Tuesday, August 03, 2010

A Technological Perspective: The Internet is for Cornhole

Trekkie Monster, a puppet from the Broadway musical Avenue Q, informed me that "the internet is for porn," but after this weekend, I'm not so sure about that. I think the internet might be for corn-hole. And I know what you're thinking, but I am referring to the corn-hole where you toss a bean bag at a target, you disgusting pervert.


Let me explain. Cultural critic Neil Postman warned us that technology is not neutral . . . he warned us that every invention, every scientific development, every thing labeled "progress," needs to be evaluated on a case by case basis before it is adopted. This rarely happens. I don't think there was much debate about whether or not to adopt the automobile. It pooped less than a horse and went faster without needing a fill-up. And a 1914 outbreak of foot and mouth disease cemented the deal . . . towns removed their roadside water troughs to prevent the disease from spreading, so you couldn't fill up your horse or your Stanley Steamer. Gasoline it is! No one predicted the BP oil spill would result, nor did they predict the consequences the resulting sprawl would have on the American family. We live farther apart than ever, commute more, and often eat in our car. It makes me wish I had a cup holder.

I have tried to follow Postman's advice. I am certainly a late adopter. In fact, I just got my first cell phone a few months ago. I didn't even buy it, my wife brought it home for me. She handed me the cute little white and lime green phone she had picked out for me, and then (ironically) said to me, "You're a grown man with two kids. You need a phone." My students told me that my phone is not the phone of a grown man, it is the phone of a 12 year old Asian girl. But I realize the benefits of the phone outweigh the negatives. I especially love texting. It's great for sending a discrete (or discreet!) bit of information to someone, it's great for making a joke, an it is perfect for the times you need to communicate but don't need to have a full blown civil conversation. I don't like always being in touch, or the fact that the phone can be a crutch: you don't need to know your way around as well, you can just call when you are close. You don't need to make definite plans, they can be revised on the fly. And you don't need to pay attention when your wife is telling you what to get at the grocery store . . . you can call her when you get there.

But most people don't evaluate new technology for very long before they adopt it. Facebook, iPods, iPads, GPS navigators, Google, IMDB, YouTube, blogs. We occupy our time very differently than we did ten years ago and no one knows what the results of this massive experiment will be. Nicholas Carr believes that these technologies are essentially wrecking our ability for deep cognitive thought. But maybe he is wrong. Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons think so. In their Los Angeles Times article Digital Alarmists Are Wrong, they attempt to refute the "digital technology is making us scatter-brained" theory with an example about chess. Review this excerpt, and then I'll explain what it has to do with corn-hole. The beanbag toss game, you filthy sleazeball.

Before the Computer Age, chess grandmasters used to study chess books before matches. But now they use laptops to review hundreds of games in rapid succession, in effect "downloading" into their minds knowledge that is customized for their next opponent. They access the knowledge as they need it, discarding it after the match, and the result is that today's grandmasters play the game better than their predecessors did. Visual perception and attention work the same way: They grant us conscious but temporary access to the information in our world that we need at any moment, then quickly discard it as we shift attention to other places, objects or events.

If we consider all the implications of this "just in time" approach to acquiring and using information, we may be forced to reevaluate the nature of knowledge, wisdom and intelligence. It may make less sense to focus on the capabilities of an individual person, and more sense to think about the individual plus the cloud of technology and information that he or she has access to at any given moment. This human-computer-Internet collective is more knowledgeable and arguably more intelligent than a single human being could be alone. By this view, as more and more information becomes available on the Internet, we become not dumber but smarter.

So, we are not just ourselves. We are ourselves plus the cloud of technology with which we choose to surround ourselves. And our speed and skill in using this cloud is part of our intelligence. In essence, we are all cyborgs. Especially Jerry and Chris. Who are Jerry and Chris? When do they plan on taking over our planet? Soon. Let me explain with a recent anecdote.


