What Is The Internet’s Effect on Deep Reading?

iStock_000010264645XSmallHere’s a challenge: can you read this whole post without getting distracted?  Can you resist the urge to skim each paragraph for the “gist of it”, and instead read each sentence carefully, reflecting on its meaning, even thinking about how it might apply to your life?

Chances are this might take some work: if you are accustomed to reading on the web, you’ve likely also grown accustomed to the online reading style known as the “F-shaped pattern“, where when you open a webpage, you read in an F-shape quickly from left to right across the top, and then scan the middle until you get to the bottom, absorbing a few main ideas but not truly engaging with any of them.  It’s a quick and easy way to catch the major points, enabling you to get an overview of everything presented, perhaps giving you the sense of comprehension.  But as the research shows, it’s likely that you are absorbing very little.

And when you’re websurfing, reading for entertainment, or perusing blogs, maybe it doesn’t matter if you’re just skimming. But as the internet is increasingly the source for all our content – the news we read, the research we do for work and school, the entertainment we enjoy– we must ask the question: how is the internet changing the way we read, and the depth with which we take in information? What are the implications for society if the deep, reflective thinking associated with reading is replaced by the “web-page graze”?

In his article “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” writer Nicholas Carr raised many of these same questions.  In it, he explored the idea that websurfing is restructuring the way we process information, conditioning us to take in a lot of information at once, but not in much depth. Carr opens his article talking about how he believes the internet has reprogrammed his attention span:

“I’m not thinking the way I used to think,” he says. “I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now, my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.”

He elaborates,

“…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. Once I was a scuba diver in a sea of words. Now I zip along the surface life a guy on a Jet Ski.”

Carr interviews a fellow writer who says this type of reading has generalized to reading books as well:

“I can’t read War and Peace anymore” he says.”I’ve lost the ability to do that. Even a blog post of more than three or four paragraphs is too much to absorb. I skim it.”

I’ve noticed that many students report the same problem.  After becoming accustomed to reading quick bits of information online, it has become harder to stay focused on long reading assignments that require sustained focus. Students are more and more foregoing reading long articles and books and instead look for quick summaries on sites like Wikipedia and Sparknotes– sites which allow them to get an overview of the content quickly, but don’t require the same type of reflection and commitment that reading a book requires.  If people, and in particular, students, are reading less thoroughly and getting more “summarized content”, how will this affect the type of thinking they engage in?  What will be the impact of online reading on the depth with which people immerse themselves in the subjects they are reading about?

Is How We Read Important To Who We Are?

Sven Birkerts, in his essay, “The Owl Has Flown” (printed in the anthology Making Sense), presciently addressed the internet’s potential impact on our intellectual ethic, and would likely be worried for the fate of student scholarship in the age of online reading.  Birkerts echoes Carr’s observations about reading behavior, and then reflects more philosophically on the implication that this type of reading style has for the virtues of depth and wisdom, believing that reading online leads not only to a lack of depth in what we read, but a lack of depth we cultivate as human beings:

The reading act is necessarily different than it was in its earliest days…the reader (now) tends to move across surfaces, skimming, hastening from one site to the next without allowing the words to resonate inwardly.  The inscription is light but it covers vast territories: quantity is elevated over quality.  The possibility of maximum focus is undercut by the awareness of the unread texts that await.  The result is that we know countless more “bits” of information…(but) we know them without a stable sense of context.

Instead of carrying on the ancient project of philosophy—attempting to discover the “truth” of things—we direct our energies to managing information. The computer, our high-speed, accessing, storing, and sorting tool, appears as a godsend. It increasingly determines what kind of information we are willing to traffic in; if something cannot be written in code and transmitted, it cannot be important.

(But in this paradigm) there is no chance that any piece of information can unfold its potential significance… Where electronic impulse rules, and where the psyche is conditioned to work with data, the experience of deep time is impossible. No deep time, no resonance; no resonance, no wisdom.”

