Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Is the net changing the way we read?

There has been considerable debate around an article by Nicholas Carr called "Is Google making us stupid?" He admits to finding it increasingly difficult to engage in deep reading and blames it on our restless habits on the net (symbolised by Google); "Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski."

We are becoming increasingly impatient as the information overload increases. Quick news summaries, newsletters, highlights packages and Twitter feeds help us keep up with events without spending too much time on it all. Blog posts of over 5 paragraphs are seldom read. Carr fears we're losing the ability to contemplate and reflect since we never switch off the background noise for long enough to hear the silence again.

Trent Baston's response in Campus Technology sees the trend in a more positive light. Knowledge today is constantly being adapted and enriched in a constant dialogue. Learning is no longer a solitary activity reading the thoughts of one author but is revised almost daily in a rich on-line discussion. In a way, Baston argues, our net habits are more in line with oral tradition; listening to different arguments and replying spontaneously. Rather than making us stupid, the net is helping us discover new ways to collaborate and learn.

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