I read the most fascinating book this summer, by Nicholas Carr, called The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains. It’s up for a Pulitzer prize this year.
Here’s the deal. Most of us (especially “information workers”) have the attention spans of gnats, as adults. And our attention is being pulled in all sorts of directions by virtue of the tools we use. Mr. Carr exposes why, and how that has happened.
An exerpt (published on NPR):
“Some thinkers welcome the eclipse of the book and the literary mind it fostered. In a recent address to a group of teachers, Mark Federman, an education researcher at the University of Toronto, argued that literacy, as we’ve traditionally understood it, “is now nothing but a quaint notion, an aesthetic form that is as irrelevant to the real questions and issues of pedagogy today as is recited poetry — clearly not devoid of value, but equally no longer the structuring force of society.” The time has come, he said, for teachers and students alike to abandon the “linear, hierarchical” world of the book and enter the Web’s “world of ubiquitous connectivity and pervasive proximity” — a world in which “the greatest skill” involves “discovering emergent meaning among contexts that are continually in flux.”
Upon finishing the book (which I DID finish!) I have made a deal with myself: I read every day, for about an hour, while I’m on the elliptical machine. And I read books. Sometimes involved books, sometimes easy books. But I make myself have deep thought for at least that time - exercising my lungs, heart, legs and brain!
What do you think? Is it time to abandon the “linear, hierarchcal world” of the book? Or are we (virtually) doomed because of the tools we use?