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24 February, 2009

Memory of a... you know; orange thing with fins

In an article alleging that online networking sites such as Facebook damage users' attention span, the Guardian's journalist & subeditors use the phrase 'attention deficient' in the subtitle, then 'attention span in jeopardy' in the photo caption.

The first paragraph of the main text is:

Social network sites risk infantilising the mid-21st century mind, leaving it characterised by short attention spans, sensationalism, inability to empathise and a shaky sense of identity, according to a leading neuroscientist*.
Paragraph four helpfully repeats that, nearly verbatim, in case you, er, weren't paying attention:
She told the House of Lords that children's experiences on social networking sites "are devoid of cohesive narrative and long-term significance. As a consequence, the mid-21st century mind might almost be infantilised, characterised by short attention spans, sensationalism, inability to empathise and a shaky sense of identity".
Paragraph five begins:
Arguing that social network sites are putting attention span in jeopardy,....
And ends by mentioning 'attention-deficit disorder', repeated in paragraph six, in case you, er, weren't... weren't....

What was I saying?

*: The "leading neuroscientist" is Baroness Professor Susan Greenfield, about whom Ben Goldacre at Bad Science says:

It is my view that Professor Greenfield has been abusing her position as a professor, and head of the Royal Institution, for many years now, using these roles to give weight to her speculations and prejudices in a way that is entirely inappropriate.

We are all free to have fanciful ideas. Professor Greenfieldís stated aim, however, is to improve the publicís understanding of science: and yet repeatedly she appears in the media making wild headline-grabbing claims, without evidence, all the while telling us repeatedly that she is a scientist. By doing this, the head of the RI grossly misrepresents what it is that scientists do, and indeed the whole notion of what it means to have empirical evidence for a claim. It makes me quite sad, when the publicís understanding of science is in such a terrible state, that this is one of our most prominent and well funded champions.

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