Selections from one of Roger Cohen's many intelligent essays in The New York Times:
The time has come for a painful confession: I have spent my life with words, yet I am illiterate...I do not have the words to be at ease in this world of steep migration from desktop to mobile, of search-engine optimization, of device-agnostic bundles, of cascading metrics and dashboards and buckets, of post-print onboarding and social-media FOMO (fear of missing out).
I was more at home with the yarn du jour. Jour was once an apt first syllable for the word journalism; hour would now be more appropriate...That was in the time of distance. Disconnection equaled immersion. Today, connection equals distraction...
We find ourselves at a pivot point. How we exist in relation to one another is in the midst of radical redefinition, from working to flirting. The smartphone is a Faustian device, at once liberation and enslavement. It frees us to be anywhere and everywhere — and most of all nowhere. It widens horizons. It makes those horizons invisible. Upright homo sapiens, millions of years in the making, has yielded in a decade to the stooped homo sapiens of downward device-dazzled gaze.
Perhaps this is how the calligrapher felt after 1440, when it began to be clear what Gutenberg had wrought. A world is gone. Another, as poor Jeb Bush (!) discovered, is being born — one where words mean everything and the contrary of everything, where sentences have lost their weight, where volume drowns truth.
You have to respect American voters. They are changing the lexicon in their anger with the status quo. They don’t care about consistency. They care about energy. Reasonableness dies. Provocation works. Whether you are for or against something, or both at the same time, is secondary to the rise your position gets. Our times are unpunctuated. Politics, too, has a new language, spoken above all by the Republican front-runner as he repeats that, “There is something going on.”...This appears to be some form of addictive delirium. It is probably dangerous in some still unknowable way.
Technology has upended not only newspapers. It has upended language itself, which is none other than a community’s system of communication. What is a community today? (One thing young people don't do on their smartphones is actually talk to each other.) Can there be community at all with downward gazes? I am not sure. But I am certain that cross-platform content has its beauty and its promise if only I could learn the right words to describe them.
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