sábado, junio 21, 2008

Computadoras e Internet: ¿afectan la mente, personalidad, identidad?

¿Está la computadora formando la personalidad de los jóvenes de una manera diferente? Navegando por la Web encontré una referencia a un artículo publicado recientemente en New Scientist, sobe una neurofisióloga, la baronesa Susan Grennfield que expone la tesis de su nuevo libro: ID: The Quest for Identity in the 21st Century.

Las ideas principales de su libro se pueden resumir de la siguiente manera:
1. The mammalian brain, including ours, is "plastic" - human neuronal circuits are malleable, sensitive, easily shaped by external influences and by one's activities (witness the famed research showing that memorising street navigation had enlarged the hippocampus of London's licensed black taxi cab drivers).

2. She suggests the human mind isn't a mere abstraction, but is "the personalisation of the brain, a set of neuronal connections peculiar to each individual, driven in turn by that person's particular experience and interaction with the outside world".

3. Of course, the outside world now includes technology. (She also discussed biotechnology etc but I'll skip over that here.)

4. Might living effectively in 2 dimensions via a computer screen affect neuronal connectivity? (It's been estimated that western children spend about 6 hours a day in front of a computer screen currently.)

5. More specifically, would "continued interaction with a fast-paced, sensory-laden, multimedia environment predispose a brain to shorter attention spans?" Is it just coincidence that prescriptions of methylphenidate (Ritalin) for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have trebled these last 10 years?

6. She also suggests that "the strongly visual, literal world of the screen" could affect our ability to develop the imagination and form the kind of abstract concepts that have hitherto come from first hearing stories, then reading oneself. "Will future generations prefer the here-and-now, opting for a strongly sensory experience over a more personalised cognitive narrative? When you play a computer game to rescue the princess, it is the experience that counts: you don't care about the feelings or thoughts of the heroine. When you read a book, the princess's welfare and fate is the whole point."

7. Following on from that, could "here-and-now, fast-paced sensory experiences" change how future generations see themselves and construct their identity? Could they choose to stay in a "more infantile world of passive reactivity to sensations", perhaps even "a world where there is no personal narrative at all, no meaning, no context, just the experience of the thrill of the moment?"
8. In her book ID: The Quest for Identity in the 21st Century, she suggests 4 scenarios for identity:
a. "Nobody" - an abrogation of the sense of self, hedonism, blowing our minds, letting ourselves go. She posits "that the newer technologies may predispose future generations to seek just this sort of condition."
b. "Someone" - the persona that prospers under liberal western consumerism.
c. "Anyone" - the persona of the collective identity in fundamentalist or communist cultures.
d. "Eureka" - "where the experience of creativity enables you to feel both fulfilled and to have a sense of individual identity (none of the first 3 scenarios seems satisfactory when taken alone). But she notes that some might object that the Eureka scenario could produce "a dysfunctional society of egocentric, eccentric individuals".
9. She theorises that newer technologies may predispose future generations to seek the "Nobody" scenario: "Twenty-first-century technology is giving us, for the first time and en masse, more time each day and the chance to live to an active old age, and this brings with it greater options for creating or experiencing a dystopia or a utopia than at any previous time."

10. While the dystopia is a risk, she also suggests: "Perhaps one answer would be to promote a mixed portfolio in which future generations flip from "let yourself go" (Nobody), to selfless, collective working (Anyone), to an occasional sense of personalised achievement (Someone), based not on superiority of status or possessions but on that internal glow that comes with insight and creativity (Eureka). Now that might even be fun."
Vía A Consuming Experience.

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