We’ve all heard the familiar description of 21st century life: we live in a world where everything is superfast and supersized; we run around dazed and confused by the speed of change; we’re stuck in a haze of hyper-consumerism surrounded by a constant buzz of fervent communication.

And against this backdrop we turn in our millions to organic food, rural escapes and recycled or handmade goods. We are exhausted, we are jaded and we have had enough. Affluenza, they call it.

One of the first casualties of this attack on the flatteringly termed ‘rat race’ is digital media. It fuels the fire, sceptics say. It stresses us out. It gives our kids ADHD. It destroys our social skills and defiles our language.

This story is so well-thumbed it has worn into a cliché. But is it true?

My question is this. Are we over-stimulated?

And in fact – is there even such a thing as too much stimulation?

(Image by thebrok on Flickr under creative commons)

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Comment by Nicola Sinclair on June 15, 2010 at 11:52
This is really interesting - if I were a betting person I'd have said that most members of 38minutes would argue quite passionately that we're not overstimulated, digital media is a godsend etc etc. Personally I'm torn but I think this shows that the vast majority of people working in modern media (at least those on 38minutes) have a pretty balanced view of creativity in relation to digital progress. Refreshing!

Thanks for the link Meagan.
Comment by Meagan Dechen on June 15, 2010 at 11:46
You beat me to the punch - I was just going to write a new blog post about some research that came out supporting the idea that multi-tasking is counterproductive. Apparently people who think (or are thought to be) better multitaskers are the worst at it. And, every time we switch between tasks we pay a price in quality. Being so over stimulated means we're all putting out poorer quality work (something I think many of us are intuitively aware of). The full podcast is available at NPR Talk of the Nation
Comment by Nicola Sinclair on June 14, 2010 at 10:52
I agree, I guess as with anything it's up to education to take the positive aspects (the opportunity to make learning more personalised and independent) and balance out the negative impacts (the tendency to generalise and move too quickly without grasping the principles).

As for employers demands, they can be ridiculous. I remember graduating with joint hons in literature and seeing a job ad for an assistant editor asking for a degree, four years' experience in publishing, experience in events, PR & digital and all the usual personal skills - starting salary £14k. I despaired.

But is that the same as being over-stimulated? I'd argue that the stimulation itself is a good thing - it's how we manage all those demands that needs to be addressed.
Comment by TuDocs Ltd on June 13, 2010 at 17:08
This debate covers a very wide range of issues - I can only speak on behalf of job-seekers and students learning computer programming languages.

I think that there are so many different programs; so many different platforms; so many different apps; so many different devices (e.g. individual brands of mobile phone); so many TV channels (I have Sky box); and so many possible channels of communication available nowadays. No wonder graduates cannot secure professional jobs.

Whenever I see a job advert, my heart sinks as I read the long list of demands for all manner of skills and experiences. Employers might as well re-write the Treaty of Versailles. It is simply impossible to meet all their expectations, and I am thankful that I am not a computing student myself. The market is so complicated and so dynamic, that my head goes into a tail-spin even when I walk into Currys or PC World.

I for one have long believed that there is too much complexity in the technological market. I am an old fashioned believer in teaching students maybe 2 or 3 programs to the highest standard, rather than exposing them to trinkets of maybe 2 dozen different programs or platforms. I'm not even 30, and I've lost touch at least 5 years ago...
Comment by Anthony J Frame on June 12, 2010 at 23:32
I would say the nature of learning is changing but, for the majority, it is for the worse. I think in any craft / subject / pursuit - whatever - you have to adhere to simple principles and disciplines. There's far more access to information now but a lot of people - younger people especially - just jump to certain parts of the information they are seeking. So, instead of reading the start, middle and end, so to speak, they just find the part with the relative information they are seeking and use that. Filmmaking is a perfect example. There are a lot of special effects videos on YouTube. Teens who have videos with them and their friends flying - being knocked over by cars etc. of which some are pretty well done, in terms of the effects they have achieved. However, whilst their 'Heroes' flying effect is pretty slick, the rest of the video - the framing, the pacing of editing, the sequence of shots - is all pretty awful. Not to mention that they cross the line numerous times. This, to me, is a perfect example of what we've talked about. They jump straight into doing the big finale but have no interest in learning the principles and actual art itself because that requires patience, perseverance and a great deal, to an extent, of study and thought.
Comment by Nicola Sinclair on June 12, 2010 at 10:23
I've heard that said by a number of people who work with young people and I quite believe it. However it makes me wonder if the nature of learning is simply changing? Perhaps young people are less able to sit for hours studying but have greater capacity to rapidly separate masses of information and decide which is reliable etc.
Comment by Anthony J Frame on June 11, 2010 at 22:59
I would answer that with a simple YES. At my work - my day job, that is - the people younger than me, in their twenties and slightly younger, have never read books or have even read a book in years, since school. They can't spell that well and their grammar is shocking. I'm not trying to generalise but I'm just basing these facts on the younger people I am around. I also read somewhere that a lot of students now have problems studying - concentrating, because they use the web so much that they jump from one web page to the next, thus they get fragments of information on the subject they are studying. As opposed to sitting down with a book and reading, in depth, for hours on end, on a topic or subject they are studying.
Comment by Stuart Cosgrove on June 11, 2010 at 14:25
Heres all the proof you need Twitter and its evangelists tried to 'claim credit' for the brave and passionate actions of a culturally rich people - shameful - attention-seeking digital fuds.

Comment by Nicola Sinclair on June 11, 2010 at 14:09
It did. And it brought an end to both World War 1 and WW2 - true story.
Comment by Stuart Cosgrove on June 11, 2010 at 14:07
Yes. Also feel that we receive so much media via 'churnalism' that its sometimes difficult to diffirentiate fact from presumption. This may even be growing via social emdia. I even knew people who thought Twitter helped the Iranian Revolution. It didn't


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