Sunday, June 20, 2010

What is lost in reading is gained in writing

Steven Johnson amplifies on his NYT essay regarding Nick Carr's new book The Shallows, and in particular on  the charge that "The problem with Mr. Carr’s model is its unquestioned reverence for the slow contemplation of deep reading." Johnson suggests a "crucial flipside to the decline of long-form reading in the digital age: the increase in short-form writing. If we are slightly less able to focus because of the distractions of electric text, I suspect it is more than made up for by the fact that we are much more likely to write out our responses to what we do read." Johnson is surely right in pointing out that "to write out a response to something makes you see it in a new way, often with greater complexity." Writing out responses is usually done with an audience in mind, however, and then other-directed, instrumental, narcissistic (often, especially on the internet!), and qualtitatively different from the mode of intransitive thinking that Birkerts (and Carr?) fear are under attack.

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