The Death of Deep Reading
A new style of writing reflects the assumption that people take in information in little chunks and nuggets and don’t really have the ability to immerse themselves in the text and pay attention.
Nicholas Carr writes on the social, economic, and business implications of technology. He is the author of the 2008 Wall Street Journal bestseller "The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google," which is "widely considered to be the most influential book so far on the cloud computing movement," according the Christian Science Monitor. His earlier book, "Does IT Matter?," published in 2004, "lays out the simple truths of the economics of information technology in a lucid way, with cogent examples and clear analysis," said The New York Times. His new book is "The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains."
Carr has also written for many periodicals, including The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times Magazine, Wired, The Financial Times, Die Zeit, The Futurist, and Advertising Age, and has been a columnist for The Guardian and The Industry Standard. His much-discussed essay "Is Google Making Us Stupid?," which appeared as the cover story of the Atlantic Monthly's Ideas issue in the summer of 2008, has been collected in three popular anthologies. Carr has written a personal blog, Rough Type, since 2005. He is a member of the Encyclopaedia Britannica's editorial board of advisors and is on the steering board of the World Economic Forum's cloud computing project.
Carr holds a B.A. from Dartmouth College and an M.A., in English and American literature and language, from Harvard University.
We’re going to see what we almost always see with new gadgets, which is the makers of them compete on how many new features they can put into the device. So we’ll see multi-functional e-readers, e-readers that will allow you to have social networking going on when you read, that allow much more types of hyper-linking, the introduction of videos and audio streams into books and so forth.
Individually, each of these features may be attractive, but what they all tend to do is distract us and break that ability to really immerse ourselves in a book, in a story, in an argument. That's the kind of deep reading skill we learned with the arrival of the printed book.
After the introduction of the printing press, we saw an explosion in forms of writing, in experimentation, in very complex arguments and stories and novels committed to print. And all of this came about because writers had the confidence that they were writing to people who could pay attention, who could stick with a story or an argument for a long period of time in the form of a book.
As we begin to break that assumption, writers have to begin to write for a reader they know is distracted and isn’t going to be able to have any kind of single-minded attentiveness to the text. What we’ll probably see is a retreat from that expressiveness and that experimentation into more simpler forms of writing, more broken up forms of writing.
And you can see this in a lot of non-fiction books these days that have subheads three subheads every page or so. This all reflects the assumption that people take in information in little chunks and nuggets and don’t really have the ability or are losing the ability to immerse themselves in the text and pay attention.
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