Monday, July 25, 2011

iBrain Chapter 7 : Reconnecting Face to Face

Well, I suppose this is what I get for missing the last day of class: the longest chapter in the book.  Haha, just kidding! :)

Alrightie, chapter seven starts off with an example of what is supposed to represent ordinary immigrant/native interaction.  The immigrant is polite, charismatic, and friendly, while the natives are rude, technology obsessed, and don't speak or make eye contact.  The immigrant makes the decision not to save his business via the native's obviously successful business plan because he's unable to relate to the native socially.

There is some very interesting discussion of a part of the brain called the insula, which is responsible for translating sensory experience into emotion.  The authors also discuss how this phenomenon partners with other parts of the brain to help us to experience the world in the varying, personal, specific ways that we all do.  Sociopathic people (those who lack the capacity for guilt, empathy, or love, and often commit crimes with no thought of the repercussions), are generally found to be lacking in function of these specific parts of the brain.

The rest of this chapter is devoted to instruction on how to behave in social situations, how to "survive" without this burgeoning generation's reliance on technology, and how to build self-esteem in the meantime.  It emphasizes reduction of technology time, and an increase of time social time spent face to face with real human beings (not surprising, considering the title of the chapter, I suppose).  I find it interesting, though, that we've been saying that the majority of the book seems to be aimed at immigrants, and yet the sort of self-help chapter is obviously aimed at natives.  I guess that'd be because our parents' generation can't possibly be technology dependent.  This is a stereotype that is present in quite a few places, including advertising!  Check out this Toyota commercial:

Honestly, I love this commercial.  I think it's hilarious.  But at the same time, it paints the natives in a very negative light.  The daughter is spacey, unable to complete reading an entire article, and chooses to spend an absolutely gorgeous day indoors.  The parents are active, social, physically fit, and happy.  This is part of a series of commercials that run in this vein.  The young adults are at home by themselves while their parents go out partying and having fun.

I think, perhaps, that I was not the right person to review this chapter, mainly because I find the tone of the book to be largely antagonistic and biased.  The insinuation that college students need to be provided with classes to learn how to do laundry seems extreme.  If I didn't teach my child to be at least partially self-sufficient by the time she went to college, I would not count myself with the successful parents.  However, there are a couple of charts and exercises on building empathy, self-esteem, and assertiveness that could be helpful either in a classroom setting or in a parenting situation.  There is always something useful to be found!


  1. They keep missing the fact that student are actually more social with a large sphere of influence then before. We could only interact with kids from our town, then towns in our district, then maybe some kids from other states as we went to colleges, then co-workers...

    Now kids can skype/facebook other kids around the world. "The world is Flat"

  2. The section on response, stress reduction, etc was helpful; I read it carefully and thoughtfully. While there is no doubt that reducing our stress is a worthwhile goal, I do still argue that technology is the culprit. Our reactions to pressure from our jobs and our relationships cause (or reduce) stress.

    I also find this book to be "largely antagonistic and biased" but I am trying to keep in mind that use of technology is changing the way we absorb media and information. I have access to much more information and entertainment. This forces me to evaluate priorities (read for fun/read for school) and evaluate sources of information.

    These are the skills we need to teach our students.
    - how to make good choices
    - how to read for information
    - how to support a claim or argument

  3. I've finished the book so I'm going to make a generic statement. I enjoyed the first 6 chapters for the most part. I am not a Luddite, but do have some skepticism regarding technology and these earlier chapters provided some credibility for some detrimental aspects of technology dependency. Having said that, the remaining chapters of iBrain were less scientific and more intuitive. I agree with Keith's comment above about being social with a wider community, as a potential benefit, but I'm also seeing anxieties regarding in person communication. Anyways the remaining chapters were more therapeutic then analysis. As such, I found myself skimming through these chapters....I already know hot to turn off my computer, cell phone, etc and do so regularly. Just after our class convened in June, I went on a camping/hiking trip with my two boys, wife and some friends. It was a solid 3 day, 2 night stretch without cell phones or computers. We did listen to music from iPods connected to a Speaker, but it was amazing watching my little "natives" disconnect from technology and be absorbed in putting up/tearing down tents, hiking, building camp fires, cooking, sharing, hanging out at the lake and enjoying quiet. For two nights in row, my 3 1/2 year old put himself to bed. Has never happened before. The joys of camping.

  4. I have to agree that I thought this chapter was a lot longer than the previous one. I also agree that this book does seem very negative. Technology is bad for our brains, our bodies, and our society. The biggest benefit I see to the book, in general, is that we do need to be aware of how technology is affecting us.
    It seems to me that schools are giving kids less free time to inter-act with each other during the day as older students often don't get recess and lunch is very short. I spoke with one of my principals about that yesterday but he really didn't want anymore recess time as many students don't use the time wisely. I took that to mean that there are more problems in the freedom of recess than in the structure of the classroom. I know our unstructured times are the most difficult for many students to handle. On the other hand, ideal class time is more interactive with less seat time and more active learning. Our education system is and has changed and how we teach and what we teach needs to change along with that.

  5. I wanted to include that commercial on my post, but I couldn't find it. I guess your attention span is longer than mine :-) I actually like this series of commercials because it shows the other side. Not that every person in the younger generation can't read a whole article or is obsessed with how many friends they have on Facebook, but that that way - the 'tech' way - isn't the right way just because it is new or cool.

  6. There were definitely some good bits of advice mixed in this chapter, but overall, it was a bit over the top for me. It basically is pegging digital natives as having poor interpersonal skills, low self esteem, lack of empathy, unable to pay attention, unable to relax, lack of creativity and being technology addicts. It almost seemed a bit condescending. I am not quite sure who the author thinks is reading this book, but apparently he thinks they need a lot of self-help advice.