A snapshot from Nicholas Carr – read the full essay for more context. I think beyond-the-basics hypertext is a better form-follows-function fit (than books) for the way human brains work, but the signal-to-noise ratio on the Web is still challenging, as are information quality and information literacy.
Edge's annual question for 2010 is "How is the Internet changing the way you think?" Some 170 folks submitted answers, including me. (I found it a bit of a challenge, since I wanted to avoid pre-plagiarizing my upcoming book, which happens to be on this subject.) Here's my submission:
My own reading and thinking habits have shifted dramatically since I first logged onto the Web fifteen or so years ago. I now do the bulk of my reading and researching online. And my brain has changed as a result. Even as I’ve become more adept at navigating the rapids of the Net, I have experienced a steady decay in my ability to sustain my attention. As I explained in an Atlantic Monthly essay in 2008, “what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles.” Knowing that the depth of our thought is tied directly to the intensity of our attentiveness, it’s hard not to conclude that as we adapt to the intellectual environment of the Net our thinking becomes shallower.