So, yes, you should be skeptical of my skepticism. Perhaps those who dismiss critics of the Internet as Luddites or nostalgists will be proved correct, and from our hyperactive, data-stoked minds will spring a golden age of intellectual discovery and universal wisdom. 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.
From Nicholas Carr’s Is Google Making Us Stupid?
2 responses to “Deep reading and thinking”
Fascinating. So far, I think my writing has changed more than my reading. I am still (thankfully, blessedly) quite able to lose myself in books. Even long articles. (I read Carr’s whole article with no problem!) The implications for teaching are important — we have to make sure kids get that “undistracted reading of a book” at school since they might not get it or choose it in their out-of-school lives. And we have to teach them to pay attention to the different ways their brains FEEL when they are reading different kinds of text. I don’t think one kind of reading is better or more valuable than the other (I’m no Luddite), but I also don’t think we should focus on only one kind of reading in school!
I think certain sorts of books always encourage the sort of dipping in and out that online reading does. Scrapbook books like those of Candace Fleming (her forthcoming The Lincolns is terrific) and those DK books like Pick Me Up. When I was a kid I loved coffee table books like The Family of Man. So I think this may be feeding into something always there.