Dichotomy of the ‘clip thinking’ phenomenon Volkodav T., Semenovskikh T.
Proceedings of ICEPS 2017 (International Conference on Education, Psychology, and
Social Sciences) 2 August 2017 Bangkok, Thailand - Volume 4 Chulalongkorn Business
School, Chulalongkorn University 2017 pp. 345-353 ISSN: 2518-2498
Dichotomy of the ‘Clip Thinking’ Phenomenon
Tatiana Volkodav, Kuban State University, Russia*
Tatiana Semenovskikh, Tyumen State University, Russia
The paper describes the phenomenon of ‘clip thinking’ from interdisciplinary
perspective. Clip thinking is regarded as a process of reflecting a multitude of various
properties of objects, without taking into account the relationships between them,
characterized by fragmented information flow, illogicality, heterogeneity of incoming
information, high speed of switching between fragments of information as well as the
lack of a holistic perception of the surrounding world.
The phenomenon of clip thinking is essentially synonymous with the concept of
‘cognitive style’. The ‘differential / integral’ cognitive styles are associated with
individual features of students’ digestion of the teaching material. Students with
integral type of cognitive style tend to rely on educational technologies built on the
principle of transition from abstract to concrete, whereas students with differential type
of cognitive style are inclined to learn from a specific focus to a general one.
Within the context of clip thinking, we need to:
revise the content of the learning material;
organize information in the form of clips;
modify the format of information presentation ;
apply bright, clear and visual presentations with clear, imaginative and catchy
The application of common teaching methods together with e-learning technologies
will increase the efficiency of the learning process as well as significantly enhance
students’ professional training.
Key words: Clip, Clip thinking, Zapping, Blip culture, Cognitive style.
The increased role of knowledge, information and information technologies has led to
a new stage of development of the modern society. Information technologies are widely
used in everyday life, production, institutions, and the education system as a whole.
The global information space provides effective interaction of people, satisfaction of
their needs in information products and services, as well as access to the world
Global informatization is changing man’s mental activity. Thus, under the influence of
television, computer games, the Internet and even modern literature, most
representatives of the younger generation are forming a special type of thinking – ‘clip
The analysis of interdisciplinary works in philosophy, cultural studies and psychology
devoted to the phenomenon of clip thinking, has revealed the contradiction associated
with the essence of orthodox educational paradigm, which responds quite slowly to the
rapid changes in modern society, where information is the main resource. As a result,
there is a clear discrepancy between updated internal expectations of individuals with
clip consciousness and a measured rhythm and stable character of the educational
2. Theoretical Fundamentals
The aim of the paper is to conduct an interdisciplinary analysis of clip thinking. The
word clip often refers to the principles of constructing music videos, or music clips,
where the video consists of loosely linked images. This is an underlying principle of a
cliché worldview, when a person perceives the world as a series of almost unconnected
parts, facts or events. Clip thinking hinders analytical abilities, since the images that
remain in thoughts only for a short period of time, almost immediately disappear being
replaced by the new ones (Semenovskikh, 2002).
The media are excessively manipulating the word ‘clip’ in the context of thinking,
although the term ‘clip thinking’ initially emerged in philosophical and psychological
literature in the late 1990s to denote the peculiarity of a person to perceive the world
through a bright short message embodied in the form of either a video clip (hence the
name) or television news (Azarenok, 2009).
Originally, it was the media rather than the World Wide Web that developed a universal
format for presenting information through the so-called sequence of current clips. In
this case, a clip is a short set of abstracts submitted without defining the context, since
the objective reality itself serves as the context of the clip due to its relevance. Thus, a
person is free to perceive and interpret the clip because it is immersed in this very
reality. In fact, not everything is as beautiful as it looks at first glance, since in view of
the fragmented nature of the information flow and the spacing of related events over
time, the brain simply cannot comprehend the connection between them. Consequently,
the clip turns into information noise. However, the message of the clip is retained in the
person’s perception, thereby reading news fosters an illusion of being aware of the
processes taking place in the world, while, in effect, it results in a set of discrete facts
that are almost impossible to link or associate with the general chain of events. The
format of the media forces the brain to make a fundamental comprehension mistake,
i.e. the events are considered to be connected if they have a temporary affinity, rather
than a factual one. It is therefore no wonder that the clip thinking emerged as a response
to the increased amount of information.
According to McLuhan’s theory of civilization (McLuhan, 1988), at the present stage
of its development the society is being transformed into an e-society or a global village,
whereby the Internet and social media are creating a multidimensional perception of
the world. The development of electronic means of communication is taking back
human thinking to the pre-text era, where the linear sequence of signs ceases to serve
as a cultural base.
