The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brain (with hyperlinks)

The Shallows was an excellent read.  It was also a heavy read.  There were a few chapters that dove into how the brain works.  I wouldn’t classify The Shallows as a pop culture book.

The author walks the reader through many forms of communication and provides an interesting perspective along the way.

CD cover of book

I learned that books, as we know them today (sentences, paragraphs, chapters combined into a book) didn’t come into existence until ~1500s (the written word existed for a preceding 1000-2000 years).  Until then, the written word was a long long continuous run of words, no punctuation, no sentence structure, no paragraph structure.  The innovation of those structures hadn’t yet been envisioned. Books were originally believed to “dumb down” (my words) society; until then we were largely a verbal society.  Magazines were originally believed to replace books.  The disruptive Edison phonograph was also thought to eliminate books as people could conveniently listen to books.  There have been a lot of potential book-displacement technologies over the centuries, but the written book prevails.  Interestingly, I “read” this book via a streaming book service, audiobooks.com, using my smart phone + bluetooth headset in the car.

Will the internet displace the book?  One great quote: the internet isn’t a learning enrichment tool, but an interruption system.  One component of the title’s premise of the book, “Is the internet making us dumb?” speaks towards hyperlinks.  How instead of providing value, hyperlinks cause such a distraction to reading on-line, that we’re unable to extract deep meaning from the text.  Instead of focusing the brain on deep understanding of the material, it’s continually asked to perform mini-evaluations along the way. Example, “should I click that link?”  When we do click, we’ve potentially shifted our brain again into first gear to read some related content. Then again and again, never submerging ourselves into the deep reading mode where we (apparently) comprehend and retain the most. Don’t believe the author, read the same book review here without any hyperlinks – which was easier to read?

The Shallows deserves a second read.

Who should read this book: Internet content creators

One thought on “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brain (with hyperlinks)

  1. Pingback: The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brain « Rick Stomphorst Welcomes You

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