[Web4lib] Re: "Is Google Making Us Stupid? What the Internet is
doing to our brains"
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
authentic way, you must be authentically awesome. There's no
room for deception" -- Brant Hansen, _The 417 Rules of Awesomely
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.
> 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
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