Sunday, February 1, 2009

Blogworthy: I'm How I Read

I apologize, if this post reads like a snoozefest. The first three articles explore the evolution of our reading and writing habits in the so-called Internet age, which is mainly governed by the imperious Google. I have also added someecards for aesthetic reasons :).

1. "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" [The Atlantic]

"Then again, the Net isn’t the alphabet, and although it may replace the printing press, it produces something altogether different. The kind of deep reading that a sequence of printed pages promotes is valuable not just for the knowledge we acquire from the author’s words but for the intellectual vibrations those words set off within our own minds. In the quiet spaces opened up by the sustained, undistracted reading of a book, or by any other act of contemplation, for that matter, we make our own associations, draw our own inferences and analogies, foster our own ideas. Deep reading, as Maryanne Wolf argues, is indistinguishable from deep thinking."

This article raises a very interesting point. I have noticed that Internet has changed my reading habits. The difference between Internet reading and actual traditional book reading is that I am not using my imagination as much. Words don't have the same effect if they are not on paper. I find, when I am reading in a secluded corner, I can imagine what the characters look like, and what the setting would feel like. I can better associate with the characters, and sometimes I can even see myself in the protagonist.

I read the newspaper online, but I am always switching between the articles. Or I get distracted by my MSN conversations. And, now I suffer from ADD. I find it a lot harder to read a book at home. I get better reading done on the subway. Or wait for summer to finally make its appearance so I can go out to read in my backyard.

"The idea that our minds should operate as high-speed data-processing machines is not only built into the workings of the Internet, it is the network’s reigning business model as well. The faster we surf across the Web—the more links we click and pages we view—the more opportunities Google and other companies gain to collect information about us and to feed us advertisements. Most of the proprietors of the commercial Internet have a financial stake in collecting the crumbs of data we leave behind as we flit from link to link—the more crumbs, the better. The last thing these companies want is to encourage leisurely reading or slow, concentrated thought. It’s in their economic interest to drive us to distraction."

The article also points out that we "read" more than we used to. But, we actually learn and reflect less than we did before. Relying on one source, our computer, for entertainment, academics, and leisure reading cannot be good for our brains.

2. "All Hail the Information Triumvirate!" [Britannica]

"Three things have happened, in a blink of history’s eye: (1) a single medium, the Web, has come to dominate the storage and supply of information, (2) a single search engine, Google, has come to dominate the navigation of that medium, and (3) a single information source, Wikipedia, has come to dominate the results served up by that search engine. Even if you adore the Web, Google, and Wikipedia - and I admit there’s much to adore - you have to wonder if the transformation of the Net from a radically heterogeneous information source to a radically homogeneous one is a good thing. Is culture best served by an information triumvirate?"

Again, a very true observation made by Nicholas Carr. Over the years, most of our Internet activity has become limited to Google and Wikipedia. And, Internet has become the primary source of information; and there is nothing wrong with that. Perhaps, it is a good idea if everyone around the world is relying on Wikipedia to learn about obscure things. We know that Internet has brought us closer. But the question is, how is our shared source of information affecting our political and social views?

"In Plato’s Phaedrus, Socrates bemoaned the development of writing. He feared that, as people came to rely on the written word as a substitute for the knowledge they used to carry inside their heads, they would, in the words of one of the dialogue’s characters, 'cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful.' And because they would be able to 'receive a quantity of information without proper instruction,' they would 'be thought very knowledgeable when they are for the most part quite ignorant.' They would be 'filled with the conceit of wisdom instead of real wisdom.' Socrates wasn’t wrong—the new technology did often have the effects he feared—but he was shortsighted. He couldn’t foresee the many ways that writing and reading would serve to spread information, spur fresh ideas, and expand human knowledge (if not wisdom)."

The other thing I am really curious about is, what would the next generation or some future civilization say about our blogging habits. I feel, and this is a sentiment shared by many, there are more writers out there than there are readers.

3. "Handwriting is on the Wall" [The Wall Street Journal]

"Typing and texting have caused cursive skills to atrophy, and schools regard standards of style and legibility the same way they regard standards of dress. There may even come a day when longhand writing can no longer be deciphered by ordinary people -- you'll have to bring those old letters in the attic to some fussy museum curator. In 2006 only 15% of students taking the SAT wrote out their essays in cursive script; all the rest -- no doubt to the relief of the examiners -- used block letters."

I have to admit, when it comes to handwriting I prefer printing over cursive script. I feel reading another person's handwriting is an intimate experience, especially these days when it has become such a novelty. I thought this article was interesting, because it got me thinking, when was the last time I actually sent a handwritten note to someone. Oh, how I miss passing notes in class!

4. "The hijab gets an eco-friendly makeover" [The Toronto Star]

I buy scarves from H&M and use them as head-wraps, or the Muslim headscarf, or the hijab (whatever you wanna call them :D). According to this article, a Canadian girl came up with the idea of making eco-friendly hijabs, locally. These hijabs are not only good for the environment but have also created jobs at home; helping our flattering economy. So, I am glad to report that hijab just got green :).


Maria Sondule said...

Yes, reading online is a totally different experience that reading an actual book. There are so many things we can do on the net that distract us...
I do think we reflect and learn less because people more often tell us what to think. Esp online, when there are comments on things and biased newpaper articles.
As for handwriting- lol, I feel so out of touch. I still write my diary and all my creative fiction on paper with my beloved pencils. I try to use block letters because that way I can reread what I've written. There's nothing wrong with block letters, in fact they're evidence that people show compassion and logistic reasoning. ;)

C. Louis Wolfe said...

Nice "heady" blog. I definitely agree w/the google article. It's sent my ADHD over the edge!

C. Louis Wolfe said...

Hey Z- THANKS for checkin' out my blog! It means a lot. Looking over yours, I really dig the graphics. You seem very creative w/a dash or 4 of intellectual smarts thrown in for good measure.

Today's word verification is "mytin". That means it's my metal & not yours! However this is YOUR blog so I'll share. ;^)

Zany said...

I agree with you about the internet-bias, and the fact that everything is ready-made for us. Man, I am having a grandpa moment :).
It's good you still keep a journal, I tried doing that on my trip but it wasn't very successful. I also like your reasoning behind block letters :)

C. Louis,
Thanks for your comments :). It's always a pleasure to see new people stop by :). I liked your blog too, would be reading it during my breaks. I guess, I have internet induced ADD to thank for that :).
>> You seem very creative w/a dash or 4 of intellectual smarts thrown in for good measure.
In other words, very bored, and with way too much time to spare :).
Can you use "mytin" in a sentence? You know it's not a proper word unless you can use it in a sentence :).