Publisert av: thimmis | mars 6, 2009

Paper 1 – [«Me dumbified? That’s unpossible!»].

“Me dumbified? That’s unpossible!” 1

In 2008 Mark Bauerlein published a book called ”The Dumbest Generation”. As the title implies, the book is meant to address a problem with the youth of today and the technology that surrounds and encapsulates us in everyday life. To promote the release and sale of the book he also launched the website www.dumbestgeneration.com. Some would argue that since the Internet is a large component of his argumentation, the site was designed to promote and enhance the thoughts and ideas that he discusses in his book. I will therefore perform a semantic analysis of the webpage by breaking it down bit by bit, and point out a few points he may be trying to make with the design he chose.

The general layout of the page is quite simplistic. The site has a white background, uses a lot of whitespace, a small header, and a large easily readable menu to the left. But that stands in clear contrast to the rest of the main page. The first thing one most likely notice when entering the website, is the flash text-banner that fades into place and lures the eyes of the viewer to focus on it. As it has been positioned in the top section of the page and supplemented with moving elements, ones first impression could be that it includes important information about the book. Viewers that attempt to read the text that rolls over the screen are likely to be baffled by the speed at which the text flies by. The viewer will most likely not be able to finish reading a sentence before another starts. This could be a way of making the point that the Internet, if used wrongly (or correctly?), easily can distract its readers from the message that one is trying to present.

The source code of the site can tell us that “50 Million Minds Diverted, Distracted, Devoured” is meant as a website-slogan, but this slogan is completely overshadowed by the massive picture and the animated text on the front page. This is quite ironic, because it actually underlines the very meaning of the slogan. The three D’s, Diverted, Distracted and Devoured, emphasizes different aspects of Mark Bauerlein’s argumentation. Diverted and distracted overlap somewhat in meaning, as this is when something or someone’s original action or intention is changed by outside factors. Devoured is a more negatively loaded word, which, in this context, implies that something is destroyed or “swallowed whole”. It is no coincidence that devoured is the last word in the sentence. This is the word that sticks with the reader, and it is quite a statement from Bauerlein. What he actually implies by this is that, not only are we in very little control of our own actions, additionally we are destroying our very minds.

These three D’s also play on the title of the book, “The Dumbest Generation”. The main page displays the cover of the book with its title totally dominant. The word “Dumbest” is in a distinct red-colour. The red colour can symbolize many things; Stop, Danger, Blood, Love, Indians and Communism. The colour also works as an emphasis of a word which he clearly has chosen to provoke readers. The red is also repeated in the flash-animation at the top and the subtitle “How The Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future”. We can also find the red color in the picture of The Stars and Stripes in the center of the cover. We could interpret the use of red as a connotation for the American flag, which again could be a metaphor for the American people.

The title of the book is a spoof on the well known trope “The Greatest Generation”, which refers to the generation that grew up during the Depressions and also fought in the Second World War. The spoof is made clearer when taking a closer look at the picture with the flag. The invasion and capturing of the Japanese island named Iwo Jima, was one of Americas greatest triumphs in the Second World War. This was also an important symbolic victory as it was the first capture of Japanese land. The battle of Iwo Jima was immortalized with the famous picture “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima” 2. Mr. Bauerlein has made a parody of that picture and replaced the soldiers that most people remember as heroes, with toy soldiers or more precisely Transformers. The reason for choosing transformers might be to prove American youngsters ignorance when it comes to their own country’s history. Mark Bauerlein would probably like to argue that most youngsters looking at the cover would recognize the Transformer figures but not necessarily recognize their own country’s old heroes. He might also have chosen to flip the picture horizontally to symbolize the two extremes, The Greatest Generation and the Dumbest Generation.

The warning label on the cover is a provenance3 that can usually be seen on album covers, and Mark Bauerlein’s thought behind the use of this could be that people might be offended by this book. The label clearly states “Don’t trust anyone under 30”, and here he is referring to the slogan “Don’t trust anyone over 30” used in the sixties by young people who had lost their faith in adults.

What Bauerlein is saying is sometimes rather harsh, but he would not have made his point if he had called the book “The somewhat stupid generation”. I feel that Mark Bauerlein makes some really good points to support his theory that technology and the modern way of living are deteriorating young minds. There simply is not anything that can compete with socializing and web browsing. The usual way of measuring competence and intellect by testing reading and writing skills, or history knowledge, might need to be reformed with the new dumbified Google-generation. One does not need to know anything, when Google always has the answer.

References:

1: http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/The_Simpsons#Lisa_on_Ice_.5B6.08.5D

2: http://www.defenselink.mil/specials/nativeamerican01/flag.html

3: Gunther Kress and Theo Van Leeuwen, Multimodal Discourse: The modes and media of contemporary communication (New York: Hodder Arnold, 2001), 23.

987 Words

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