Another superb piece by Adam Thierer at Technology Liberation Front, this time looking at a new book which is making a big impact: The Shallows, by Nicholas Carr: 

The general Carr argument is that the immediacy of unlimited communication actually changes the way we think, to the extent of affecting the way our very neural circuits tick:

… fewer and fewer people are likely to be engaged in such contemplative, deep reading activities due to the highly distractive nature of the Internet and digital technologies.

“With the exception of alphabets and number systems, the Net may well be the single most powerful mind-altering technology that has ever come into general use,” Carr claims. “At the very least, it’s the most powerful that has come along since the book.”

The Net and multimedia “strains our cognitive abilities, diminishing our learning and weakening our understanding” …

This piece took me to Nicholas Carr’s blog Rough Type.

See eg his ideas on delinkification – cutting hyperlinks from work (such as this sentence!) to help the flow of thought and general self-discipline, or at least listing the links only at the end of the piece.

And this magnificent, elegant effort about why LP records emerged. Was it to help ‘bundle’ more songs on to a single disk? No:

The long-player was not, in other words, a commercial contrivance aimed at bundling together popular songs to the advantage of record companies and the disadvantage of consumers; it was a format specifically designed to provide people with a much better way to listen to recordings of classical works.

Anyway, does the Internet in fact change our brains?


We read more, but surely we also read less systematically. We get jumpy if we have not checked our emails/texts.

I am struck by the way even serious grown-ups now think there is nothing wrong in abruptly tuning out of a conversation with the person next to them while checking some or other e-device. Go to a park or restaurant and look at people who are ostensibly together in fact ignoring each other, as they tap away on little gadgets or simply talk to people on their mobiles. The remote starts to get more ‘real’ or at least immediate/important than reality.

Nicholas Carr again on e-addiction:

At the end of Ioffe’s piece, she reports on a recent trip that Tournovskiy made to West Virigina to meet his IM buddy and "real friend," Kirill Gura, face to face: "’It was a little weird, you know,’ Ternovskiy told me later. ‘We was just looking at each other without having much to say.’"

A vast and fascinating subject.

QUESTION FOR READERS: Is it better not to clutter a piece with hyperlinks and eg list them at the end?

The advantage of keeping the links in the text is that it lets people check your sources and so helps to raise standards (one reason why bloggers have been doing well against newspapers latterly, although I see that online versions of newspapers are starting to include links too).

The disadvantage is that it adds clutter and is distracting, if only subliminally – do I leave this page for another and break the chain of thought, or not?

Maybe I’ll experiment and see if anyone notices.

In the meantime, another link. To someone who found true peace by getting away from all those busy communication gadgets.

The Murderer.