As someone with a well-vested interest in digital forums for writing (blogs,wikis, social media, YouTube), it may come as a surprise that I choose to publish many of my online thoughts using WordPress, such as the site you’re reading now. Yes, I have a firm, though not expert, grasp of HTML and CSS, and have designed websites in that way in the past. I’ve never used Dreamweaver, however; and I only rarely write actual HTML code anymore, if that can even be called true coding.
Instead, I’ve built my personal website using WordPress; my professional site using Wix; and designed a digital literary publication for my previous institution that also makes use of WordPress.
This coming summer, I will begin work on my Master’s Thesis, an 80-page scholarly work that is the final step towards my MA in English from the University at Buffalo. My chosen field, digital medias and rhetorics, is considered “hot” in academia because of its constant innovation and rapidly intensifying relevance in the age of computer domination.
I’ve been reading N. Katherine Hayles’ How We Think, a work that explores questions of technogenesis, how humanity has developed alongside technology. The plasticity, malleability and adaptability of the human brain extends beyond the neocortex into realms of extended cognition: technology, specifically the computer interfaces, websites, operating systems, video games, text message and Twitter screens, rearview automobile cameras, ATM and subway machines, even self-checkout lanes at the local Wegmans (or Tops/Walmart, for you non-New Yorkers).
These technologies all point in common directions, and orient the brain in ways both seen and unseen. Hayles makes the case that hyperreading, associated with the light skimming of websites and social media sites, has become the norm for many other applications of word reading. There is a constant influx of new , flexible information streams which must be sorted, and some of it discarded; and there is typically a low threshold for boredom when reading digital texts.
Computer programs now have sensors that “sense” in similar ways humans do, responding, concluding and acting in response to the sensations they receive. Digital platforms have changed how networks of humans interact- file sharing, hacktivism, even MMORPG games. They can disrupt existing power structures, even capitalism, the invading poison that seeps into the skeleton structures of everything else that exists.
How did we think fifty years ago? How do we think now? How have our brains, and therefore our thoughts and thought formulations, been irrevocably altered?
Hope everyone else’s spring is better than Buffalo’s- six inches of snow are predicted this weekend. It’s April!