived in, an illiterate culture (and I mean this in a non-pejorative sense), think say of the non text entertainment industries stacked against the text based, this further evolution of a non-text culture presents a profound shift. If people are largely not reading then the very biology of human thought will change, and not for the better. As a species we will be less able to empathise, less able to imagine and less able to articulate and formulate complex thoughts.”
This seems to concur with the visions of Adriana Bus and Raymond Mar, who both state that reading (fiction) is essential for the development of mental conceptions and social and personal development.
However, I do not think Bhaskar’s vision of a future evolution away from a text based culture and a text based Internet will come about so soon, as text itself and the way we are reading is also changing. As I wrote in my post about Text comparison and digital creativity, David Crystal and Adriaan van der Weel both discussed the inherent properties of the different media. It is important in this respect that, as Van der Weel states, texts are changing under the influence of the digital media (medial transformativity) and are also adapting themselves to the digital environment. As David Chrystal remarks, Digitally Mediated Communication (DMC) deploys properties of both writing and speech. So it is very well possible that text will evolve and hybrids will exist in a new online world filled with remixed mediality. And this will probably involve the growth of all kinds of new elaborate mental conceptions and abilities, better suited to these new conditions.