I recently heard a radio host talking about Nicholas Carr's, The Shallows- What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. Now I am always a bit skeptical when concerns are raised about the Internet and its effect on "today's youth" or "insert target demographic here". Too often it's the call of conservative Luddite elements within society that are resisting the loss of control they once exerted over information.
We are what we read
Thankfully though Carr's book seems to be a rather more balanced look at how the technology of the Internet is shaping our culture, our habits, our reading and what implications this might have. From the book promotion site:
Building on the insights of thinkers from Plato to McLuhan, Carr makes a convincing case that every information technology carries an intellectual ethic — a set of assumptions about the nature of knowledge and intelligence. He explains how the printed book served to focus our attention, promoting deep and creative thought. In stark contrast, the Internet encourages the rapid, distracted sampling of small bits of information from many sources. Its ethic is the ethic of the industrialist, an ethic of speed and efficiency, of optimized production and consumption — and now the Net is remaking us in its own image. We are becoming ever more adept at scanning and skimming, but what we are losing is our capacity for concentration, contemplation, and reflection.
Has the Internet affected your reading?
I confess that I have felt my concentration span shortening, my attention constantly assaulted by twitter (which I turned off to write this). I read more than I ever have, indeed I read a good solid 6 hours a day if I am not working. Most of this reading is short grabs of information - screen read, scanning optimized blog posting or messages via Facebook or Twitter. Anything much over 500 words and I begin to notice the extra effort required to remain attentive.
How about yourself?