Saturday, June 28, 2008

is the internet messing with your head?

Do you think and read differently since you've entered the era of internet grazing? Nicholas Carr (The Atlantic Monthly) is wondering what's happening to his brain:

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, 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.

As the media theorist Marshall McLuhan pointed out in the 1960s, media are not just passive channels of information. They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought.

A pathologist who has long been on the faculty of the University of Michigan Medical School, Friedman elaborated on his comment in a telephone conversation with me. His thinking, he said, has taken on a “staccato” quality, reflecting the way he quickly scans short passages of text from many sources online. “I can’t read War and Peace anymore,” he admitted. “I’ve lost the ability to do that. Even a blog post of more than three or four paragraphs is too much to absorb. I skim it.”

But a recently published study of online research habits, conducted by scholars from University College London, suggests that we may well be in the midst of a sea change in the way we read and think.

Read the rest of "Is Google Making Us Stupid?"

And regarding an item about Kindle and the end of books and that I blogged about a bit ago, a writer on Slate begs to differ.

We'll do more and more reading on screens, but they won't replace paper—never mind what your friend with a Kindle tells you. Rather, paper seems to be the new Prozac. A balm for the distracted mind. It's contained, offline, tactile. William Powers writes about this elegantly in his essay "Hamlet's BlackBerry: Why Paper Is Eternal." He describes the white stuff as "a still point, an anchor for the consciousness."

Read the rest of "Lazy Eyes - How We Read Online"

What about you? Can you still wade through dense writing on paper? Do you have the patience? Or do books actually calm you down?

Personally, if books really do have a Prozac-like effect, that may be just the reason I need to resist getting a laptop. Now when I'm away from the computer, I'm away. For the foreseeable I should probably resign myself to keeping it like that - to preserve brain normalcy if nothing else.


Anonymous said...

We'll just have to keep books down to a page or less - ha! E.

Lorrie said...

Wow, I'm glad I'm not the only one. I used to keep track of how many books I read in a month - with notes and such for future reference. But I haven't for awhile. And I realized that I have had my need for reading satiated by the world wide web.

I decided to change. Now, I challenge myself to pick up a book instead of coming upstairs to the computer. Reading a book is more relaxing. I'm also finding that I'm thinking better - more fluidly, more deeply? Haven't quite put a finger on it yet.


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