Carr states similar views in his article:

“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…is indistinguishable from deep thinking. If we lose those quiet spaces, or fill them up with “content,” we will sacrifice something important not only in ourselves but in our culture.”

I think it’s interesting when Carr says, “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.”   I wonder if material garnered online– given the sheer amount of content, and the skimming-type reading style that we often employ when reading it– resonates with the reader as much as content read in actual books, magazines, and newspapers, and can set off those “intellectual vibrations” in the same way reading a book does.  Is there something about reading on a computer , constantly distracted by advertisements, wanting to check e-mail, and the impulse to read other websites, that keeps information from “unfolding its significance”, the way it can in a book?

Also, I think Carr is right that “deep reading is indistinguishable from deep thinking.”  I wonder, how is reading online affecting student scholarship? Are students becoming conditioned to expect shorter, quicker versions of content, and losing the capacity to engage in deeper thinking as a result?  Is information being retrieved but not retained? If so, does this support the idea that Birkerts puts forth that as a result of losing depth in reading, we are also losing our capacity for deep thought as human beings?

Questions:

How has the internet changed the way you read?  Do you find it more difficult to engage in “deep reading” of long books and articles because you are accustomed to reading quick bits of information and skimming for “overviews” online?

Do you agree with Birkerts and Carr that, as a result of being “information retrievers” on the web, we will experience a loss of depth and wisdom as a society?

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below!

64 Responses to “What Is The Internet’s Effect on Deep Reading?”

  1. MHardy says:

    Both articles simply explain the diminishing importance of reading. With the new surrounding technology the literature that used to excite and entertain the previous generations, now bores and consumes much needed time for the newer generation. In the artile “The owl has flown” Burkerts revisits the idea that literature was once worth more when it was the only source for knowledge and entertainment. “Newspapers, magazines, brochures, advertisements, and labels surround us everywhere- Surround us, indeed, to the point of having turned our waking environment into a palimpsest of texts to be read, glanced at, or ignored,” says burkerts in “The owl has flown.” He also mentions the degree of understanding obtainable through the way in which you read the text. Since skimming and light observation is the current means of reading the literature has lost its importance to this generation and to a certain extent I agree. Before I even came to this website to do the assignment I was surfing the web for at least an hour; however, literature and readings still hold there value to those who still emerse themselves in it.

  2. Alissa Chan says:

    The internet has been a huge asset for all. It makes searching for an item easier and saves time. However, the internet has also had a negative impact on society. Both articles support that the internet has had a negative impact on people and their reading ability. Due to the internet, people skim through articles. People on the internet often lose interest realizing that an article is 3 pages long or there are too many paragraphs. I agree with Birkerts and Carr that readers lose on the wisdom of books. From “The Owl Has Flown”, Birkerts describe how in the past society encourage the slowness and understanding of reading books. Books have much more information and knowledge to offer. Present- day society has increasingly become more lazy and busy. Thus, they are unable to sit down and read a whole book. Many teens now rather read a synposis of the book online rather than taking the time to read. A book helps a reader take his or her mind into another place and fills his or her mind with knowledge and lessons learned. An internet site, on the other hand, would rather give the reader basic knowledge. Personally, I find myself skimming through boring books and articles. As a teenager, it is hard to sit down and read a non-fiction book. Nevertheless, I miss out on the endless knowledge the book has to offer.

  3. Roberto says:

    While reading Birkerts essay “The Owl Has Flown” I realized that I was not focusing on the words and their message, I was actually just trying to get the main points out. It was like as if my brain was programmed to find what was “important” and filtering that information while leaving the other words behind. My brain did the job a computer does when searching for a lost file, you just search the file name with key words, and the computer brings it to light. Since our brains have been conditioned to behave this way, I agree with Birkerts in that we are not gaining wisdom, we read to read, we do not read and reflect anymore. I frequently find myself reading articles or news on the web, and just skimming to find the main point. After achieving this, the information stays stored for a bit, but I give it no importance and as a result I learn nothing from it. I think the internet should be more moderate with information in order for the reader to take in the information and have time to reflect upon it. In my opinion if we continue reading like computer search engines, opportunities for personal growth will be lost.

