[-empyre-] post for convergence

Michael Dieter mdieter at unimelb.edu.au
Sat Jun 12 12:21:02 EST 2010

> On the question of what issues arise with transformed cognition, in�my
> view this isn't just a pressing question but a crisis.� It's here with us,
> right now, and educators at all levels�would do well to�be thinking
> seriously about effective pedagogical strategies.� The evidence now seems
> unmistakable:� reading extensively on the web has strong neurological
> consequences.

Not sure what to make of the neurological turn in Internet criticism. It's
obviously something that journalistic media are having a field day with at
the moment (partly because of Carr's new book). NYT yesterday featured
this report, for instance:

Geert Lovink also offers a summary of this trend in his recent Eurozine
article MyBrain.net:

Obviously, neurology and the humanities have a fraught relationship. At
times there's strong resonances and legacies with phenomenology, or
occasional intersections with political/social theory. From an anecdotal
perspective, however, it seems like a scientific discipline that's
difficult for most people in the humanities to deal with.

I'm wondering why the desire to take up this position Kate? To cite Steven
Pinker from the Times piece:

"Critics of new media sometimes use science itself to press their case,
citing research that shows how 'experience can change the brain'. But
cognitive neuroscientists roll their eyes at such talk. Yes, every time we
learn a fact or skill the wiring of the brain changes; it’s not as if the
information is stored in the pancreas. But the existence of neural
plasticity does not mean the brain is a blob of clay pounded into shape by

Moreover, the neurological perspective doesn't seem to open up anything
profoundly new in terms of what we already know about media technologies
and distraction, even from Benjamin onwards. Continual Partial Attention
has been another recent way of phrasing this for the Web. Is it the
invitation to materially ground this theoretical line somehow that draws
you to the neurological turn? I'm wondering too about the way you're
citing this material - "the evidence is unmistakable" - is this really the
best way of engaging with this trend?

Just to emphasize, I'm genuinely curious about this move, these are not
meant as criticisms.

Michael Dieter
School of Culture and Communication
University of Melbourne

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