Saturday, July 17, 2010

Reading and contemplating

Is the kind of reading we do on the internet destroying our ability to really read and understand an author? Do we take the time to think about what we've read? This article at The Guardian summarizes the arguments of advocates of "slow reading."
.... According to The Shallows, a new book by technology sage Nicholas Carr, our hyperactive online habits are damaging the mental faculties we need to process and understand lengthy textual information. Round-the-clock news feeds leave us hyperlinking from one article to the next – without necessarily engaging fully with any of the content; our reading is frequently interrupted by the ping of the latest email; and we are now absorbing short bursts of words on Twitter and Facebook more regularly than longer texts.

Which all means that although, because of the internet, we have become very good at collecting a wide range of factual titbits, we are also gradually forgetting how to sit back, contemplate, and relate all these facts to each other. And so, as Carr writes, "we're losing our ability to strike a balance between those two very different states of mind. Mentally, we're in perpetual locomotion". ....

...[A] literary revolution is at hand. First we had slow food, then slow travel. Now, those campaigns are joined by a slow-reading movement – a disparate bunch of academics and intellectuals who want us to take our time while reading, and re-reading. They ask us to switch off our computers every so often and rediscover both the joy of personal engagement with physical texts, and the ability to process them fully.

"If you want the deep experience of a book, if you want to internalise it, to mix an author's ideas with your own and make it a more personal experience, you have to read it slowly," says Ottowa-based John Miedema, author of Slow Reading (2009). ....

Nicholas Carr's book elaborates further. "The words of the writer," suggests Carr, "act as a catalyst in the mind of the reader, inspiring new insights, associations, and perceptions, sometimes even epiphanies." .... [read it all, from beginning to end]
The article notes the existence of software that can help the less disciplined among us exit the internet for defined periods of time.

The art of slow reading | Books | The Guardian