"A couple of years ago someone at a party told me about a pub, I think it was in Chicago, that for years had a big encyclopedia set behind the bar. Whenever the patrons had a disagreement about something, some fact that each insisted they were right about, they'd make a bet, put their money on the bar, and the bartender would settle it by looking it up in the encyclopedia. He said the last time he was there the encyclopedia set was gone. Now when there's a disagreement, everyone just pulls out their phones. This got me thinking about the many ways in which the Web, and especially Google, has taken the place of not only our traditional ways of looking for information, but also of memory itself."
—David Palmer, one-half of the Los Angeles-based musical duo Not a Bus, discussing the group's new song "Google Is My Brain." It includes such lyrics as "Nights I count electric sheep/Can't remember what we did last week/I keep all my hopes and dreams/In a cloud that never rains." [latimes.com, 10/10/12]
"I do not think the paper book is going away any time soon. … It offers too many advantages. The book is very portable and when the lights go out you can still read it. And also the neurology, they're working on the neurology of onscreen reading versus on-page reading. Apparently there is a difference. I think for reading shorter things e-forms are fine and can provide pretty pictures, various enhancements, hyperlinks, other things that people may find useful. If I'm reading a novel, I actually don't want things popping up and saying 'this is what Jane Austen's petticoat would have looked like.' Every prediction—radio would kill books, it didn't; television would kill movies, it didn't; e-reading will kill books, it hasn't—these predictions have all been wrong. You're never going to kill storytelling, because it's built into the human plan. We come with it."
—author Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid's Tale, The Blind Assassin), on the future of paper books [time.com, 10/8/12]
When skydiver Felix Baumgartner jumped from 128,000 feet above the earth on Sunday, his altitude and speed (he became the first person to break the speed of sound in a free fall) weren't the only records he set. More than 8 million viewers tuned into a live stream of the event via YouTube, shattering the old record of about 500,000 viewers during last summer's Olympics. [huffingtonpost.com, 10/14/12 stats]
You might not think George Lucas' juggernaut Star Wars franchise would benefit much from partnering with an upstart casual video featuring angry avians. Lucas, it appears, thinks otherwise. Lucasfilm and video game publisher Rovio have announced that they're collaborating on Angry Birds Star Wars, which will be available Nov. 8. "Whether or not geeks and gamers buy into the gimmick," says an article written by the staff at slate.com, "the real upside of the marriage may be the merchandise. Angry Birds toys have cleared $25 million in sales, so by teaming up with the perennial monster that is Star Wars, one can imagine the force will very much be with the well-traveled Jedis and their new feathered cohorts." [slate.com, 10/8/12 stats]
"Hey, remember when World of Warcraft was cool? It wasn't that long ago that Blizzard's massively multiplayer online game seemed poised on the edge of becoming something much more than just an extremely popular pastime of geeks and shut-ins. … And now? With the release of the game's fourth expansion pack Mists of Pandaria [on Sept. 25], there seems to be little response from the mainstream. WoW's subscriber numbers are mirroring the drop in interest. The MMO launched in 2004 and peaked at an astonishing 12 million users in 2010. Two years later, that number has dropped to 9.1 million."
—Wired contributor Chris Kohler, on the ebbing cultural interest in World of Warcraft [wired.com, 9/27/12 stats]
"We're always hearing about children and teenagers who share too much: with their friends; with their parents; online, with the world. But what happens when it's Mom and Dad dabbling in TMI? How do we know how much—and what sort of—information our kids can handle? Thanks to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and all the rest of social media, we have quickly grown accustomed to the concept of over sharing. Revealing the most mundane details of our daily lives—not to mention our formerly private innermost thoughts—feels normal to us; it's what people do. But this lack of boundaries has also resulted in a generation of mothers and fathers who share too much with their kids, from too-early talks about sex to what we really think about the neighbor, the high school math teacher, or Grandma. Part of this tendency stems from a desire to be close to, and connect with, our children. … But children aren't meant to play the role of confidante to their parents. They're not meant to be your sounding board, and they can't process information in the same way you do… That's because kids, even older ones, aren't intellectually or emotionally prepared to shoulder the burden of TMI."
—psychologist Peggy Drexler [huffingtonpost.com, 10/5/12]
It's no revelation that people will say things online that they might hold back if talking with the same person face to face. But why is that? Sherry Turkle, a psychologist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of the book Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less From Each Other, says that digital communication brings its own sets of barriers, which makes what we say somehow less real. When you type something on a smartphone, for instance, "You are publishing but you don't feel like you are. So what if you say 'I hate you' on this tiny little thing? It's like a toy. It doesn't feel consequential," Turkle says. [wsj.com, 10/2/12]
Late-night cell phone use may be hazardous to teens' mental health. Scientists at the University of Tokyo recently surveyed nearly 18,000 junior high and high school students, and they found that teens who frequently used their phones after turning in reported higher rates of mental health concerns such as anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and self-harm than those who didn't use their phones in bed. [foxnews.com, 10/1/12 c&e]
In early 2011, just 17% of teens owned an iPhone. But that percentage has been steadily increasing—up to 23% by the fall of 2011, then to 34% last spring. Now, according to researchers at Piper Jaffray, 40% of teens own iPhones. [latimes.com, 10/10/12 stats]
"If we had a dollar for every time we've heard or read, 'Steve Jobs never would have …' (fill in the blank) in the past year, we might be able to afford a share of Apple stock. Maybe two. In the year since the company's co-founder died, his name has never been invoked so often by so many who think they know what Jobs would or wouldn't do or approve. … But it keeps his name alive, as if he's still part of the conversation. And he is. Our fascination with the man described as a modern-day Thomas Edison by New Yorker writer Ken Auletta has not ebbed; if anything, it's grown larger with his passing, all too soon, at age 56."
—nbcnews.com technology reporter Suzanne Choney, on the continued cultural omnipresence of Apple's visionary founder a year after his death. Two movies about the Apple CEO are currently in production, one starring Ashton Kutcher, the other being penned by acclaimed screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network, The Newsroom, The West Wing).[nbcnews.com, 10/5/12]
"After seeing the Los Angeles premiere of Atlas Shrugged, Part 2 [based on the 1957 novel by Ayn Rand], a question struck me as I was exiting the theater surrounded by Hollywood types most commonly stereotyped as liberal: Why don't liberals admire Ayn Rand and her philosophy of objectivism, so forcefully presented in this book and film? … An answer may be found in the fact that American politics is a duopoly of those who tend toward being either fiscally and socially liberal or fiscally and socially conservative. Rand's fiscal conservatism and social liberalism fits into neither camp comfortably (and is mostly commonly associated with the Libertarian party). … Rand is an outlier as an atheist who firmly believed in absolute and universal moral principles (discoverable through reason, she believed). So for liberals, Rand's fiscal conservatism and moral principle absolutism trumps her social liberalism, and even for many on the right her atheism and rejection of faith calls into question her conservative bona fides."
—Michael Shermer, founding publisher of Skeptic magazine and editor of skeptic.com