  4. Brett says:

    It was very interesting to catch myself skimming an essay that actually talks about how we as a computerized culture are reading less and less, only reading to find a key point. After skimming it and actually going back to read every word I found out how much I was actually missing. We take in so much information through computers and the web that it is impossible for our brain to comprehend and reflect on what we read and as a result our brain only catalogs a key idea or a little fragment of what we “read”. I agree with Birkerts that we do not gain any wisdom from the way we have learned to read. It is apparent in our culture as we see more and more people being drawn into the mass of information thrown at them by the internet. Humanity will only continue to lose wisdom as the internet is improved more and more each day.

  5. Eugene Trilesnik says:

    The internet really changes the way we read because of all the massive amounts of information that are available. It used to be you would go to the library to check out a book, but now you just log on to the internet and use google to read everything. Another thing that has changed is that its more horizontal because of all the advertisements on the page or all the links. If you are reading a page, chances are you will click a link to go read more about the subject or just a random link. The other thing that has changed with the internet reading is the quality of information. You can now get not only real info but also information that has been diluted by bloggers and unofficial posts. Online I do find it hard to have a deep reading because of the ability that I know I have that will allow me to open up another tab in a web browser and search what I want to search, not what I’m reading right at this moment. Book wise I can read in depth if it’s something that interests me and isn’t forced upon me.

  6. Maya Hough says:

    I think most teenagers are accustomed to reading quick bits of information, as most of us find news in snippets of text on the computer screen. Also, we tend to communicate in small amounts of writing online, or short conversations in cell-phones, and so on. When assigned a reading, I am–with many other students, I would assume–particularly accustomed to skimming for important quotes, or searching for miniature summaries hidden in the text near the ending. As a result we are definitely presented with more of a challenge when reading longer texts simply because we cannot find the little overviews inside the writing, rather, we are forced to read the entire portion. This is especially true when we are reading a longer story, as opposed to an essay or an article. I would argue that it is harder to skim across a series of detailed events and endless descriptions, versus sorting through bluntly stated facts, when attempting to find the important points. The internet and other factors such as email, blog, and text message usage have dramatically influenced the way I read. Yet, I would venture to say that these have not changed my reading style from more intensive to extensive, as I have grown up with reading blurbs of information, since before I had the opportunity to become familiar with “deep reading.” Students in my generation might agree; they have always read this way and there has been no dramatic change, as the internet has always been a part of our learning styles.

  7. Courtney says:

    There is so much information presented to our generation, and in easily accessible ways. Unfortunately, we take this for granted by skimming through the information being provided and only look at the vital details within the passage; which in turn completely overlooks the whole meaning and understanding of the passage itself. Many people these days feel that reading “in-depth” is no longer necessary for learning and gaining wisdom. They would much rather skim the surface, read horizontally, and get the least amounts of information possible. We do what we have to in order to just get by; no longer taking the effort to gain the wisdom and understanding the text, or reading itself has to offer us. No one takes the time to read the text to get the underlying meaning and importance of its words. Sparknotes and Wikipedia have made getting basic information so easy that no one wants to go out of their way to actually read and comprehend the text. If a book is more than 100 pages long, 9 out of 10 times a person will look to sparknotes or the Internet in general for a summary. Although, I do believe if something sparks your interest, you are more inclined to read “in-depth” and gain understanding on things you choose to make important.

  8. victorqz says:

    from personal experience…
    1. yes, the internet reading style has conditioned me to F-shaped reading, and when texts require focused reading, I do have to remind myself to not skim–as im used to doing on the web
    2. sure there may be volumes on a topic, but often you only need a few paragraphs to get you to where you need to be (to say, apply the info to your research). The internet allows finding the important bits SO quickly, and it’s freaking awesome in that respect
    3. Courtney, spot on! “I do believe if something sparks your interest, you are more inclined to read “in-depth” and gain understanding on things you choose to make important”. I would like to add that if something interests me, I have found that even if I skim, it makes for some darn focused skimming and I can remember and integrate the important ideas for long periods after that first exposure. Again…cause its the most interesting stuff to me.

