This past Sunday 60 Minutes reporter Lesley Stahl sat down with Susan Wojcicki, Ceo of YouTube in order to question her about some of the controversial videos that have been allowed on the site as of late. Of particular concern to 60 Minutes was content that users of the site had been able to upload in the past that was either untrue, represented disinformation or conspiracies, or else represented violence-inducing hate speech. Wojcicki’s response was that any videos are allowed that don’t cause harm, but that YouTube doesn’t allow any disinformation related to such things as political issues or health concerns, She also said that they have recently tightened their policy on hate speech.
Of course it is a good thing that YouTube is making an effort to monitor their data, with all the misinformation and hate speech that is now transpiring on the Web. Yet at the same time, there may be something else involving pictorial or video sites like YouTube that might likewise be a dangerous development. That is, if people today are increasingly getting their knowledge and information largely in the visual realm, rather than by sitting and quietly reading long passages, then it seems entirely possible that the quiet spaces in our minds necessary for developing truly accurate analyses of various situations are being continually eroded.
In addition, if people are increasingly simply watching videos online that give them only abbreviated versions of facts in which they are interested, rather than getting their information by attending to an extended piece of writing, then those same quiet space in our minds so necessary for creative thinking may likewise be in danger of significantly disappearing. While at the same time, people’s fluency with written language itself, which is so necessary for not only thinking creatively about various situations, but for also making significant connections within a broad field of knowledge or information may be in danger of being significantly stifled in this new cyber age.
Eventually, we could end up living in a world where many people have become content to simply absorb facts or fragmented bits of information which they have gathered only pictorially or through videos without bothering to think critically or creatively about them simply because they have received that information only in the visual realm. We need to remember that the meaning behind information or knowledge will always be what is most important about them, not necessarily how the knowledge or information is represented. Otherwise, it would seem, we risk living in a much shallower world where we think less deeply about important issues.