This week’s articles involved discussion around how Google, laptops, and new media, from the printing press to YouTube, change the way society focuses and how we share and absorb new information.
I was particularly interested in the article questioning the potential effects the internet is having on our brain and changing the way we think. I wholeheartedly agree with the comparison the author makes about once being able to fully immerse oneself in a book for a long period of time and now being unable to do so without our concentration slipping and losing interest in the book after just a few pages. And I do think that the internet likely plays a role in that. As a Twitter user, I have become accustomed to reading tiny blurbs of information and quickly scrolling onto the next items on my feed. As the author of this piece notes, studies have found that more people are “power browsing” or partially skim-reading materials because they lose focus within the first couple of pages or get distracted by other stimuli and “bounce” to another website, material, activity, etc. This argument is also present in Clay Shirky’s article about banning use of laptops because of the way they make students involuntarily distracted by even the littlest bit of stimuli. I’ve found it difficult to multitask on a laptop during class, so I try to avoid it at all costs. I also find it difficult to simply read scholarly articles or complete writing assignments without absentmindedly checking my phone and responding to text messages, browsing my email, or taking a ‘quick’ break on Twitter or YouTube that ends up lasting far longer than I anticipated. One source quoted by the author of this article describes no longer being able to read War and Peace because even short blog posts online have become too much information to absorb at one time. I used to be able to read and entire book series in a week or two, and have actually been attempting to read War and Peace since this Fall. I have barely gotten into the book, which I’ve wanted to read for years, because I find myself more drawn to aimlessly browsing on Twitter or Instagram before bed. And those platforms aren’t drastically enriching my life in any way, making me question why I even prefer or use them at all.