Week 10 Reading

“Anecdotes alone don’t prove much.” I feel like the Nicholas Carr reading probably could have stopped there, and little of value would have been lost. I think there are quite a few problems with Carr’s article, but I would definitely point at a very faulty assumption in his basic premise as one of the root issues. Carr seems to think that because we read differently on the Internet, we are by definition not reading as well. As someone who has grown up with the Internet and doesn’t really recall a world without it, I can definitely say that I don’t think Google has impeded my ability to read long books, for instance. I’m a history major, and even long before college I would often dive into very long books for pleasure reading or simply because I wanted to learn something about the relevant topic. I have read War and Peace and The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, to name two famously long and heavy works.

Rather than weakening our capacity for “deep reading,” perhaps Google simply teaches us a different kind of reading that’s equally useful within its limitations. Even if we accept that I’m less likely to stop to read an entire article in-depth while I’m browsing JSTOR and in all likelihood doing multiple other things in different tabs, that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m not accomplishing something useful. For instance, the online format makes it quite easy for me to quickly skim through the article, determine if it would be useful to me, save it for later, and use its author, references, and key-phrases to quickly find more related articles. But by the standard Carr is insisting on, that’s apparently the same as flitting around frivolously and rewiring my brain to be more shallow. Reading a book “deeply” and reading articles on the Internet might be different in terms of how you read them, but I do not buy that they are mutually exclusive.