I had heard of The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brain by Nick Carr, as it received quite a bit of attention when it came out last year. But until this week, when I read an article that I had ripped out of a magazine back then, I didn't realize that the author and I had gone to the same college. Nor had I ever before assessed Joy o' Kanji in light of his arguments.
I still haven't read Carr's book, but it apparently says that because of our Internet use, our ability to concentrate (集中力, しゅうちゅうりょく in Japanese, by the way, which I mention simply because it's a word I like and perhaps because my mind wandered) has dwindled to the point where we have "collective attention deficit disorder." We've become accustomed to absorbing information quickly, and when we read, we jump around in the text, click on links, and even check email a few times.
I do all those things! I've always been an antsy reader, and although I constantly read articles at meals, nowadays I don't read books unless I'm on an international flight or sick in bed. When I do, I struggle like crazy to concentrate, and I'm quick to put the book aside. (Were they always so heavy?)
"Day Dreams" by Paul Fischer
Carr believes that when we read in an uninterrupted way, we make complex connections and develop original insights. By contrast, whenever we read text online and encounter links, images, videos, and so on, it shifts us into the part of our brains (the prefrontal cortext, to be exact) that we use in making decisions. He posits that as long as we remain in a hyped-up mode, moving around quickly, we lack the calmness needed to "make long-term memories or weave the new information into ... previous memories and make interpretations." (I don't know if he also mentions that most of us are amped up on caffeine much of the time!)
Not everyone buys Carr's theories, not by a long shot. But what I've read so far makes sense to me. And his thesis makes me wonder about Joy o' Kanji. How do my essays fit into the picture he has painted?
[To read the rest, go to Joy o' Kanji!]
Causes Eve Kushner Supports
The Milo Foundation, Planned Parenthood, Doctors Without Borders, PCI, FINCA