10 June 2008

how the 'net affects concentration

Like myself, others are noticing the brain-frying effects of internet forums and other online media, where everything has to be expressed in four paragraphs or less, otherwise most potential readers will skip the item. Nicholas Carr writes about it in The Atlantic:

What the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles... I’m not the only one. When I mention my troubles with reading to friends and acquaintances— literary types, most of them— many say they’re having similar experiences. The more they use the Web, the more they have to fight to stay focused on long pieces of writing.

Loss of concentration is troublesome because no language, or even a single interesting grammatical feature of a language, can be adequately described in a few paragraphs of text or in a 140-character Twitter blurb. Shallow thinking, and hallucinating that a Google search or reading a wiki article constitutes research on a topic, will cripple our ability to create language or anything else.

Blogger Matt Asay writes, "I'm returning to my books... I need to exercise my brain to think again, and not merely process."

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