I’ve been reading Wired Magazine (www.wired.com) since issue #3. I read about a lot of really cool technology there before I read about it anywhere else. Over the years, they’ve kinda changed their target audience – they still write about tech, but it’s really targeted at people much younger than me.
I still enjoy reading it although in these 18 years, I’ve still NEVER read any of the interviews they do. They always seem to interview people I have never heard of and even the short parts of some I’ve looked at, they never seem to look interesting.
In last month’s issue, there was a very interesting article by Nicholas Carr called The Web Shatters Focus, Rewires Brains. Nicholas was the guy who wrote years ago about whether IT Matters that apparently got a lot of people stirred up.
Anyway, in this article in Wired, Nicholas published an article adopted from his upcoming book called “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains.” It provided some analysis of basically how the Internet is affecting us and our ability to pay attention to things has been changed because of it. What struck me was the following paragraph:
“In a study published in the journal Media Psychology, researchers had more than 100 volunteers watch a presentation about the country of Mali, played through a Web browser. Some watched a text-only version. Others watched a version that incorporated video. Afterward, the subjects were quizzed on the material. Compared to the multimedia viewers, the text-only viewers answered significantly more questions correctly; they also found the presentation to be more interesting, more educational, more understandable, and more enjoyable.”
What’s interesting about this is that everywhere you turn, regular classroom instruction and even books & magazines are being replaced by electronic versions of themselves. My sister in law was visiting this week and she indicated that her school system has online training that she uses any time she wants to remember how to use a feature of the software she uses in her classroom. Working for AT&T, there’s so much required education that my employer provides us and it’s all online. These companies are providing online education, but at the same time, the way some of it is presented actually makes it harder for us to absorb. Dedicated, closed training systems are better – but according to the article (and assumedly Carr’s book) when we access content on web sites (with advertisements and links to other references) it’s actually harder for us to learn.
One of two things are going to happen – nothing’s going to change and we’ll find ourselves having to work harder in order to be able to absorb what we’re reading online or somehow web sites will become less cluttered and we’ll stop linking everywhere (notice I’ve linked to two external sources in this article!) in order to make it easier for our readers.
I wonder how this problem gets fixed. I can't wait to read Carr's book.