This year, at the 17th Annual Outer Banks Fishing Trip, the sea was full of jellyfish. So we turned to drinking and corn-hole. The bean bag toss game, you lascivious fantasist (and we weren't THAT bored). There was much debate and experimentation on how to toss the bean bags. You needed to be accurate, but you also needed to make the beanbag stick on the wood target. Many methods were tried, and many methods had relative success. Eventually, though, Bill and Igor starting racking up consecutive victories. They were a dynasty. The extra practice they were getting made them more and more difficult to beat. So Jerry and Chris, after a 21-3 drubbing, went inside and used a phone to watch a YouTube video on how to toss a corn-hole beanbag. Apparently, there is a method. They adopted the method, and minutes later, beat Team Dynasty 21-3. They were dubbed Team Google. They had used the cloud to their advantage.


Now here is the important part. Now "the method" was free for the taking. It wasn't something physical, it was simply a style of tossing. And it worked. Not only did it raise our level of corn-hole play far beyond what could have been anticipated, but it also sparked debate. If you adopted "the method," some thought you were selling out. They claimed to be "old school," despite the irony that "old school" was from approximately forty-five minutes previous. Some players desperately clung to their old ways, while others experimented with the new "method" with reckless abandon. And, an interesting side-effect which may have been the result of Google or may have been the result of certain performance de-hancing substances, but most people became less concerned with winning and more concerned with technique. And the discussion of technique. And physics. And The Book of Mormon. In my mind, this is a good thing. We elevated ourselves. We were no longer a bunch of drunks tossing beanbags. We were a bunch of drunks using a "the method" to toss beanbags. And that makes all the difference.

61 comments:

Mark said...

I feel like I would like Dave. However, I also feel like I'm getting a homework assignment when he posts these essays. I'm lazy and dumb, this much read is far too taxing for my typical mornings.

mayhugh said...

That's the most profound thing I've read in a while. Good talk, Dave.

TR said...

Is cornhole gayer than beanbag? Probably not. But saying cornhole is definitely less inappropriate than saying hairy beanbag, a phrase (but not an appendage) I'm prone to throw out, thanks to Chris Elliott in Something About Mary.

d-train said...

me lazy too. i'm curious to see the exact link the google team utilized to become obft champs. i love me some cornhole, and love me winning more.

Dave said...

sorry mark-- summer vacation and guys are doing electrical work on my house so i'm stuck at home.

i'd like to know the exact video they saw as well, but whatever they saw, it WORKED. if there was a such a video for golf (or sex) it would change the world as we know it.

Geoff said...

Too.
Many.
Words.

TR said...

Geoff - perhaps you can enlighten us (or me and The Teej) as to what our reaction should be to the news that one of Darrelle Revis' advisors is Sean Gilbert.

Geoff said...

Sean Gilbert was Albert Haynesworth, minus the talent. The only fond memory I have of his time with the Redskins is the absurd deal the Skins made in unloading him, getting two first round picks from the Panthers, one of which became Chris Samuels.

TR said...

I was looking from the angle that Gilbert once sat out an entire year in a salary dispute. And he is now an advisor to Revis. This should end quickly.

At least he doesn't have Master P advising him.

Mark said...

Master P. Best agent ever? Best agent ever.

Igor said...

Dave, I would like it mentioned that I rejected "the method," returned to my old school style after a few games of toying with it, and embarked on a second, equally successful dynasty with you as I clung to the old way. Stick to your guns, lads.

. . . because I couldn't do the new method right. At all. Total spaz.

Igor said...

And the best part about the Sean Gilbert debacle was that he told the media that he rejected the Redskins' offer because God had told him to hold out for more money. This he said with a straight face. We got hours of mockery and mimicry out of that.

d-train said...

does "new" method require athleticism and/or coordination?

Dave said...

the new method seemed counter-intuitive. you had the "wrong" foot forward-- the right for righties, and you eliminated the step. you also held the bean bag weird and brought your arm straight back and through with a little wrist flick that spun the bean bag flat like a saucer. done right (talk to fucking jerry) it was DEADLY. but whit and i had a nice old school/ new school run, but the important thing was we now had a point of reference. it was like those old videos of jewish dudes doing set shots and suddenly kobe bryant waltzes in and takes a jump shot.

mayhugh said...

