Archive for October 2009

Yes, ours is a dying society

October 29, 2009

Writing for The Sunday Times in February 2005, author and journalist Andrew Sullivan did a thought provoking piece entitled ”Society is dead”. The story which later appeared amongst other writers’ works in a collection entitled: Ideas, insights and arguments – a non fiction collection (2008) focuses on a people grossly enmeshed in a technological world.

In “Society is dead”, Sullivan highlights the impact of the simple MP3 player on the lives of folks in an American suburb. He observes that iPods which belts iTunes from iMacs are drawing people into their own self-dominated iWorlds where they become iSelves – shunning any opportunity that might provide them with a new experience.

As learners, we are also thoroughly cocooned in our own iWorlds which have impacted negatively on our academic progress and effectiveness. Look around in our higher learning institutions and you will spot shiny wires stubbornly extending from the ears down to the pockets where the sleek MP3 players are safely tucked.

Our obsession with such gadgets has therefore compromised our seriousness as learners. One can easily attend a discotheque while quietly pretending to be engrossed in a book. The riotous iTunes belted by the iPods can make one seem to be present in a place yet absent. Close yet so far away. Keen yet absentminded.

Such is the effect of embracing certain technological gizmos hook, line and sinker. Talking to folks in their iStates is tantamount to wasting time. They will respond with a blank stare; their mind transfixed in their iWorlds.

But the addictive iPod is not the only technological cocoon that is slowly becoming the bane of our existence. The internet with its avalanche of social networks is proving to be more of a curse than a blessing.

Indeed; we are being easily propelled by whimsical winds of technology. How else would you explain the idea of one chatting early morning; exchanging real trivia over a social network at the expense of academic work?

Some institutions are trying to restrict access to such sites. The bad news is that there are addicts who always find ways of hacking in! Furthermore, the modern phone is more than just a phone. It is a mini computer on which facebook amongst other social network sites are easily accessible.

With such devices, you can be present in class physically; but mentally be yodeling and honking in some dirty joint somewhere. You can as well seem to be attentive in class; nodding impressively at the instructor’s points when in reality you are engaged in a sensational exchange with your beloved one via Facebook.

Of course the merits of Facebook and her other numerous close cousins cannot be overlooked. Facebook alone, with its millions of users worldwide is such a powerful tool for networking. However, like anything else; the danger lies in addiction and abuse.

The addiction is not only limited to the leaner at college. It has penetrated into offices where workers often struggle to balance between getting engrossed in a lively chat and performing their official duties. Steal a glance on computer screens in most offices and you will often notice the minimized screen; chat in progress.

To the learner, it is worse. You can imagine how it feels for your research project to wait because your colleague with whom you share a PC is busy Facebooking.

Then there are search engines that have made academic life to be full of shortcuts. Cut-and-paste is now a favored option to many students. After all, who is willing to rack brains for an arduous research when a copy of a similar task can be downloaded freely from the internet – thanks to Google and good old Wikipedia?

Ours is therefore a life characterized by shortcuts. Plagiarism is on the rise. Scholastic laziness is lavishly blooming.

The effect of such a lackluster and laissez faire attitude toward scholarship is that the young scholar is no longer an authority on matters academic. You rarely come across his byline in academic journals and relevant pages in local dailies. His voice is often conspicuously absent in many an intellectual forum.

Gone are days when he would bite the bullet for a noble course. The Mau is begging for rescuers but the problem solver is busy Facebooking. The country is bereft of fresh ideas to keep its wheels moving but they won’t certainly emanate from a cut-and-paste mindset.

Ours is thus a Facebook, Google and Wikipedia generation. It might as well be a wasted generation. Shall we really have anything substantial to show when ‘posterity will vainly ask for proof of our intellectual merit?”

The young scholar is no longer the epitome of intellectual rigor. With much focus on clean ‘As’ on his transcript; the scholar has perfected the art of shortcuts just to color the transcript. It is seldom in his genuine interest to ‘feed his spirit with the bread of books or quench his thirst at the wells of thought’ – save for the good grade.

Long are the days when he articulated key concepts in his academic province with clarity and competence. I recall as a young kid back in primary school when we could envy him whenever he landed in the village with a thud. Such were moments when heated debates on ideologies such as Marxism and capitalism became alive.

Though it was all Greek to us by then, we held the scholars in high esteem. One of them, now a senior journalist, inspired me with his good grasp of journalistic concepts. As a result of such early exposure; I ended up in a journalism class and I am still yet to quench my academic thirst.

But such passion for matters academic, such mojo; such impetus is slowly atrophying. In an era where serious reading seems to obtain only when exams are around the corner and where Facebook and MP3 players are taking over cataclysmically; such dissipation is expected. Ours is therefore a dying society –Andrew Sullivan speaks for many!

 

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Putting all eggs in one basket

October 25, 2009