Keith Gascoigne

Contentious Blog Post


Distraction is the Message

I have had a static website for around 14 years but late 2013 I started a Wordress CMS, interactive blog. Since then I have received countless updates about blogs and blogging. I am amazed by the number of styles for blogs and all the additions. In fact, I am overwhelmed by them. This isn’t to say that they are bad but what is the result of all the additions and enhancements to our online reading?

All right, a picture can replace a thousand words sometimes and maybe a short video inserted into a text or an animated diagram or a voice recording or a… The point I am trying to make is that they are all distractions from the task of making sense of what the text is trying to convey.

If I am reading a text on philosophy or sociology or news about the Ukraine, which is a complicated thing to understand and difficult to grasp, then I need all my powers of attention to understand the implications, the deep meanings of the information in the text. If I read a book I need to attend to the textual meaning and this is easy to do using a physical book because there are no, or few, other distractions.

However, in an ebook or any etext on a computer screen we can have hyperlinks (which take the reader out of the text), any amount of images; videos, sound recordings and so on. It seems that whatever the message in the text might be it is not easy to see it in the text with all the distractions of style and ‘enhancements’ on the screen ‘page’.

It is becoming increasingly obvious that it is the form of the message that is the message, complete with images in the headers, colored backgrounds, strange fonts, colored texts, links, page decorations etc.. Consequently, the meaning in the text that I now hold in my mind flitters away while I glance at the nontext items, so as a result of my break in attention I have lost the deep meaning; my understanding of the deep reading remains on the surface of my mind and I lose it.

Marshall McLuhan stated that the form of the medium influences how the message is perceived whether it be film, TV, a book, etc.. I see the truth of that but what I am saying is that the form is now taking over the textual message. So if a young, impressionable reader is being conditioned to see that the meaning is the form of the message then what next?

Text is becoming redundant and if texts do become redundant then how do people learn? There is something deeply disturbing about all this.


Class: Language Use and Abuse

Tags: diversions, language use, reading, media-control, society, writing.

Published: 2014-05-28.