Posts Tagged ‘The Shallows’

Book as experience? Or book as storage/retrieval mechanism?

June 24th, 2010

Here’s a research question for historians of the book (and maybe book futurists, too):

What’s the key aspect of the book?

  1. the cognitive experience
  2. information storage and retrieval enabled (e.g. book features such as ToC & indexes within a book itself; reproducibility of ‘exact’ copies, wider distribution and ownership of books, ability to have multiple books on the shelf, etc.)?

That arises from Steven Berlin Johnson:

[W]as the intellectual revolution post-Gutenberg driven by the mental experience of long-form reading? Or was it driven by the ability to share information asynchronously, and transmit that information easily around the globe? I think it is a mix of the two, but Nick, taking his cues from McLuhan, places almost all of his emphasis on the cognitive effects of deep focus reading. There’s no real way to prove it, but I think there’s a very strong case to be made that the information storage-and-retrieval advances made possible by the book were more important to the Enlightenment and the modern age than the contemplative mode of the literary mind. And if that’s true, then the Web should be seen as a continuation of the Gutenberg galaxy, not a betrayal of it.”

from a post where Steven Berlin Johnson summarizes his own New York Times essay Yes, People Still Read, but Now It’s Social responding to Nick Carr’s book The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. I assume Carr’s current position to be well-represented by his 2008 article in The Altantic, Is Google Making Us Stupid? What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains.

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