Are We Getting Dumb or Quick?

Is the Internet making us stupid, or does traditional reading just slow us down?


The half-attentive, ever-antsy nature of our scrolling life on the Web may be making us stupid, the Atlantic Monthly says this month. The story reports on the findings of a University College London study of online research habits: "We may well be in the midst of a sea change in the way we read and think."

The authors of the study report:

It is clear that users are not reading online in the traditional sense; indeed, there are signs that new forms of "reading" are emerging as users "power browse" horizontally through titles, contents pages and abstracts going for quick wins. It almost seems that they go online to avoid reading in the traditional sense.

Now skip on over to Seth Godin's blog and find his notes on the merits and deficiencies of Amazon's electronic Kindle book reader:

The Kindle does a fine job of being a book reader, and a horrible job of actually improving the act of reading a book. This is a surprising design choice, I think, and a mistake. Here are three simple examples of how non-fiction books on the Kindle could be better, not just cheaper and thinner:

  • Let me see the best parts of the book as highlighted by thousands of other readers.
  • Let me see notes in the margin as voted up, Digg-style, by thousands of other readers.
  • Let me interact with hyperlinks and smart connections not just within the book but across books.

One man's regret is another man's recommendation.

When it comes to our jobs and our personal lives, does our Web-wiredness make us quicker and smarter—or does it rob us of nuanced, concentrated thought?


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