That’s what a writer for The Atlantic suspects is happening due to our increasing dependence on the web for information gathering.
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. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.
A phenomena he says many of his friends, “literary types, most of them”, have also noticed recently.
A British study seems to back them up.
It is clear that users are not reading online in the traditional sense; indeed there are signs that new forms of “reading” are emerging as users “power browse” horizontally through titles, contents pages and abstracts going for quick wins. It almost seems that they go online to avoid reading in the traditional sense.
He goes on to discuss how the integration of other new communications technology have affected reading and writing in the past as well as expanding on the idea that electronic communications is working to “scatter our attention and diffuse our concentration”.
It’s an interesting argument but wasn’t MTV supposed to have done that twenty years ago? Someone probably made similar complaints about the spread of radio.
However, I wonder if what he describes is so bad.
After all, one primary purpose of reading, at least when it comes to non-fiction, is to gather and process information. If we can learn to do that with a “Jet Ski” instead of a row boat, that should be a good thing, right?
But I also don’t necessarily share the writer’s reverence for books. Most of them, like most good music albums, are often padded with extraneous or repetitive information.
Possibly one thing working on the web has taught me is how to bounce through those books to find the good stuff faster.
Of course, the bottom line in all this is that the web and Google are just tools, like any other created by man through the century.
They change the way we accomplish tasks, sometimes in good ways, sometimes not.
And people will view the changes differently.