The Age of the Pancake People

This is not a  “You are what you eat” tutorial, but it does come a little close. Basically, this a “You are what you read” eye-opener and, in effect, how this alters HOW you read, slowly but surely turning you into the one of the Pancake People. I am part of the Pancake People. You are too. In fact, the whole world that is electrically literate or electrate (as it is now known) is part of the Pancake People – a people “spread wide and thin as we connect with that vast network of information”.

“Too much of a good thing is bad for you”. I can believe this because while pancakes may seem like a good thing, too many of them are definitely not good for me and my super-tight jeans. After all, that moment on the lips has a high-risk of becoming a lifetime on the hips. But while pancakes may be (a little) bad for me, many individuals have realised something else that when over-consumed can have daunting effects on the human brain – something you would have never even thought of – and that is bad for the human race as a whole: the Internet.

The reality is that while the Internet has been providing us with information, it has simultaneously dumbed down the human race and even changed the way we think. in his article Is Google Making Us Stupid? Nicolas Carr explains this phenomenon that establishes the world’s largest information forum as its biggest enemy:

“[The media] supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought. And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles.”

Above: Diagram that indicates the 21st century brain

The Internet, modern modes of communication and information outlets have developed along with the fast developing world that they have been developed into and to not be left behind, have brought our brains along for the ride and altered our cognitive abilities – whether it was for the good or for the bad is still undeterminable . While, cognitively, we are now able to read short pieces quicker, we are also now reading long texts slower.

Our brains have become adapted to reading shorter pieces of text and information quicker because of the reduced amount of concentration required, but they are now finding it hard to concentrate on longer pieces, taking it even longer than it should to read the text. Carr, goes on to say, “Our ability to interpret text, to make the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely disengaged”. However, this “disengagement” remains connected to the Internet.


Gregory Ulmer provides a different perspective to this “dumbing down” by revealing it as part of the evolution of literacy – “partly technological, partly institutional” – that is mutating towards one form: electracy. His post Introduction:Electracy establishes the need for literacy to evolve as a “social machine” containing dimensions aided by the shift from orality to literacy and, now, to electracy.

Left: A brain downloading information from the Internet

Ulmer establishes language as a collection of “apparatus” and places that system within an institution formed around the Internet, an institution we are part of. Within each apparatus, or “social machine”, as he calls it, are systems that change according to the apparatus from which they are developed:


Above: A table of Ulmer’s apparatus and their components.

“New media networked practices are transitional, hybrid forms and experiments,” says Ulmer, something that we as a developing society cannot run away from or deny. The move from orality to electracy was bound to happen. Ulmer is narrow-minded in using just the Greek language concepts as the basis for his article (Egyptian hieroglyphics have long existed to represent sounds of language and were later altered into the Greek language) though claiming that the philosophy behind electracy is based more on those who “invented the materialist metaphysics that capitalized on the analytical capacities of the technology”, but not those who invented who invented the apparatus of literacy.

Whether it is a social or scientific movement, the age of the Pancake People is upon us. It could have been a solution to the tautology of reading or the end to reading as it is supposed to be, but fact remains: if you are not part of the Pancake People you will be left behind.

-The AfrOtist-


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