Chicken Little – Facebook, Myspace and Games ‘Infantalising’ Our Minds

(I hesitated to post this because I thought it might be overly snippy and snarky … but after re-reading the Guardian’s article and thinking about what Lady Greenfield had to say, I decided to go ahead and post – snarkiness and all. Sometimes I just have to vent.)

UGH! Read Anthony D Williams’ post and decided to follow the link to the Guardian where Susan Greenfield moans and groans about games, social media and basically anything digital.
I understand that The Guardian is not a science journal nor technical, peer-reviewed publication … so it would be unreasonable for me to demand that they include the data sources for Greenfield’s assertions. (Although a link to her research would be more than appropriate – but no dice)

I also wish that the Guardian had a warning underneath the article’s title … Warning – Reading these Assertions and Drinking a Beverage Will Result in Spewing Said Liquid from Your Mouth, Potentially Damaging any Computer Equipment that Is Nearby

“It might be helpful to investigate whether the near total submersion
of our culture in screen technologies over the last decade might in
some way be linked to the threefold increase over this period in
prescriptions for methylphenidate, the drug prescribed for
attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.”

Wow! So many “if’s” and “might’s” and “might be’s” … Does she really expect to be taken seriously? Alas, I think so. And alas, I think there will be plenty of folks who will be happy to listen to Lady Chicken Little Greenfield.

That she is “an expert” – at least being degreed and working as a professor – may be just the thing for others to jump on this bandwagon without really considering whether there’s a single bit of evidence to back up the assertions.
After all, it wasn’t too terribly long ago that an army of experts were paraded in front of the US Congress and claimed that listening to Judas Priest or Twisted Sister would lead young people to commit acts of violence, perhaps even to commit suicide.

And some of this just seems such nonsense (my comments in bold here):

She also warned against “a much more marked preference for the
here-and-now, where the immediacy of an experience trumps any regard
for the consequences. After all, whenever you play a computer game, you
can always just play it again; everything you do is reversible.(Whoah there! I remember yelling “do over” as a kid when playing so many games – non digital ones at that! Does she really mean that the ability to repeat and do over is reserved only for the current crop of games?)

The emphasis is on the thrill of the moment, the buzz of rescuing the
princess in the game.
(This sentence just doesn’t follow from the previous one. If games allow for quick, easy ‘do overs’ then the emphasis is on being able to approach puzzles and problems from several or many differenat approaches.
However, taking this sentence at face value … this can be said of all games whether digital or not …)

No care is given for the princess herself, for
the content or for any long-term significance, because there is none.
(Huh?!? So, rescuing the princess could never translate into care for the princess … I’m confused)

This type of activity, a disregard for consequence, can be compared
with the thrill of compulsive gambling or compulsive eating.

Wow! This last sentence is a huge leap and totally unsupported. Her argument seems to be:
Games allow you to go back and repeat (or even be played over again)
This repeatability only emphasizes instant gratification
Repeatibility also reinforces a disregard for consequences
Therefore this engenders compulsive and addictive behaviors

I would have thought that being able to repeat and do-over in a game is precisely a result of the consequences of my actions … “that choice didn’t work – in fact, I died. Hmmmm – let me try this instead to beat this level”

It is just so clear that Greenfield does not get it. That she’s going to have her bevy of followers and folks parroting her concerns is appalling. I’m hoping that this isn’t the case. She may have good intentions – but the amount of misinformation, logical leaps of fancy, and outright nonsense makes me cringe.


About Rory

I make my home in the central part of the Garden State along with my family. When I'm not working as an Instructional Designer (focusing mostly on Web-Based learning ... and other eLearning technologies) or researching something, I'm found at home playing computer or video games. Among other things, I volunteer as a choir member and catechist for 8th graders at my parish.
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5 Responses to Chicken Little – Facebook, Myspace and Games ‘Infantalising’ Our Minds

  1. Tonia says:

    Psst, I think the word you seek is infantilising

  2. Rory says:

    Thanks, Tonia. Fixed it – whew! Glad no one saw that … lol

  3. Gavin Rolph says:

    I actually didnt have any trouble following her reasoning. Being able to play a game again, even though trying a new strategy, does encourage a lack of concern for consequences and instant gratification.

  4. Rory says:

    Thanks for your comment, Gavin.
    It’s not a matter of her reasoning being difficult to follow – it’s that her conclusions are not supported by data.
    I’m interested in how you, as well, are able to state unequivocally that taking advantage of an aspect of games – that of repeatability – necessarily results in inconsequentialism.
    And why is it particularly true of digital games, given that being able to repeat a game is part of non-digital experiences as well. Would a game of hopsctoch or pinochle be as detrimental as is the claim for digital-based games?

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