  9. Clay Bavor says:

    For the record, I almost succeeded in reading the post without getting distracted. (The bath was near overflowing so I had to run and turn off the water.) :)

    Great post!

  10. Clay Bavor says:

    Two thoughts on this topic:

    First, I think that what’s behind the change in reading style is the ease of creating content on the Internet (not just “the Internet”), which results in a huge volume of relatively shallow information. One doesn’t have to be published to have content out there that people can consume; you just start a blog, write a comment, whatever. So readers experience two things: (a) there’s a “deep information supply” problem, where there just isn’t much available (at least, relative to all that’s out there); and (b) a “firehose of information” problem, which makes you feel like the only way you can “stay on top of things” is by flitting from one thing to another. So you end up not having access to much deep information (or it’s hard to find), and you end up feeling like you don’t really have time for *any* information. So you skim.

    Second, on this “firehose of information” problem: the general trend over the past 5 years has been towards web sites and products that make it easier to consume more more more (though sites like Digg have tried, I would argue mostly unsuccessfully, to do “the best” content). My guess is that that trend will reverse itself, and products which today enable you to fly through a whole bunch of blogs, newspapers, etc., will evolve into (or be replaced by) tools that *filter* the low value stuff out, so you can focus on the information that actually matters to you. They’ll use your historical reading habits, your friends reading habits, collaborative filtering, and other techniques to separate the wheat from the chaff (and of course, what constitutes “the wheat” will be highly personalized to you.)

  11. Allison Kamiya says:

    For me, the internet does generate skimming, but only because of its ease of access and its abundance of information. For any one subject, there can be a multitude of articles, pictures, and blogs that all provide the same information, possibly with a few variations. “Deep reading” of long books is entirely different from the internet in regard to this abundance. No one book is exactly the same as another. Even if the author(s) offer the same social commentary, the plot and character development are presented in such a way as to avoid repetition, to pique the interest of the reader by omitting the well-worn path of the same ideas. To me, “deep reading” is for contemplating views on the human condition rather than for information traversed in internet “overviews.” I’m not sure if we, as society, will lose depth and wisdom as a direct result of this classification of “information retrievers,” rather a direct result of a loss of contemplation, of the “deep thinking” that is evoked from ideas that resonate. The more one thinks about a subject, the more sides of that subject are viewed and are evaluated, leading to wisdom and depth – ultimately understanding.

  12. T Mondkar says:

    The internet, which developed recently, has impacted us in several ways: it provides us faster ways of finding specific information on a subject instead of tediously researching for hours in the classified sections of the library and it allows us to view mass information in a way that presents an overload impossible to sink into our delicate minds. The internet has allowed so many ways of condensing information at the price of deeper meaning: when we are heavily pounded with lengthy pieces of reading from classes, we tend to find solace in the Internet to provide us a safe, quick haven of accessing a shortened version of the material assigned to us. The Internet has made it more difficult for me to read profound, extensive essays without wanting to find niches within the essay that will allow faster ways of collecting the essence of the essay. However, in the last two years of my English classes we were taught to read essays through interactive discussions with text alongside heavy duty annotation. After that, I no longer take any piece of reading at face value and try to find the underlying meaning of the text although it is difficult. Birkerts and Carr are absolutely correct and have very well predicted the downturn of our society towards a technologically run database of information. This will especially affect students who are the most vulnerable because of the learning process that continues till older age. We must try to figure out a solution that redirects students to comprehend readings as well as to escape the ultimate length and insert certain attractors to focus our attention and continue to finish the text.

