There’s a great article in the Atlantic magazine this month by Nicholas Carr, which asks if the huge connective power of Google is ‘tinkering with our brains, rewiring our neural circuitry’. He explains:
As the media theorist Marshall McLuhan pointed out in the 1960s, media are not just passive channels of information. They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought. And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.
And in case you thought it was just us pyjama types who blog too late into the night, Norm picks up a literary review from the Sunday Times by Rod Liddle (Spectator columnist and former producer of the BBC’s Today programme) that fits the symptoms. Norm:
It’s one of those ‘literary classics that I hate’ features, and fair enough, they have their place. You don’t get on with Austen or Dostoyevsky? Be my guest. I don’t understand why, but it’s not obligatory to like anything, anything at all. Still, one can try to give some reasons. Liddle, for his part, disses Anthony Powell’s 12-novel sequence A Dance to the Music of Time on the basis of having read part of the first of them, A Question of Upbringing. What didn’t he like? Why didn’t he like it? Forget about it. All he’ll say is…
What ineffectual, pointless drivel.
That’s a discussion of books in the quality press for you.
Carr’s piece is an intelligent articulation of some something Andrew Keen (I went a few rounds with him once on Radio 4) seems (endlessly) to grasp for, but entirely fails to reach. I suspect Norm’s quotation of Powell’s that human beings are ‘driven at different speeds by the same Furies’ goes hand in hand with the re-shaping of our neural circuits.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty