Not too long ago, The Atlantic published an column or something which arguing that Google is making us stupid, using helpful and always accurate anecdotal evidence.

Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading.

Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle. I think I know what’s going on.

For more than a decade now, I’ve been spending a lot of time online, searching and surfing and sometimes adding to the great databases of the Internet.

I skipped ahead to the end.

… as we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence.

Skimming the stuff in between, I turned my feeds, jumping from one-sentence summaries from BBC news to one-sentence summaries of opinion columnists from The New York Times. My feeds throw in a weighty mix of Neatorama, mental_floss, The Onion and a few cartoons.

Then, I came across an interesting title from The Line. I clicked on the title.

She wrote something about Internet literacy, and how poorly Internet users pay attention to long, unbroken blocks of text. I read this one a little better, mostly because it wasn’t composed of long, unbroken blocks of text.

After considering a snarky Slate columnist, Dina asks a question.

Take or leave his wordplay, but I’m going to be be thinking all summer about the ramifications of the Net reading meta-approach this discusses. Could it be treated as a new genre of reading, unto itself?

Answer: As The Atlantic would have it, this new genre of reading threatens to dissolve the accessibility of the existing, useful genres of reading. Mr. Tim also had something to say about this, too, if you really care to read what he has to say.

How could our students and this new generation get so distractable, so uninterested in maintaining focus for long periods of time?

I could have thought about this angle, writing on that topic, but I wasn’t really interested, nor have I given it much thought.

I was busy reading my feeds, listening to iTunes, writing this entry and watching the episode of Star Trek where Wesley Crusher almost gets expelled from the Academy. Such a good show.


  1. Society became more attention deficit oriented as far back as the permeation of TV into the American household. Computers just made it worse.

  2. My classes on designing Online courses always state to keep information short and to the point with a lot of white space so as not to confuse the learner. I can not read a lot of text on screen, I print and read, but then again I am pushing 42 and only a digital immigrant. The natives may be able to more…then again, I used sticks as toys in the 70’s when mine broke and parents would not replace immediately…my imagination is still intact…but that is another blog post…

  3. Mr. Black: No argument here. The recent onset — onslaught? — of ADD and ADHD diagnoses, whether valid or not, coincides very nicely beginning with the MTV generation, getting worse and worse the more video games and computers entered our homes.

    Mr. Salvucci: White space is a crucial element of design, whether it’s space between the lines or space around the paragraphs.

    My imagination is still intact.

    To what extent would the Internet’s growing role in our lives damage our imagination and creativity? Does it do nearly as much damage as school can?

    Entrepreneurial spirit, and inventive creativity, is America’s role in the world.

  4. Humans require and crave structure. Good schools provide that. There is little structure to the Internet, but rather chaos and overload.

  5. Chaos and overload is the Internet’s natural state — but there are ways around it. I’m pretty consistent with my Internet use, and pretty predictable.

    In that sense, it’s possible to create structure within the Internet. The trick is that this is a burden the user creates, rather than some burden that is created in advance by some external power.

    If there’s one thing teachers should teach about the Internet, it’s how to form some corner of the Internet into something without that chaos or overload.

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