  13. John says:

    Are we, as readers, really to blame for the depth–or lack thereof–of our day-to-day reading? Or is the case, perhaps, that as societally enlightened citizens, we are required to read too much in order to stay informed and on top of our studies that we are not able to read more in-depth? Bierkerts and Carr certainly make a valid point; readers usually make the choice to skim literature for facts and important points, rather than making broader connections to the real world and the literature they read. The sentiment of nearly all students, however, would most likely be that the depth of understanding that they are rewarded for grade-wise is merely fact-based. Reading quizzes all too often ask questions that can be answered by reading skimpy summaries of chapters. Expository essays can be–and almost always are–graded highly with a well-worded but simple comparison of one idea or character to another within the same text. Thus, students of thought are trained from an alarmingly young age to believe that the optimal level of understanding literature is far below what they are certainly capable of achieving. This concept of understanding text at the most basic level is exacerbated by daily media articles that present information also at the most basic level. Nowadays, one could pass for an above-average intelligent individual by rattling off headlines from today’s newspaper. Rather than pointing fingers at only those who engage in “horizontal” reading, responsibility must be shifted to those who teach young minds to read in this manner; “vertical” reading must be taught to and practiced by society before being expected.

  14. MJWballer09 says:

    After completing this reading I realized how many times I “skim” readings instead of actually reading through and obtaining as much information and data as possible. It almost frustrates me coming to the conclusion that I rarely fully read an entire article anymore. It is entirely true that now in this time there are not very many people that will sit down and allow themselves to be “lost” in the words of an author. However this begs me to ask the question of who is at fault? The reader I believe is not at fault. Nor is the author. The fault lies within the advancement of technology and the major impact in which it has took a toll on our society. The amount of information and data that is obtainable by the simple touch of a finger makes it really hard to sit for a long period of time attempting to retrieve all the data. It is much easier to merely skim an article or passage gathering main points in order to get a full understanding of the article. This is because with the advancement of technology it makes everything easier which is what we, as a society, like. If the average person could take an easier route to virtually anything that is the road that they would probably take. Therefore as long as this technology is going to be there for us to use there will never be the same amount of people who actually sit and fully read and have a complete and “horizontal” understanding of the reading. Overall this is very detrimental to our society because this will cause the depth of our knowledge to rapidly decrease. We, as a society, may in fact learn more by covering main points but it is as if our knowledge and the facts that we know are left hollow. We know what is along the outside of the circle but do not even come close reaching the middle where the more important data lies.

  15. Claudette Linzey says:

    Whenever I use the internet to find something, or research a topic, I usually only search for exactly what I’m looking for. I never go beyond the information I need, so I “skim” through different internet sites, but never read anything in depth. Also, just about everything online is in a summary-friendly version. The written word is not so much literature as an easy access to the general gist of things. We grab a melange of facts from separate sites and then end up forming our own understanding of a topic, but hardly ever read full-blown texts. Now that I think about it, it has become more an more difficult to engage in “deep-reading”. My generation has grown up using the internet as an “aid” but I believe that we have come to rely on it. As a society, we tend to gravitate towards things that are easier to understand or that make things easier and the internet provides both of these, so why wouldn’t we use it to our advantage? That being said, I definitely agree with Birkerts and Carr that being “information receivers” will result in a loss of depth, understanding, and wisdom. We may receive a very small scope of knowledge, but we will never have a full understanding of things.

  16. greenstripe0 says:

    The internet has not drastically changed the way I read compared to the descriptions as explained in this article. Mainly I am not accustomed to reading overviews and summaries because I choose not to do it. However, this is not to say that I am infallible and have never used one. I, much like most students nowadays, use Sparknotes and Wikipedia. However, I attempt to keep my use of these summaries for when I absolutely do not understand something and mainly as a last resort. However, I do agree with Birkerts and Carr that the habit of skimming can lead to the loss of wisdom. The use of summaries only leads to a surface level understanding of a concept and only if one takes the time to actually dive into a work of literature (or anything else for that matter) can one understand it. A perfect example of this battle between intensive and extensive would actually be Aldous Huxley’s dystopia from Brave New World. The world within the book has been fueled by the Nihilism that has been created by an overload of information that has left them uncaring as to the systems of the world. To quote Neil Postman from his book Amusing Ourselves to Death, “Huxley feared those who would give us so much information that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.” With the advent of the internet, one can see that Huxley’s fears have become more relevant as the years have passed.

