Have You All Seen the Cover Story in the Atlantic Monthly?
www.theatlantic.com/doc/200807/google I happened to see it in a friend’s beach bag, and read it as fast as I could. Nicholas Carr is making a two-fold argument — that the technology through which we receive information (words, print, TV, the internet) actually influences how we process that information, in other words, the medium changes the message, it alters how we are able to think. That is the first contention — and I am not at all sure I believe it. The second contention is that the effect of the kind of searches Google makes possible is to make us speedy, rapid, readers who trawl for bits and bites who grab at quick info-snacks, and no longer have the patience to sink into a book, or to follow a deep and cmoplex argument.
Reading the article I kept feeling that Carr was sloppy, overgeneralizing, substituting impressions, instances, anecdotes for real analysis. And yet, I must admit that I just got a Blackberry, and I notice that it does encourage a kind of horizontal experience. That is, the satisfaction of many immediate connections — email, phone, the web, — is quite compelling. Now I happen to also have just started a very long nonfiction book, Tim Weiner, Legacy of Ashes, www.randomhouse.com/doubleday/legacyofashes/legacy.htm which I just love. So the greater access that new device makes possible has not made me any less drawn to long, complex books. That is my experience — what is yours?
I would love to hear from those of you who have read the AM article. Are you convinced that technology changes how we think? Do you believe the Google search model is making us think faster and more broadly at the expense of slow and deep? My impulse is to doubt or severely question the first contention and discount the second as a scare story. But I have the nagging sesne that I am too quickly dismissing something I should think through more carefully.
What do you think?