Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Two from the NYT: computer-enhanced dopamine and the post-colonial Koreanization of Estonia

If you get tired of hearing KoKos go on about this thing or that about the four-decade Japanese occupation, you might not want to head for Estonia, where ousting Russian influence in favor of native Estonian has become a battleground in a cultural war:
Estonia, a small former Soviet republic on the Baltic Sea, has been mounting a determined campaign to elevate the status of its native language and to marginalize Russian, the tongue of its former colonizer. That has turned public schools like the Pae Gymnasium, where the children have long been taught in Russian, into linguistic battlegrounds.

Because Pae’s administrators and teachers are state employees, they are now required to have a certain proficiency in Estonian and to use it in more classes. The National Language Inspectorate, a government agency that is not exactly beloved in Russian-speaking pockets of Estonia, is charged with ensuring that the law is followed.

The language inspectorate has the right to fine or discipline public employees who do not speak competent Estonian. While the agency has only 18 inspectors, it is such a provocative symbol of the country’s language regulations that even Amnesty International has criticized its tactics as heavy-handed.
Meanwhile, if refreshing this site — or better yet, a site with a far more robust comments section like Brian's, Marmot's Hole, or ROK Drop — gets you all excited and tingly every time you press COMMAND-R (or whatever it is in Windows), you may be an addict:
Scientists say juggling e-mail, phone calls and other incoming information can change how people think and behave. They say our ability to focus is being undermined by bursts of information.

These play to a primitive impulse to respond to immediate opportunities and threats. The stimulation provokes excitement — a dopamine squirt — that researchers say can be addictive. In its absence, people feel bored.

The resulting distractions can have deadly consequences, as when cellphone-wielding drivers and train engineers cause wrecks. And for millions of people like Mr. Campbell, these urges can inflict nicks and cuts on creativity and deep thought, interrupting work and family life.

While many people say multitasking makes them more productive, research shows otherwise. Heavy multitaskers actually have more trouble focusing and shutting out irrelevant information, scientists say, and they experience more stress.

And scientists are discovering that even after the multitasking ends, fractured thinking and lack of focus persist. In other words, this is also your brain off computers.
I used to be a frequent commenter at The Marmot's Hole, until I got to a point where I realized the thrill of getting caught up in discussions was preventing me from getting real work done. I put myself on a diet of one-comment-per-post, but eventually I realized that was like an alcoholic having just one drink, and I eventually went nearly cold turkey altogether. Not only that, I announced a planned retirement on my own blog that I had to stick to when family and school obligations made it impossible for me to keep blogging.

I guess it's that "dopamine squirt" that's at work, and even now I have to be on guard. I'm careful to blog primarily the fruits of my efforts to maintain a knowledge base for Korea-related issues that I need to be familiar with in my future professional career, and I comment on other blogs only within carefully prescribed limits on a small number of blogs. Commenting on Marmot's Hole again would be the equivalent of going off the wagon for me, and I would set my mind not to do that even if I somehow became a "contributor" there.

My name is Kushibo, and I'm a blogaholic.

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