A Medium of the Most General Nature: The Shallows Chapter 5


Chapter 5 of The Shallows first discusses how the internet has replaced first the printing press, then photo developing, then audio devices and finally video devices.  Increased computing speed and increased bandwidth availability made this possible.  One device (or at least fewer devices) house all our distractions.

The internet and digitization does not just replace the devices to deliver the content.  It reshapes the content itself.  Information is bi-directional.  Users can often interact with each other and the content.  Materials become linked and searchable.  Hyperlinks are more distracting than traditional footnotes.  Users may find their link to a document more tenuous.  In addition, reading online requires less sense of touch than turning the printed page.  This may impact the depth at which readers interact with material as fewer senses are generally involved.

I can see how some of the examples of the changes this make have impacted my life.  I need to choose how much focus an act will take. Should I allow email and Twitter message arrival signals to be through while I read The Shallows for instance?  Or, should I avoid the distractions to focus?  Carr mentions how users now have backchannels at live performances through micro-blogging services like Twitter.  I can relate to that as I use Twitter to find out from Tigers reporters why a player left the game.  I can ask fellow fans watching on TV whether an umpires call is correct.  Or, we can just share the joy, or frustration of a game.

I continue to wait for the connection to the brain and learning.  Carr has plenty of time.  According to my phone I am only 34% done with the book.  I guess the digitizing media does change it!

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