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Charles Carter <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
SciArt-L Discussion List-for Natural Science Illustration- <[log in to unmask]>
Sat, 2 Aug 2008 13:37:32 -0400
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Hey Britt and Frank -

I think we've been moving to this current situation for decades now -  
starting with the advent of Photography (Or earlier).  Back in the  
1970s a writer by the name of Harlan Ellison wrote a book of political  
activism and television criticism called "The Glass Teat".  Part of it  
talked about how people were drawn into watching television and all of  
it's violence, sex and glory (Very milk toast when compared with the  
entertainment of today) and how hours could go by and kids would  
barely remember what they saw much less know how long they sat in  
front of the tube.

A teacher could turn on a TV in a noisy classroom and the kids would  
settle down and just turn their heads and watch it - even if it was  
just static.  Ellison should know about this stuff as he was also a  
prolific television writer (Sci-Fi mostly) and wrote a column for the  
LA Free Press.  Even back then we were talking about the death of  
reading and short attention spans of kids (Of which I was one of them).

Today TV is obviously not the only source of distraction.  I too worry  
about how long kids sit in front of various means of electronic  
entertainment and unknowingly and mindlessly let the world go by.  I  
guess it still comes down to parents and how we raise our kids.  A  
balance has to be struck - but what kind of balance is struck when the  
parents are former gamers themselves and technology users and who play  
games with their kids?

And as for adapting to the new style of learning  - - reaching out to  
the ADD generation?  Well - you have to understand where they are  
coming from to fully engage them and that is the challenge.  As an  
illustrator I have to do work that makes them want to explore an image  
- to be part of the landscape.  I feel in the future, interactive  
media will be the tool that lets them become part of the landscape of  
what ever subject is being taught.  Being it geology, astronomy,  
biology - anything where they can learn by doing and thus learn by  
experience - game technology will be used (And obviously is being  
used) to engage and pull in students to the subject matter.

Before we all start denouncing games in general - you forget that  
games are not like watching TV.  They fully engage your mind and  
senses and in many cases let kids (and adults) be part of larger  
communities that did not exist years ago in who they share the gaming  
experience with.

Games force kids to think - strategize and react to move ahead, level  
up and win.  If you don't believe me sit down with your kids and play  
a strategy game or the World of Warcraft - games are not passive like  
television and in the end I think that is where the answer lays for  
reaching kids now.   We just need to find ways to make the transition  
compelling and that takes time and effort and unfortunately in many  
cases, money.

But games do provide kids with something else - escape and that has  
it's own set of problems.  And of course it's passive in that you are  
just sitting there (Though that is even changing now with the Wii  
leading the way).

Personally I feel television is old school now - being slowly replaced  
by games and interactive experiences.  TV is almost like a niche  
thing.  The networks know this and create reality shows as opposed to  
higher level production styles of entertainment because it's cheaper  
and they have been losing market share for decades to cable and the  
internet.  The Discover channel,  History Channel and many others  
cater to an audience that wants to know stuff and these shows probably  
actually teach to some degree - but they teach with a large amount of  
entertainment value.

My feeling is that many kids have basically moved on and away from TV  
in some cases because games give them a more rewarding and immersive  
experience - one they can enjoy with their friends.

As for cream of the crop -

Britt - I don't think my case is special that I see only the cream of  
the crop.  But if that is the case then we should be even more  
compelled to do what ever it takes to reach that 99% of those other  
kids.  As for the iconography that seems to be replacing the word -  
this has been happening for a long time as David mentioned when we  
used images to define an event - we are now just much further along as  
a society where it's becoming ubiquitous in how kids communicate  
nearly on every level of their lives.  Photography (Or if you follow  
the camera obscura  thesis by Hockney/Falco) - this has been going on  
for a long time moving much more rapidly over the last couple of  
decades as technology has moved ahead so quickly it's virtually  
impossible to keep up with each new change.

Anyway - that's my two bits for Mieke's thesis.  Sorry if I shot  
gunned around the topic.


On Aug 1, 2008, at 4:41 PM, Britt Griswold wrote:

> Chuck makes the case for "the New learning style" pretty  
> effectively.  And sometimes the haze of history makes the past look  
> better than it really was.  It is surely different. And the  
> recognition on a more formal level that there are different styles  
> of learning is a good thing for many, many people who fall through  
> the educational cracks.
> But....
> Have you ever studied the amount of information and concepts that  
> are actually transmitted in a hour of fact based television?  It is  
> appallingly low in my opinion.  The effort expending in keeping it  
> entertaining is huge. One talented person with a word processor can  
> do wonders in passing on information for a hundredth of the cost.   
> When you add a talented illustrator, and a book results, you have  
> covered a vast majority of the learning population. It would take  
> ten times the viewer's time and a hundred times the cost to try and  
> get that same information imparted by video.
> Chuck, I wonder if the circles you run in expose you to only the  
> cream of the raw youthful talent that does amazing things with  
> digital art? Those are people with the curiosity and drive that  
> would not let them be stopped no matter what had sparked them (race  
> cars, mountain climbing, chess, etc.)  I worry that for every one of  
> those you see, there are 99 out there whose motivation and curiosity  
> has been sapped by endless hours parked in front of the TV and play  
> station, so that they have wasted 10 years not learning how to find  
> out what they need to make a rich and fulfilling life for  
> themselves.  I am not claiming this is the case, but it is my  
> worry.  I feel I could have been one of those 99, but Art pulled me  
> through, even with just a modicum of talent.  Maybe I am selling the  
> 99 short, but maybe the distractions of an infotainment culture are  
> in fact an overload to the orderly training of the human brain, at  
> least on a mass scale.
> The human brain is probably coping by prioritizing the inputs  
> differently. I personally have found the ability to look up almost  
> anything on Google makes me look a whole lot smarter ;-) It is like  
> adding a memory module to my brain. So I don't think about  
> memorizing details as I did when I was younger.  That might not be a  
> good thing in some cases. It can slow execution speed down. But I  
> have enough background acquired the old fashion way to have some  
> judgment on when to believe what I read and when I should suspend  
> judgment and get more information, and when to say it is bunk.  Plus  
> if you don't know what to ask Google, you don't get the answer you  
> need.  That last part is the background you have (by knowing what  
> "EU" stands for.) - that came from reading.  I could not recommend a  
> student substitute 10 times as much video for reading matter as a  
> efficient way to get an education.  Maybe interactive learning could  
> substitute, but the development costs seem much higher than a!
>  good book, maybe that is changing?
> I think studies have show that the brain goes into a different mode  
> when being fed video information. It is passive, not active  
> searching. That does not sound good to me.
> So I am in a position where I am suspending judgment and seeking  
> more input...
> Britt