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Into the Electronic Millennium Essay

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The essay Into the Electronic Millennium Essay by Sven Birkerts is a critique of electronic media. In his article, which was included in a popular literary collection in 1994, Birkerts laments the consequences of embracing new technology to society. Birkerts foresees the slow death of print culture in the wake of fickle developments in electronic media, as a means of communication. He argues that the dire transition into new technology, such as television and computers, is overwhelming and compares it to the demise of oral culture that was replaced by the written word (Birkerts 1). He applies his knowledge of literature with a touch of informed reasoning and calm style in his analysis to persuade the skeptical reader on this stern reality. Although critics have frequently challenged his biased outlook on the subject, the questions surrounding the effects of electronic media on the society persist. This paper evaluates the arguments, ramifications, and limitations of Birkerts’s frame of mind.
Birkert’s first argument centers on the effects of electronic media on language erosion. He argues that electronic communications will radically change the use of language. This altercation will occur on all levels of society because the complexities of language enshrined in the print media will be replaced by simpler and less interesting language of electronic media (Birkerts 1). Consequently, this simplification of language will affect students’ curricula as they will not have intense training on reading and complex reasoning.

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Birkerts’s second argument relates to the consequences of electronic media in loss of historical perspectives. He warns that changes in access and storage of information will work against historical memory. Additionally, he contends the past is rooted more in the presentation of printed pages in books than any other medium of communication (Birkerts 1). Finally, Birkerts’s argues how electronic media robs individuals of their private life as people live within the transparency of this medium. He maintains that electronic media discourages people to think rationally as they became mindless, fully attached and controlled by mass trends.
As Birkerts rightfully notes, the ramifications of electronic media in the society are adverse, more so among children and youths. Studies suggest children are at risk of delayed language development when they watch too much television (Sparks, 90). Similarly, youths fall victim of the television trap that erode their cognitive skills since leisure time, which could otherwise be spent on studying, reading for pleasure, or doing homework, is wasted on television screens. Other studies suggest most children prefer watching television, which is undemanding, instead of mastering reading, which impairs them scholastically (Sparks, 91). Unlike television, it should be apparent that computer generated material is susceptible to change. This reality is destructive because vital information can be changed or deleted forever with a few keystrokes. In 2010, for example, Amazon Company deleted George Orwell’s books, such as Animal Farm. This move led many to question the integrity of electronic information (Craig, Terence, & Mary, 51). Moreover, the electronic media give the users a false sense of relationships and connection by allocating less time on most important connections, such as family. Further, the privacy of the user is limited as the people openly discuss private information and post personal issues that remain online indefinitely (Sparks, 323).
The arguments expressed by Birkerts, to some extent, undermine the importance of electronic media. The question then becomes whether tt is inaccurate to put a blanket condemnation over the new media without addressing some of its benefits. First, electronic media can be used to enhance the language development of a child when exposed to education materials with the guidance of a parent or guardian. In addition, technology with interactive and creative features or applications can stimulate the cognitive skills for both youths and children (Sparks, 78). Regarding the integrity to preserve classical literary works online, it is important that authorities formulate stringent Internet safety policies to prevent vices such as hacking or deletion of the materials from online databases (Craig, Terence, & Mary, 31). The prosecution or heavy fining of offenders should compliment such policies. Overall, the hallmark of electronic sites such as social media is to connect with other users. This concept implies that the user should put emphasis on customizing privacy settings. Furthermore, the user should limit what his or her connections or friends can share about them. All these settings are available on every social networking site (Sparks, 287)
It is evident from Birkert’s sentiments that the advancement of electronic technology has serious consequences for the society. Indeed, Birkerts prowess in writing and reasoning is a demonstration of his intellectual acumen and literary knowledge. He deepens the readers’ understanding of the relationship between electronic and printed word. To stress his arguments, Birkerts offers three negative effects of electronic technology. Nevertheless, Birkerts’s insights fail to appreciate the inherent value of the new media. He openly attacks the use of this medium without addressing the benefits or electronic alternatives to the printed word or book. Consequently, his arguments fall short of offering a solution, only fuelling further the raging debate on the use of electronic media. Without a doubt, the new form of communication is beneficial to the society, but control and safety measures must be implemented to safeguard the users. Therefore, both arguments for and against electronic media can be used to design and improve suggested electronic alternatives in the future.
Works Cited
Birkerts, Sven. “Into the Electronic Millennium.” Boston Review. Boston Review, 2005. Web. 4 Oct. 2015. <>.
Craig, Terence, and Mary E. Ludloff. Privacy and Big Data. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly, 2011. Print.
Sparks, Glenn G. Media Effects Research + Joinin Student Response System: A Basic Overview. Princeton, NJ: Wadsworth, 2015. Print.

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