The phenomenon of clip culture was first noted by A. Toffler, an American futurist
(Toffler, 1984), who viewed this concept as a component of the general information
culture, that forms such a unique form of perception as ‘zapping’, when non-stop
switching of TV channels creates a new image, consisting of scraps of information or
debris of impressions. This image requires no imagination or reflection; the information
is constantly updated, since everything seen in the news report without a temporary gap
tends to lose its meaning or become obsolete. Furthermore, Toffler introduced the term
‘blip’, i.e. mosaic perceptions of the world that arise from audiovisual electronic
information in terms of its demassification. Hence, those who prefer logical harmony
and integrity of the mass media broadcast struggle to comprehend the chaos of blip-
Girenok (Girenok, 2002) was the first to use the term clip thinking in Russian literature,
believing that conceptual thinking ceased to play an important role in the modern world,
whereby linear, binary thinking is being replaced with a nonlinear one. The European
culture is built on a system of evidence, whereas the Russian culture with its Byzantine
roots is grounded on the system of visualization. Therefore, Russians have evolved,
perhaps following John of Damascus, towards the perception of images, which is
intrinsically related to clip thinking.
According to Feldman (Feldman), clip thinking is a conditioned thinking, which allows
a person to process fixed-length content rather than semiotic structures of arbitrary
complexity. This is particularly visible in a person who is incapable of concentrating
on any information for long periods to subsequently provide its critical analysis.
Clip thinking, as defined by Frumkin (Frumkin, 2010), is a vector of the development
of a new level of person’s relation with information, characterized by the ability to
quickly switch between disjointed semantic fragments, as well as our inability to
perceive a long linear sequence of homogeneous information.
Frumkin identified five factors that contributed to the phenomenon of ‘clip thinking’:
accelerated pace of life and the subsequent increase in the volume of the
information flow unduly burdensome to select, filter out and differentiate between
the essential and the non-essential;
systematically updated information;
increased diversity of incoming information;
enhanced democracy and an on-going dialogue at different levels of the social
The main problem with clip thinking is the lack of context, which elucidates the
significance of separate fragments in a meaningful verbal or written speech (Frumkin,
2010). When you perceive any meaningful text, a certain context is formed as a set of
statements and assumptions that have already been considered within the scope of the
topic in question both in the existing context and in the context of your own knowledge
and expertise. The longer the text is, the more complex its context is, and therefore the
easier it is for us to understand the semantic relations between phenomena, which, in
fact, exist before our eyes, namely in a context.
Сlip thinking impedes a clear understanding of the context, and therefore, a clip leaves
no traces in semantically related phenomena. Although a clip is a form of information
representation, its interpretation could be particularly problematic, for instance, for a
person who is indifferent to politics and therefore unable to understand the causes and
consequences of the political events, since he fails to see any connection between the
isolated facts. In contrast, a politically conscious person relies on the context that
correlates the clips to provide a unified view of the political situation (Bryksin, 2012).
The relation between experience and behavior was central to Carl Roger’s
Phenomenological Theory of Personality. Rogers believed that people’s behavior is
influenced by their current perceptions and interpretation. In other words, their
subjective experience determines the behavior that cannot be understood without
subjective interpretation of the events.
Furthermore, Carl Rogers was the proponent of a holistic approach to personality that
suggests that the person is regarded as a whole, and this unity cannot be reduced to the
constituent elements of his personality.
The transition from a holistic approach to clip thinking is the transition from holism to
elementalism. This indicates a fragmentation and contradiction in thinking. In his
article ‘Is Google making us stupid?’ Nicholas Carr (Carr, 2001) wrote: “Over the past
few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been
tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory.
My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way
I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a
book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative
or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of
prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my
concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread,
and begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my
wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has
become a struggle”.
One of the peculiarities of clip thinking is the development of some cognitive
skills at the expense of others. In his book ‘Me, MySpace, and I: Parenting the Net
Generation’ Larry D. Rosen, an American psychologist, notes that the strength of the
Internet Generation, brought up in the era of internet-based communication
technologies, demonstrate a higher propensity for multitasking, for instance, presentday
children can do homework while simultaneously listening to music, chatting, editing
pictures or surfing the Internet. However multitasking leads to a lack of concentration
and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Moreover, Net Geners prefer
visual symbols to logic.
Since the consciousness of a modern man is experiencing unprecedented influx of
chaotic and heterogeneous information that clogs the channels of perception with
excessive, unwanted data, clip thinking acts as a protective shield against information
overload (Golovin, 1998). Thus, clip thinking proves to serve as a kind of protection
against information overload in modern society, particularly when a person needs to
digest diverse information. Clip thinking is creating a new information management
tool; therefore, network communications are as important for a modern man as the
Clip thinking can be defined as the process that allows humans to make sense of the
world they experience and of various properties of multiple objects, characterized by a
lack of a holistic perception of illogical flow of heterogeneous information and rapid
switching between its fragments, without analyzing their connections. In our opinion,
the main characteristics of clip thinking are as follows: concrete thinking, fragmentation
(lack of a holistic perception), focus on less general concepts, illogicality and lability.
