I look up and I’ve lost the past 90 minutes. I’m on a Wikipedia entry that I didn’t originally seek out. In fact, it takes me a full 15 seconds to come out of my stupor (about 900 Million synapse firings) and realize that I initially sat down at my home office desk to look up the official name for a particular prescription drug brand, and now I’m reading about one of Sigmund Freud’s professional forebears.
For nearly a decade and a half, the mainstream population has been using the Internet to read informational texts, searching for everything from the best chicken chilaquiles recipe based upon the ingredients they had on hand, to a hot up and coming company name in which to invest, to a juicy or scandalous tidbit involving a top-of-the-list politician or flash in the pan celebrity.
The entertainment value of these mental scavenger hunts is unquantifiable. We have grown to enjoy if not _need_ the generalized process best and forever known as “surfing the web”. And much has been written about how the electronic media (of which the Internet is now the reigning monarch), have impacted one’s ability to read deeply and critically–adults and children alike.
Many digital prophets have thrown their “woe is me’s” on the altar of progressive digital texts, decrying the new regime as replete with methods for making us more stupid. (Carr, 2010)Though it is far more expedient (let alone rewarding) to click, scan, and scroll than it is to flip around the pages of a book, it doesn’t have to mean that we must give up our ability to read and ponder selections of text that were once relegated to the _elite_ readers among us. There are still those among us who feel like they’ve summitted a mountain when they completed a book, cover to cover, with a thousand pages or more. Can you imagine how the _author_ felt?And yet that task seems all the more daunting now. Too many OTHER things besides that which we are currently reading _need_ our attention, right?
Long-form fiction may prove to be an outmoded literary art form eventually, but that isn’t an issue. The issue is that for 15 years, we haven’t put into check this practice of click/scan/scroll as more and more substantive texts have moved from the page to the screen.
With smartphones and tablets constantly with us, we should be reading _more_ of these texts than we are. The intellectual and disciplined among us should be able to fight the temptations of banal Twitter traffic and pulpy celeb gossip, download _WAR AND PEACE_ and drag Tolstoy with them into the BMV waiting room.But it’s going to take some unlearning first.
Our digital habits have outpaced our best practices not unlike a patch of Asian Kudzu climbing the tropes north to consume the countryside. Like that predatory plant, we must beat back a severe amount of hours logged doing things a certain way and replace them with some better practices. The good news is that the tools are already before us. We just have to know how to use them, and commit to grabbing them instead of running for the hills, leaving our deep-thinking lives behind to be consumed by a voracious invasive species.
In fact, one of the methods I’m going to demonstrate is concerned with becoming even MORE expedient with click/scan/scroll to save time and energy to devote to deeper reading on your device of choice. Nobody likes having to waste time trying to find an obscure detail that would unlock a sequence of events, whether it’s a recipe for a drink, a code snippet, or an IRS classification clause. But we’re lazy, too and if we can stay in front of the computer with our minds switching from scavenger hunt mode to “red wine and lose yourself” mode, maybe we can just tell the chicken littles of the digital age to shut up-We got this.
Stay tuned for the practicals.