Treading Water in the Shallows


Nicholas Carr's new book The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing To Our Brain is well argued and frightening, and the opposition from some corners is simply because there's not much we can do about the ubiquity of the internet-- and near the start of the book he uses the Wallace Stevens poem "The House Was Quiet and the World Was Calm" to remind us of the value of deep reading, but if you read the poem here, then I feel like his point is proven . . . that reading on the internet is nothing like reading a book (look at the size and color of the font of the poem vs. everything else on that page) and Carr uses plenty of established research to prove his thesis that reading an actual book is an excellent way to take ideas and information from short term memory and enter them into long-term memory . . . that the only way to do this is laborious and information enters our brain "thimbleful by thimbleful," and if things happen too fast, because of hyper-links, F shaped skimming, Twitter and e-mail interruptions, etc. then there will be "cognitive overload" and we can't translate new knowledge into memories or schemas . . . and he also refutes the idea that storing knowledge on the internet means we can free out brains for other uses; in fact, paradoxically, the opposite is true, the more you have in your brain, the easier it is to remember other things and the easier it is to read and think (our brains are not computers and the ROM analogy does not work) . . . but the internet is difficult to escape, so all I can recommend is that you shut it down once in a while, kick your kids out of the house-- armed with knives and matches so they don't return for a long while, and then crack open a book (made of paper-- as the Kindle is aiming towards the same interruption-laden style of reading, with hyper-links, discussions on passages, Facebook style commenting, etc.)

8 comments:

Igor said...

I think reading a blog that has one sentence per day is fairly "thimbleful by thimbleful."

zman said...

Perhaps, Igor, but does it rise to the level of "deep reading"?

Igor said...

I think so. When Dave was discussing his taco/enchilada quandary ("The Perplexican"), I was elevated to a higher plane.

Dave said...

you guys are correct-- this blog is exempt from all of carr's accusation's about reading on the internet. in fact, a recent unbiased study found that reading one of my sentences is the intellectual equivalent of reading 1/5 of a classic novel.

Igor said...

Like A Confederacy of Dunces?

zman said...

Or Welcome to the Monkey House?

Al DePantsdowno said...

How about Bore and Sheesh?

Dave said...

very funny. the internet has stunted your humor.

A New Sentence Every Day, Hand Crafted from the Finest Corinthian Leather.