Screen Addiction: Does the overuse of screens alter our perceptions of reality?

Deconstructionist philosopher Avital Ronell teaches that a few generations ago European travelers in the Swiss Alps found the sight of the mountain peaks so overwhelming that they equipped their carriages with special screens to block their view. They looked through tinted glasses to mediate the experience of raw nature. Today, standing in the Alps or outside our home, we no longer rely on colored glasses. Instead, we use digital cameras, cell phones and movie players to filter our experience. And we have become so accustomed to the view that we prefer pixels to sublime reality … we are addicted to the screens we use to dampen the rawness of life.

We are a society in the grips of a widespread screen addiction. Many of us spend upwards of eight hours a day staring at a screen. We carry video capable iPods, Internet savvy BlackBerrys and graphically stunning portable game machines. We steal glances at these little screens throughout the day and then tuck them back into our pockets and return our gaze to the big screens sitting on our desks. In order to relax, we plop ourselves in front of a widescreen TV. We spend more time making eye contact with our screens than with our neighbors.

The screen is, by design, the ultimate distraction. Even when we try to avoid looking at screens, our eyes are naturally drawn to their flickering lights. The dazzling special effects of our iPhones and our video games stimulate our brains more powerfully than reality. Given the option of looking at the slow pace of nature unfold or the frenetic speed of a big budget movie playing on a tiny screen, we often choose the screen. But training our brains to expect constant visual stimulation has troubling consequences.

Neuroscientists are beginning to address the long-term consequences of visual addiction. Books such as iBrain: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind argue that the increase in screen use has rewired our brains and led to a decrease in our empathy and our ability to read facial language. The authors of iBrain ultimately propose a policy of moderating screen time, I wonder if this goes far enough. As visual technologies advance and a greater proportion of our working lives are spent online, there isn’t one, individual-based, solution.

Society is addicted to screens. What we need, therefore, is not a policy of personal moderation but a cultural revolution. Our visual addiction is masking our fear of feeling existence to its fullest. Our task is to build a movement to unwire our social relationships, to unlink our workplace communications and to accept the slow pace of life in order to directly confront the existential dilemmas that we face.

Micah White is a Contributing Editor at Adbusters and an independent activist. He is writing a book on anti-screen activism. www.micahmwhite.com or micah (at) adbusters.org

Source: http://www.adbusters.org/blogs/blackspot_blog/screen_addiction.html

See also http://www.screentime.org/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1

Screen addiction ‘bad for kids’ health’

Hugo Chávez: the most popular leader in the Middle East

The results of the new survey of ‘Arab opinion’ conducted by Zogby International show that Barack Obama has a much more favourable rating than did his predecessor as US president. But when asked to name the world leaders whom they most admire, the participants put the President of Venezuela at the top of the poll.

The survey, which was conducted in April and May 2009, sampled the views of 4,087 people in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Lebanon, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. According to the respected Zogby polling organisation, the poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.6%. One of the questions put to the participants was “which two world leaders (outside your own country) do you admire most?” The most frequently named leader is Hugo Chavez, at 36%. Following Chavez in order of admiration are Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and former President of France Jacques Chirac (both at 18%), Osama bin Laden (16%), Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi (15%) and the current French president Nicolas Sarkozy (14%). Continue reading

What Would Socialist Democracy Look Like?

by Ian Birchall

Most politicians and journalists talk as though the only possible sort of democracy is parliament, so all we can do is patch up a decrepit system. The history of the socialist movement shows that there is a different tradition of democracy. Continue reading

Democratic deficit: parliament and democracy

As the crisis surrounding MPs’ expenses exposes the level of blatant fraud in Britain’s parliamentary system Simon Basketter looks at why capitalist democracy fails us Continue reading

Corruption Goes Right To The Heart Of The System

There is a range of different ways of making money out of parliamentary expenses – and our politicians have milked them all.

Many of the recent revelations in the expenses scandal are centred around claims relating to housing.

Shahid Malik, the justice minister, resigned last week pending an inquiry into the unusually low level of rent he was paying to a landlord in his constituency in West Yorkshire while claiming £66,000 in allowances for his London home.

Elliot Morley, a senior backbencher, was stripped of the Labour whip after “forgetting” that he had paid off his mortgage and improperly claimed more than £16,000.

David Chaytor, a backbencher, was suspended from the parliamentary Labour party after admitting an “unforgivable error” in claiming £13,000 for a mortgage he had already repaid.

Plasma TV

Most people are outraged at the extravagance of many of the claims – such as those of Labour MP Sir Gerald Kaufman who claimed £1,851 for a rug imported from a New York antiques centre and had tried to claim £8,865 for a plasma TV.

But to claim expenses for mortgages that don’t exist takes corruption to a new low. Continue reading

Expenses Scandal: Jail These Corrupt Ministers

The government hammers those most affected by the poverty and misery of Gordon Brown’s Britain with hypocrisy and draconian laws. Every week people are jailed for not paying their council tax or are dragged in front of the courts for not paying their TV licence.

It is a cliché to say that there is one law for the rich and another for the rest of us. But as it turns out there is no law for the politicians – except the rules they set for themselves.

If you are a government minister you can avoid tax, double claim expenses, have your council tax paid for you and even get the bill for a council tax summons paid for by us.

The easiest way to see the depth of the corruption, and it is corruption, is by looking at the New Labour cabinet. Continue reading

How To Start A Revolution

There are times when it is necessary to fight against things that have become so wrong that they should no longer be. Things that were once small that have become big, but are no less wrong, must be made small again; a revolution, or a complete circle, is needed. Whether you want your brother to stop giving you wedgies, or you want to overthrow a repressive government, every fight is the same. A revolution (from the Latin revolutio, “a turnaround”) is a significant change that usually occurs in a short period of time. Revolutions have happened throughout human history and vary widely in terms of methods, duration, motivating ideology, and the number of participating revolutionaries. Their results include major changes in culture, economy, and socio-political institutions. Continue reading