[Web4lib] Re: "Is Google Making Us Stupid? What the Internet is doing to our brains"

Mike Taylor mike at indexdata.com
Thu Jun 19 09:07:13 EDT 2008

"I took a speed reading course and read 'War and Peace' in twenty
minutes.  It involves Russia." -- Woody Allen

Indeed, skim-reading long predates the Internet.  It seems
disingenuous to blame Google for this.

 _/|_	 ___________________________________________________________________
/o ) \/  Mike Taylor    <mike at indexdata.com>    http://www.miketaylor.org.uk
)_v__/\  "There's no getting around it: to awesomely, boldy lead in an
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	 Bold Leadership_

Kathryn Silberger writes:
 >       As I began reading this article, my initial reponse was that the
 > author needed to take up Yoga.
 >       It is an interesting question he asks, but he has some assumptions
 > about pre-Internet behavior that could use further reflection.  When
 > discussing  a study of "online research habits" by University College of
 > London, he mentions they found people were skimming as they researched.  It
 > seems to make the assumption that prior to the Internet, people read
 > articles and books from start to finish, slowing and carefully, taking in
 > every word.  I don't believe that.  Publishers wouldn't have been going to
 > the expense of creating detailed indexes if researchers were reading in
 > that manner.  Ever since long documents have been in existence, people have
 > been reading relevant portions.
 >       When I was in Junior High School  there was a special speed reading
 > class.  We attended before the beginning of the regular school day.  We
 > read books on weird machines that lowered a metal sheet over the page at a
 > given rate which we controlled.  We took comprehension tests on all we read
 > and then were assigned a score based on speed and comprehension.
 > Comprehension was key.  It was, in a sense, training in mental focus.  But
 > we were also taught skimming techniques, and when and how to use them.  The
 > course was viewed as scholarly preparation.  The message was that we would
 > do different types of reading.  Some reading would be the more
 > contemplative careful reading one does with fiction and philosophy.  But
 > other reading would involve picking out needed information from larger
 > documents.  While the NYT may have recently started publishing more
 > abstracts of articles, as long as I've been reading the WSJ there have been
 > two columns of just such abstracts on the front page.
 >       What percentage of the population read books in 1820, in 1860, in
 > 1900, in 1920, or in 1950?  What percentage of the population is on the
 > Internet right now?  I doubt that the core reading population has changed
 > its mental habits as much as the author assumes.
 >       I also question some of the assumptions about what log analysis can
 > reveal about human behavior.  I do a fair amount of log analysis because it
 > does provide some interesting insights. But we need to be aware of its
 > limitations as well.   My personal observation is that most people will
 > print an article they choose to read closely.  Few people read extensive
 > text online.  I must confess that to read this article I printed it out.
 > Personally I doubt that log analysis can give us a very good idea of how
 > people ultimately interact with the written word.  Traditional book
 > publishing may be under seige but HP is doing just fine!
 >             Certainly the Internet will bring about massive social changes.
 > The author has asked a potentially interesting question, but I think he
 > needs explore the issue more carefully after a few years of Yoga.
 > Katy
 > Kathryn K. Silberger
 > Automation Resources Librarian
 > James A. Cannavino Library
 > Marist College
 > 3399 North Road
 > Poughkeepsie, NY  12601
 > Kathryn.Silberger at marist.edu
 > (845) 575-3000 x.2419
 > _______________________________________________
 > Web4lib mailing list
 > Web4lib at webjunction.org
 > http://lists.webjunction.org/web4lib/

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