3. Students’ Clip Thinking: Psycho-Didactic Aspects
Recently, among educators and psychologists a stable opinion has emerged that
nowadays young people perceive the world around them too superficially. Thus,
Vronsky (Vronsky, 2012) believes that the entire system of young men’s values and
ideals is too monotonous and is based solely on the information flow that literally
‘pours’ in on them from television screens and the Internet. The ability to formulate an
idea in a clear and comprehensible way to convey its meaning has become a rarity.
Equally, the inability of modern students to listen carefully and write down the
conclusions of the lecture in a coherent way has come under increasing criticism from
This is due to the fact that today the information space as the total result of human
semantic activities involves extensive written and audiovisual communication. On the
one hand, excessive information environment entails the need for the person to rapidly
assimilate as much information as possible; on the other hand, it evokes qualitative
changes in the format of the information itself. There is a steady tendency to represent
information in a fragmented manner with a focus on its quantity, rather than quality.
These changes determined the emergence of such a phenomenon as ‘clip thinking’ and
the subsequent need to redesign the approach to teaching young people.
Can clip thinking contribute to the effective assimilation of information in the learning
process? There is no unambiguous answer to the above question. The application of
clip thinking in education allows a person to memorize huge amounts of information
without perceiving its content, in other words, to quickly memorize a set of words,
phrases or numbers in a certain sequence on the basis of some images that correspond
to the information to be memorized (Semenovskikh, 2002).
Such methods are suitable, for instance, for studying foreign languages, where a
foreign word can correspond to some image of a word from the native language.
However, in physics, it will result in memorization of some terms, rules, definitions or
formulas, therefore the understanding of physical processes will be lost.
The language of images and gestures is much older than the language of symbols;
therefore, it is easier for a man to perceive information in the form of images rather
than letters, numbers, formulas, etc. A lecture is still regarded as a classical (traditional)
form of organization of higher education. The above-mentioned system of images
proves to be the most efficient way of memorizing the learning material from a more
focused approach to the lecture’s content and duration with an emphasis on modern
Current articles examine the rules for developing electronic textbooks that, unlike
paper versions, should contain separate sections on specific topics, including animation,
especially in the study of physical foundations of various processes. The formation of
images in educational process using modern computer technologies is unlikely to pose
a serious challenge. These images can be represented in the form of slides or short
animated pictures, i.e. clips. It is important to keep in mind, though, that students should
associate the small-scale sequence of clips with quite definite images, rather than
abstract content. The proposed method of presenting information in the form of a clip
allows us to merely memorize it, without consciously absorbing it (Pudalov, 2011).
Furthermore, a measure of overlap exists between clip thinking per se and the cognitive
style; therefore, it is necessary to take into account the recommendations for the
learning process with regard to students’ cognitive style. A complex approach to
learning with an emphasis on clip and cognitive thinking is described in the work of
Berulava (Berulava, 2001), that presents a set of methodological recommendations for
helping students not only master the material, but also realize their full potential.
In her study, Berulava proves that clip thinking and the differential / integral cognitive
style both relate to specific perception and assimilation of learning material. Thus,
students with integral type of cognitive style tend to rely on educational technologies
built on the principle of transition from abstract to concrete through discussions,
whereas students with differential type of cognitive style are inclined to learn from a
specific focus to a general one through logical and formalized perception of the
material, either on the basis of their integral knowledge, or consistent cognition.
In general, we have every reason to believe that modern educators and psychologists
should integrate essential features of clip thinking in learning environment, including
students’ educational and extra-curricular activities. It is highly advisable to revise the
content of the learning material with an emphasis on students’ individual psychological
characteristics. The format of information should be modified and translated into the
form of clips, i.e. bright, clear and visual presentations with understandable,
imaginative and memorable formulations. The challenge is to create ad hoc films or
video clips with illustrative examples, experiments, etc.
Advanced pedagogical tools combined with e-learning technologies will increase the
efficiency of the learning process and significantly improve the students’ professional
The main findings of the interdisciplinary analysis of the research on clip thinking are
- clip thinking can be defined as the process that allows humans to make sense of the
world they experience and of various properties of multiple objects, characterized
by a lack of a holistic perception of illogical flow of heterogeneous information and
rapid switching between its fragments, without analyzing their connections;
- a measure of overlap exists between clip thinking per se and the cognitive style;
- the students’ differential / integral cognitive style is associated with individual
features of their perception of the learning material, which should be presented in
short semantic fragments with regard to their psychological characteristics.
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