fake smart

You know, I was going to tell you that I may just take 2009 as a break from blogging.  The pressure of a blog without fresh posts would dissipate just like that.  But that was before I wrote my last post.  I had underestimated the power of writing (and bread dough) to make my world feel right-side-up again.  There is that quiet contemplation of organizing abstract thoughts into words that balances me, soothes me.

Not that I have to blog in order to write.  Justification: (1) my blogging makes you happy (Dude, if it doesn’t, I suggest you stop reading me!), and (2) blogging gives me a little push to finish my thoughts coherently.

Then I read Nicholas Carr’s article “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”.  One of the first points Carr made was that he (and I, admittedly) read differently than ever, especially on the web.  We skim.  I skimmed Carr’s article before I decided to blog about it.  And then I thought to myself:  do any of my readers really read my posts in their entirety?  It’s kind of a depressing thought that readers don’t savor my every word.

But back to the article.

“[W]hat the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation,” Carr says.  Many of us have lost our ability to sink into a good book.  A few pages may make us anxious for a change of pace.  I wonder, too, if this skipping from activity to activity and from thought to thought has made us desire everything to be bold and flashy at athletic events, at church services, and on television.  It’s as though if we aren’t distracted, we’ll get bored.

Carr seems to agree:

The Internet, an immeasurably powerful computing system, is subsuming most of our other intellectual technologies. It’s becoming our map and our clock, our printing press and our typewriter, our calculator and our telephone, and our radio and TV.

When the Net absorbs a medium, that medium is re-created in the Net’s image. It injects the medium’s content with hyperlinks, blinking ads, and other digital gewgaws, and it surrounds the content with the content of all the other media it has absorbed. A new e-mail message, for instance, may announce its arrival as we’re glancing over the latest headlines at a newspaper’s site. The result is to scatter our attention and diffuse our concentration.

Can I just admit that it feels warm and fuzzy to have someone who thinks like me, who is suspicious of this whole technological surge that revolves around the Internet?  But, as Carr says, sure, “you should be skeptical of my skepticism.”  Maybe Google-style research is mostly good.  After all, reading books isn’t a natural, instinctual activity anyway.  Maybe the way human brains process information can just change, and we’ll come out better on the other side.

But then again, I doubt it.

“If we lose those quiet spaces, or fill them up with ‘content,’ we will sacrifice something important not only in our selves but in our culture…. As we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence.”

  1. Random passing blogger (blame readomatic! 🙂 )
    “After all, reading books isn’t a natural, instinctual activity anyway”
    Well, that’s probably precisely the thing – you become what you do. When you read books, you leave behind a typical, instinctual pattern of behaviour.

    Rather than books being unnatural, it’s more a question of what sort of unnatural do you decide to become? A book reader or a bling bling flashing colour and movement follower (okay, the last is a bit cruel to the internets common methods, but hey, it helps build a contrast!).

    • manhattandoula
    • January 9th, 2009

    I have heard many people lament this. Dan regularly forwards me articles about it, and when I was teaching, brain research was beginning to come out about the way the internet changes our brains. I love the internet. I love having information easily available. It beats having to plan a trip to the library just to look up recipes for using quinoa, which is what I’d have to do otherwise. I am hoping, perhaps too idealistically, that people will just develop two different ways of thinking, that internet-thinking won’t extinguish book-thinking.
    There is an analogy for me in linguistics. The French, for example, have historically tended to be language purists, upset every time a word from another language enters French. But how do you control it? And what if you *need* those words from other languages? What if those new things really do help your expression? You can just get all upset about it and strive futilely to maintain the old, or you can adopt the viewpoint that language is organic, and it will necessarily change and grow.
    For me, that’s kind of how it is with the way we input information. God forbid the extinction of my beloved book, but I’m going to try to live with the modern reality, too.

  2. If it makes a difference, I still read your blog word for beautiful word.

    But then again, I still love a good book.

    But then again, I love the internet too.

    But then again, I just felt like saying “but then again” again.

    bye. 🙂

  3. In my case, the internet has replaced the newspaper, the encyclopedia, and J.C. Penney’s booster seat catalog. These are all thing that were skimmed. I don’t skim the Bible, because every word might mean something. I read all of your words, because they are no longer beautiful if I don’t. I love, and I suspect that all of your readers love the way you go about “organizing abstract thoughts into words.”

    • precisionink
    • January 12th, 2009

    I savor! I really do! And thank you for giving us something savory. I have already been on-line too long today (skimming and not skimming), but I’ll be back at you with examples of my favorite savories from you.

    • carmen classen
    • January 28th, 2009

    Hi, Carrie. I recently stumbled (or snooped) upon this site via your sister, Rachel’s, blog. Remember way back, when we had a class together at K-State (“P” World, I think)? We sat next to eachother and rarely said a word to one another. That makes me sad now. I wish I had taken the initiative to get to know you at least a little bit. I really enjoy what I know of Rachel, and many of my curiosities and interests have been piqued by the few posts I’ve read on your blog. I think we could have some great conversations.

    • Timothy
    • January 28th, 2009

    From your post: “And then I thought to myself: do any of my readers really read my posts in their entirety? It’s kind of a depressing thought that readers don’t savor my every word.”

    While it is easy to skim many articles when reading much info on the internet, there are many things where it is just too important that I don’t skim over the content. Your blog is one of them.

    As someone that occassionally does some writing themselves, I enjoy reading your writing, as it not only gives the reader insite into your soul, but also gives me a view of another writer’s style.

    I sincerely hope you do not give up on blogging this year!

  4. I think you’re taking your blogging break seriously 🙂 Good for you! Even though I enjoy a variety of blogs during work breaks b/c I spend the majority of my day at an internet-active computer, I commend you for sticking with it–and I’ve enjoyed the few personal emails we’ve done instead 🙂 Love ya!

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