On ‘Mind Over Mass Media’ by Pinker

Pinker, S. (2010). “Mind Over Mass Media.” The New Your Times Online. Retrieved on 23 June 2010: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/11/opinion/11Pinker.html

Summary: Pinker’s article tries to prove the positive affect of new media technologies on mental development. Pinker observes, that the development of information technologies have always caused panic, but such scares usually are for no reasons. As an example, the author connects decreasing crime rate with emerging new technologies. In his understanding “[i]f electronic media were hazardous to intelligence, the quality of science would be plummeting” by scientist are using information technologies. By accepting, that “experience can change the brain” he argues, that new technology is not “a blob of clay pounded into shape by experience” and there are differences between the sorts of experiences. The article points, that the knowledge of accomplished people is one-sided. In Pinker’s opinion people are elementally changing by the usage of a certain technology. The article points that people need to use new technology with self-control. As the author concludes, that “the Internet and information technologies are helping us manage, search and retrieve our collective intellectual output [… and] technologies are the only things that will keep us smart”.

Opinion: On one hand I can fully agree with Pinter’s argument, because the changes of the technological framework does not make us stupid, only requires different forms of capacities and knowledge to be considered as ‘smart’. The term ‘smart’ does not mean anything universal, its meaning is always adopting to the recent conditions. For example being smart today might mean the effective usage of a search engine.

At the other hand the author is not able to prove well his argument, his examples are highly problematic. The decreasing crime rate does not mean, that it was not increasing by the invention of different technologies. Pinker can not prove, that the quality of science is not decreasing. The article also blurs academic ways of knowledge creation with daily practices how masses get information.

The article is to design of online services, because new technologies might have wide effect, if they are user friendly, to have great impact on the way how masses get informed or share content. Online services make information searchable and shareable so the structure of the information needs to be logical. These service needs to be easily usable for non-experts. In the competitive market the services also needs to attract the users. By using more and more online services we learn their logic, we are more and more adapted to their usage. Younger generations grow up in an environment, where the usage of these services is obvious so they might adapt better, than others.