Monday, May 31, 2010

Turns Out That Surfing Can Make You Shallow.

Roger Ebert wrote a splendid blog entry that sent me to this Wired story about the way we take in information from the internet, and what it does to our minds. Here's a salivary quote:

What kind of brain is the Web giving us? That question will no doubt be the subject of a great deal of research in the years ahead. Already, though, there is much we know or can surmise—and the news is quite disturbing. Dozens of studies by psychologists, neurobiologists, and educators point to the same conclusion: When we go online, we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning. Even as the Internet grants us easy access to vast amounts of information, it is turning us into shallower thinkers, literally changing the structure of our brain.

As an author of books (they're like an iPad, but with a different kind of pages), I've long felt that our society has become more fractured in its thinking, less able to think deeply. I see it even in myself (something that Mr. Ebert cops to as well). But the study referenced above gives an indication, possibly, as to the recent downturn in the publishing world. However, as scientists love to tell us, correlation is not causation.

Still, it's interesting to think about. And yes, I noted the irony of a story bemoaning the use of hyperlinks... using hyperlinks. In all fairness, the story originally ran in the print version of Wired, and is excerpted from a forthcoming book about this topic.

1 comment:

Marshall said...

I think that the "problem" isn't the web, it's the content-on-demand world we live in. I read a ton of blogs a day looking for my next 'frisson' while I have 4 recently purchased books remaining started, but unfinished.

Post industrialization and pre-tv folks had time to read books because frankly besides work, there wasn't much else. Didn't like what was on the radio? You'd turn it off and read a book or 'gasp' play outside. Now you don't like what's on, you change to one of another hundred channels or turn on your netflix streaming device, or jump on the web for whatever content you desire.

People are inherently lazy and will unfortunately go for what will give them the next 'frisson' the quickest. Web, content on demand etc require less investment than a good long read.

Short of something apocalyptic I don't see things getting any better.

P.S. I really enjoyed reading those hyperlinked articles on my iPad. :-)