Nov 28, 2016, Jack Shafer of Politico, in response to Donald Trump’s latest, ‘100-megaton stink bomb’ as he characterizes the President Elect’s latest twitter rampage regarding ‘millions of illegal ballots’ cast for Clinton, suggests some new rules for responding to Trump. To counter Trump’s tendency to toss off provocations to divert attention and discussion from damaging stories, for example, the exhaustive New York Times piece about his numerous business conflicts of interests and the complications they pose for his presidency.

The rules include a suggestion to not leap to the bait, consider that Trump tweets have a loyal following disinterested in objective reality and that this will only alter as his promises to return jobs, to drain the swamp of special interests and to eliminate competition in the form of immigrants and trade deals, fail to materialize into actual policies benefiting his supporters.

His second point contains an answer at least as far as the responsibility of journalism lies, to The Shallows, it is worth quoting in full,

Yes, Trump trolls us, especially the press. We shouldn’t take his bait, but that’s not the same as ignoring him. The context in which the press adresses his tweets is paramount: If Trump makes an unsupported claim as he did on Twitter yesterday, it is news; but the news is not the claim but the fact that he’s advancing a wildly unfounded claim. That point belongs in the headline, the first sentence of the first paragraph, and elsewhere in the piece. Always pair the latest Trump deception with the news story he’s deflecting attention away from. Feel free to qualify Trump’s thrust by writing something like “in an apparent attempt to bury negative news about his recent proposal” when he tweets his cockamamie best.

Posted by: marlenebarbera | November 28, 2016

Surfing, Skimming, and Scanning, Oh My!

distraction-age-teenNicholas Carr’s, The Shallows, claims that the Internet is a medium based on interruption and has lead to a change in the way people read and process information.  In, This Is Your Brain Online, NPR’s All Things Considered, asks, if we’ve come to associate the acquisition of wisdom with deep reading and solitary concentration, what are we to make of Carr’s position that this is not found online?

As a lifelong solitary deep reader, I find Carr credible, with limitations. Often, online, I find myself in rather a frenzy to get to the bottom of a story, chasing links, desperately searching for, The Answer, or irrefutable proof. These cannot be found in isolation.  The internet stands accused of having rendered us all shallow without a concomitant project of undoing the shallowness or even answering it. The problem is that you cannot answer shallowness with profundity. Most people, engaged in their own lives, have no interest in deep analysis of cultural events or political shenanigans. I see no path in which you can force people to delve deeply. We have always been in the Shallows, this is not new. What is new is being able to measure exactly how shallow and distracted we are.

Sadly, we are now all trying to win the spin game and get the message across. Slow contemplative thinking, much revered by Carr, is not everyone’s cup of tea. The future likely belongs to whoever best captures the fractured attention and rampant imagination of our electorate.

Posted by: sweadickblog | November 28, 2016

Engaging Social Capital on Facebook


In 2008, I began my first fundraising and running journey for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). I remember the idea of a “social” fundraising effort by engaging my Facebook community wasn’t just scary, it sounded as stupid to me as running my first marathon. I had no business running a marathon, so I didn’t want to share that with my world, and did anyone even know what leukemia or lymphoma was or why they (or I) should care?

I have learned that people do want to support you and that I can engage my Facebook network to raise thousands of dollars for charity every year. I can use Facebook in many different ways and know that some are supportive of my passions, some respect my commitment to volunteering and fundraising for research and cures for others, some donate because they have a connection to blood cancer, and many are just pretty amazed that I undertake this incredibly hard effort of finishing 26.2 miles, again and again.

In the field of communications, “social capital has often been operationalized as psychometric measures of perceived access to resources derived from one’s social connections” (Ellison, Vitak, Gray, & Lampe, 2014). Using Facebook for fundraising is not a new idea, but have you ever tried monetizing the social capital of your Facebook network or learning about a charity someone in your social circle supports? This week is Giving Tuesday, maybe it’s time to check out the positive energy and fundraising power of your Facebook community.

Posted by: timiracobbs | November 28, 2016

Communication Can Move Mountains (or 10,000 pound boulders)

Aaron Belkin, director of an advocacy think tank, was one of the masterminds behind the dismantling of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Using a strategic combination of counter-narrative and iteration, Belkin and his partners got rid of what he called the 10,000 pound boulder in the middle of the road to repeal: entrenched belief.

Belkin realized that the “gays as victims of oppression” narrative was not working to reverse the public opinion that “gays in the military compromised unit cohesion” or hurt the military – a narrative that showed up repeatedly despite countless research articles supporting the contrary. Belkin and his team decided to use a direct counter-narrative: “Gays don’t hurt the military, discrimination does.”

Belkin says they watched the news cycle closely for opportunities to insert their narrative along with existing research in order to obtain media coverage (like this New York Times article about a shortage of Arabic linguists compromising military intelligence after a round of discharges under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell). By doing this over and over, the steady drip of timely examples of government waste and blatant hypocrisy ultimately reversed public opinion on gays in the military.

Another key part to their strategy? Patience.

Belkin and his team reiterated their counter-narrative for 10 years before the policy was repealed in 2011, allowing openly gay members to serve side by side with their comrades to protect and defend their country as one.



Belkin, A., & Gibbons, S. (2016, April 6). Dismantling “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (SSIR). Retrieved November 28, 2016, from

Frank, N. (2009). ‘Unfriendly Fire’. Retrieved November 28, 2016, from

Posted by: akabigmo | November 21, 2016

The Internet as an Invornment

“When we go online, we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning.” 

