Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The New Hunters and Gatherers


I entirely unplugged from the internet -- and the computer altogether -- from mid-afternoon this past Saturday until mid-morning on Monday. The peace and connectedness with the real world that resulted from this "fast" was wonderful!

When I returned to e-land on Monday, I found in my inbox a newsletter from the Canadian Catholic artist and author Michael D. O'Brien that contained this very apt quote from Nicholas Carr's 2010 book, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains:
"There’s nothing wrong with absorbing information quickly and in bits and pieces. We’ve always skimmed newspapers more than we’ve read them, and we routinely run our eyes over books and magazines to get the gist of a piece of writing and decide whether it warrants more thorough reading. The ability to scan and browse is as important as the ability to read deeply and think attentively. The problem is that skimming is becoming our dominant mode of thought. Once a means to an end, a way to identify information for further study, it’s becoming an end in itself—our preferred method of both learning and analysis. Dazzled by the Net’s treasures, we are blind to the damage we may be doing to our intellectual lives and even our culture.

"What we’re experiencing is, in a metaphorical sense, a reversal of the early trajectory of civilization: We are evolving from cultivators of personal knowledge into hunters and gatherers in the electronic data forest. In the process, we seem fated to sacrifice much of what makes our minds so interesting."
I think Mr. Carr's point is well taken.

Image:
19th century tribal women harvesting wild rice in the traditional manner, from Wikimedia Commons. In the public domain.

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