Steven Berlin Johnson reviews Nick Carr's new book. He disagrees with Carr that the internet is ruining our brains:
Actually sitting down to write out a response to something makes you see it in a new way, often with greater complexity. And that of course is the crucial flipside to the decline of long-form reading in the digital age: the increase in short-form writing. If we are slightly less able to focus because of the distractions of electric text, I suspect it is more than made up for by the fact that we are much more likely to write out our responses to what we do read.
I'm a writer by profession and it's totally clear to me that since I started blogging, the amount I write has increased exponentially, my daily interactions with the views of others have never been so frequent, the diversity of voices I engage with is far higher than in the pre-Internet age – and all this has helped me become more modest as a thinker, more open to error, less fixated on what I do know, and more respectful of what I don't. If this is a deterioration in my brain, then more, please.
The problem is finding the space and time when this engagement stops, and calm, quiet, thinking and reading of longer-form arguments, novels, essays can begin. Worse, this also needs time for the mind to transition out of an instant gratification mode to me a more long-term, thoughtful calm. I find this takes at least a day of detox. Getting weekends back has helped. But if there were a way to channel the amazing insights of blogging into the longer, calmer modes of thinking … we'd be getting somewhere.
I'm working on it.