This concept really stuck with me throughout the reading, considering the times we’re living in. As I get more frustrated with how things are going, while I’m on the internet, I find myself rushing through Facebook posts and the subsequent comment sections. I’m not even sure If I read the entire response, or if I’m just skimming it to find the points I’m most likely to address. The most poignant post is that last clause, “superficial learning.”

Despite constantly studying media, I often forget that the internet is also a medium, because there’s an illusion that the environment is created and tailored to my needs.

Carr doesn’t think it’s impossible to think deeply while surfing the internet, “but that’s not the type of thinking the technology encourages and rewards.” 

In the first few days following the election, I avoided social media completely, but as reality set in and began going back and using it far more frequently. I’ve also been getting a lot more interaction with my posts, averaging around 40 likes per post for the past two days.

Hurried and distracted thoughts produce shallow reactions. I think this is something everyone can relate to. What is it about the Internet’s environment that helps the mind forget that?


Posted by: heyschaefferyahoocom | November 21, 2016

What Have I Done?

In “The Shallows” Nicholas Carr discusses how the neuroplasticity allows the mind to physically restructure neuron pathways in order to more efficiently accomplish tasks.  For instance, you spend your time scanning webpages, your brain will become proficient at shallow speed reading; however, the neural pathways associated with deep reading might atrophy. Much like our muscles, which are trained and grown through exercise, the human brain is a product of its activity.


I play a competitive video game called Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. At any given time, there are roughly 500,000 players online. I started playing as an activity to do with my brothers who are all geographically separated. At this point, I’m proud/ashamed to say that I’ve logged more than 450 hours in-game.

The game requires extremely fast visual processing and reaction time. The difference between winning and losing a match often comes down to milliseconds, and a network lag of more than half a second makes the game unplayable. Furthermore, the game is played in matches that last about an hour each. Let’s just say, it’s intense.

The book makes me wonder what playing Counter-Strike has done to me. What neural pathways were rewritten? If the brain can be trained like a muscle, then what have I gained? My visual acuity and reaction time has likely increased. Thinking about the brain as an instrument that changes depending on one’s activities, puts pressure on the individual to engage in meaningful behavior? What have you thought about changing after reading this book?

Posted by: jennagalbreath | November 21, 2016

The Shallow Election. A Memoir.

Two pieces of this week’s reading resonated with me in light of the election:

Carr discusses “sleeping on it,” or taking a break and returning later with fresh eyes. Later, in mulling the effect of over-tasking on our brain, he quoted Seneca, “to be everywhere is to be nowhere.”

I believe that during this election, our weak muscle memory in strategic thinking and deeper problem solving caught up with us. We read headlines and tweets, skimmed longer articles or ignored them altogether. We were distracted by excessive hyperlinking. We tweeted thoughts immediately, instead of grappling with them longer. We decided there was a one-size-fits-all answer (healthcare or not), (wall or not) for some of society’s biggest problems, but these issues weren’t solvable by algorithms or calculations. This election required a human brain, not a computer. These are structural and complex issues that deserve, and require, our grappling, discussions, and unconscious thought space.

Had the clickbait and immediate gratification of quick quips been less prevalent, perhaps we would have invested more to allow ourselves think fully in one space. Carr would say that technology did not solve our problems this year, rather it brought them to glaring light.

Posted by: Keegan Clements-Housser | November 21, 2016

Writing in a Distracted World


While writing this blog entry, I was distracted four times. I got a message on Facebook; I re-checked my work e-mail; I checked something on Wikipedia; I got a text from a friend. That number could easily increase by the time of posting.

So when Nicholas Carr took a moment near the end of his book “The Shallows” to digress on how difficult he had found it to write a 200+ page book in our modern day and age, with its endless distractions, I sympathized. Writing now after 10,000 hours of practice is harder than when I first started writing professionally a decade ago (though clearly I’ve improved my hyperlinking skills).

Our high plasticity brains are at least partially responsible for that. They adapt to the environments they find themselves in, as Carr points out in his book, and so it is that the process of writing comes in irregular bursts of information—just as information generally comes to us these days.

So what happens as our information becomes increasingly rapid in its delivery and execution? How will our brains adapt to this style of information gathering? Will long-form articles and books disappear? Will our thought processes fundamentally change? How much of a choice do we even have in deciding how we process information? Like Carr, I have no answers, but it’s a question that we must keep exploring.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a Facebook debate to attend to. Assuming I don’t get distracted by this YouTube video first.

Posted by: Donna Z. Davis, Ph.D. | November 15, 2016

Ah HA! Huff Post says Bernie can still become president!

Just as we were talking about in class this evening… Please, read on!

Posted by: heyschaefferyahoocom | November 14, 2016

The Messenger and the Pen


Last year, I realized that I couldn’t write in cursive anymore. I scrawled down a paragraph. It was an inky mess, a hodge-podge of block letters and cursive. I tried to remember what the capital letters looked like and draw them. I knew I had lost a skill. The whole point of cursive is to NOT think about crafting letters. I remember my teacher told me over and over to stop “drawing” my letters, rather instructing me to let them flow as a series of expert strokes onto the page. I didn’t use cursive much after I god to college, but it never occurred to me that it was a perishable skill. In my case, at least, crafting 24 interjoining characters using only muscle memory turned out to be a little more complex than a let’s say— riding a bike. After years of disuse, my brain had gotten rid of my skill. It’s what Jefferey Schwartz called “survival of the busiest.”

I’m curious what my writing would look like if I continued to write predominantly in cursive. I write differently when I write on a word processor versus when I write by hand. I’m less likely to use run on sentences, and it’s easier to rearrange characters in order to clarify a message. In 2009 grade schools had the option to stop teaching cursive. This generation has always felt more comfortable with a computer than with a wide-ruled notebook. Will that have an effect on the content they produce? Could it be positive?

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