Spinning the bean bag eliminates the crazy bounces and makes the bag slide in a straight line once it lands. If you have depth perception and can throw in a straight line, it is unstoppable for getting it in the whole. The latter requirement is harder than it sounds - spinning the bag takes practice.

TR said...

Dear Abby:

Is "getting it in the whole" akin to "going balls deep"?

Signed,

Confused in Manhattan

T.J. said...

I too eschewed the new technique and kept my old school bowling way. It led to a successful run with half of team google that culminated in a nice ocean dive by me.

T.J. said...

F U National Airport.

And seriously Chicago, why so many fucking people? Since I landed it's been a nonstop cluster-f.

mayhugh said...

I was going to correct my spelling gaffe but figured Igor would have fun addressing it. I didn't expect it from you, TR. Not from you.

TJ, I recommend a foul shot technique for you.

Greg said...

Or a croquet ball through a windshield tecknique.

Igor said...

Kudos to Teej not merely for the all-star effort getting my laptop overnighted to me after I idiotically left it in his car, but also for bookending "fucking" with two self-censors of the same expletive in that last comment. Just try to pigeonhole him!

d-train said...

pigeonhole - another good game.

T.J. said...

F'ING TEEJ!!! LIVE FROM CHICAGO!!!!

Geoff said...

Kanye West's insane tweets as captions to New Yorker cartoons...works surprisingly well.

http://www.buzzfeed.com/bfeld/kanyenewyorkertweets

T.J. said...

Despite walking 5 blocks in wrong direction from work's Chicago office and sweating thru my suit, it was all worth it to see this sign:
"Te'Jays Adult Books"

Shlara said...

I haven't read the post yet...it's too long.

Maybe Dave should follow the rules my office has established for when we blog for work:

1. Posts should be short and relatively conversational.
2. These should not be long thought pieces.
3. Be topical--connect to something in the news or industry chatter.
4. Write in anytime you find something interesting and worth sharing.

You haev #3 and #4 covered...need improvement on #1 and #2

rob said...

i won't have gheorghe buffeted by the fickle wind of the public. write on, dave. because i sure as shit have nothing to say.

TR said...

Merrill Hoge just said Brett Favre was the most magical player ever to play in the NFL. He's also sporting a Windsor knot the size of his oft-concussed head.

We've only heard 7 talking ESPN heads so far on the Favrety Favre Favre talk.

宗雅欣博 said...

愛,拆開來是心和受兩個字。用心去接受對方的一切,用心去愛對方的所有。......................................................................

凱許倫 said...

Poverty tries friends...................................................................

Dave said...

the kanye tweet/ new yorker cartoon combinations are better than the new yorker cartoons.

and for those of you annoyed with my prolixity, i apologize, and recommend a concise blog called "sentence of dave."

Mark said...

I'm not annoyed, Dave. I just like to read your posts and often don't have the time to in the morning. Then I feel like I'm cheating when I skip to the comments.

d-train said...

there is one sentence in this story that really, really stands out. can you find it?

http://tinyurl.com/2e4vhdp

note - the story is considerably shorter than the post.

Squeaky said...

New timing standard for the 'two pump chump'?

d-train said...

yes squeaky, and thanks for playing.
he must be telling the truth - who would lie about that?
have also sent the story, with that sentence highlighted, to my wife.

Mr. Truck said...

mark, don't feel bad about cheating. dave is a cheating bastard. that guy would cheat at corn-hole if there was a way to.

Squeaky said...

If you've heard of Hash Harriers, this takes it to another level. Their motto, by the way, is Drinkers with a running problem.

http://tbz.me/gH3tg

d-train said...

squeakster...that's a funny post, very funny.
i have to say though that the time of 5:07 blows...i bet you and i and others here have say walked 13 miles on bourbon street, consumed at least that many beers, and done so in less than 5 hours...that's a 23 min/mile pace...i admit i didn't read the entire post so not sure what he got into...but after thinking about it, i'm not impressed. people here can do better i'm sure of it. and no, i'm not volunteering to try...just sayin.

Squeaky said...

d-train. Agreed on the pace. I once ran the Bolder Boulder in a santa suit and had two beers and a gin and tonic, which was actually refreshing at mile 5.5.

Igor said...

Comparing Gheorghe to a blog for work is fucking retarded. Reading Dave's posts takes 5 good minutes, 10 if you've been drinking. There is usually music and fun, and if you're not careful, you just might learn something. If you can't afford 5-10 minutes for that enjoyment, then a job where you blog isn't as fun as it sounds.

Geoff said...

Yeah. I've lasted more than 15 seconds a bunch of times. Honest.

Geoff said...

You have to guess Pitino made the 15 second comment as a way to (futilely) attempt to make his wife less angry...and when he said it, he probably didn't consider it being publicized internationally.

There's also a shot clock joke in here somewhere...

Igor said...

I was immediately thinking of a 3-second rule joke, but shot clock is even better.

Geoff said...

If you are near your twitter right now, Bissinger is on a pretty good anti-favre roll.

Mark said...

Why is Igor angrier about people's thoughts on Dave's posts than Dave. I'm thoroughly confused. I'm also laughing at D-Train highlighting the 15 second anecdote in the article when he sent it to his wife.

And, I was thinking of a 10 second rule violation for Pitino, but Geoff's right. Shot clock joke is the best. We need to get our writers on it.

Geoff said...

If I could do decent photoshopping, Pitino and a bimbo with a shot clock in the background would be my focus. Sadly, I can barely figure out how to change the wallpaper on my homescreen.

T.J. said...

Photoshop not even needed. I'm laughing my ass off just picturing that. Can he have that awful white suit on in the pic?

Jerry said...

Team Google - first ballot OBFT Hall of Fame.

Geoff said...

John Riggins turns 61 today. I feel old.

T.J. said...

Geoff, are you like the other moron Skins fans on the raio right now saying the Skins should take a chance on Plax Handgun?

Geoff said...

Hadn't really thought about it. If the price is low and he's in marginally good shape, he has the potential to be better than any receiver on their roster. I wouldn't kill them for taking a shot. They currently have 43 WRs in camp, so they might have to cut Bobby Wade or Joey Galloway or Willie Gault or someone to make room.

Geoff said...

I sound like a broken record here, but watching Buzz Bissinger's life completely come unhinged on twitter is one of the most fascinating things I've witnessed. Here's his most recent tweet:

Wife 3 is right-- you are witnessing the disintegration of a once-thoughtful person. At least she is eight hours ahead...

rob said...

it's 'video killed the radio star' for the twitter age

Igor said...

Mark, you didn't hear it from me but there's a chance I may have been drinking earlier today. It would explain the ire, maybe.

Dave said...

i am going camping and will be "off the grid." i hope my post will remain on the top of g:tb until i return, giving slow readers a chance to finish it, and giving all others a chance to chime in on the length.

of course, sentence of dave will be automatically providing fresh, brilliant content daily.

i will miss everyone dearly (except those who deride the length of my posts).

and i have a video idea for my next post.

d-train said...

are the gtb leaders still at obft? just askin... was looking for somethin a little fresher when i opened it up this morning. i may have to put my subscription money elsewhere.

T.J. said...

I've been trying to work on the photoshop visual of Geoff's Pitino joke yesterday...and I am failing miserably.

d-train said...

i'm looking for results. not effort.
thank you.

Geoff said...

Your daily Bissinger. I'm obsessed.

Why would I be smiling? Because the sun is out? Because there is still oxygen? Every piece of underwear mysteriously torn to shreds. Life is overrated.

T.J. said...

I would pay one million dollars to see Shaq fight (and kill) Jim Rome.

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