  17. Madeline Gonyea says:

    The internet: easily accessible, quick results, and endless options for success. Although there are so many positives, the internet does indeed have flaws. The internet has changed the way most, if not everybody reads–spark notes, shortcuts, and skimming. In fact, in 8th grade social studies I was taught how to “skim” literature, and this quick and easy tactic has definitely stuck with me throughout years of schooling and education. If our generation today is changing so swiftly, and teaching young students to skip important information, what does the next generation and future hold? With the internet being the new “watershed” of information, why would someone pick up a 300 page book when you can Google or spark note it and have instant gratification? The internet poses quick solutions to long assignments. It’s hard to sit down and read a novel or chapter book when I know that with the click of a few buttons I can have all the material I need magically appear on a screen before me. I completely agree with Birkerts and Carr’s philosophy and understanding about the internet and how our society is losing wisdom. The entire concept and comprehension of wisdom has been lost in translation, a time period changed forever.

  18. Dominic Rios says:

    It is amazing that while reading this, it was almost second-nature for me to indulge in the “F-Shaped Pattern” that this post opens with–and I think many of my fellow readers can attest to this as well. It is almost as it has become second nature for us to react that way. We have grown so accustomed to having a plethora of information surrounded by us that we have truly forgotten how to absorb the knowledge rather than “skimming” the facts. In this sense i agree with Birkerts tremendously. Ask any veteran high school teacher–its not his students who are lacking in knowledge, its their time that is being consumed by the applications that technology provides us. Technology is creating in us a sense of lethargy and the sad thing is, we have grown accustomed to it. Instead of reading a history book we watch the History Channel; instead of reading our biology book we watch the Discovery Channel; instead of finding our own solutions to personal problems we find the solutions to out problems in syndicated daytime talk shows such as Oprah Winfrey or Dr. Phil etc etc. And do not get me wrong, I too indulge in many of these; the problem is that we have completely forgotten what life was like before television, the internet and other technologies. The sense of accomplishment we used to feel when we solved a hard math problem, or researched a paper from books in the library has been lost. We have forgotten what “working hard” for class really is. This startling issue carries over into our social arena as well. Everything else we have in our lives is instant-we have fast food, ATMs, the internet, and instant television-so when we step out into the real world we naturally assume that things will just be handed to us. There is no doubt that this is a present fact as leading sociologist have described our generation as the “Me” generation. This explanation can only be explained by the technology influx of the 90′s -our generation has defined itself through machines.

  19. nancy martinez says:

    After reading the article “Technology and Society: What Is the Internet’s Effect on Deep Reading?” I can truly say though some points of the article strike straight to the heart I has really not changed how I read because I enjoy reading, on the internet or otherwise. I can truly say that I do not find “deep reading” of long books and articles difficult because I am accustomed to reading quick bits of information. Although I have a tendency to skim online what I can, if I love the text I take my time. I regards to Birkerts and Carr’s ideas that the internet has shortened ones attention span for deep intellectual reading I disagree. I believe that the internet is just simply providing easy access to instant information and to those who want to experience the depth and wisdom of reading, internet is but the stepping stone for them to do so. Although some of the points of the article about the loss of depth in today’s society strike almost true the idea that the internet is the fault of a failing intellectual society seems to be just another scrape goat for the society who refuses to see their own faults.

  20. Melissa says:

    Personally, the internet has had little effect on how it has changed the way I read. The reason behind this was mostly because it was not a necessity in our household. Most of the readings were trips to the library, therefore making the internet irrelevant to the way I read. I believe that the difficulty of “deep reading” lies within the hands of the reader. It may be harder for people who solemnly depend on the internet, to reach a level of “deep reading”, but not at all impossible. If the reader manages to make the time and focus, “deep reading” can be attained. Birkets and Carr’s idea that as a result of being “information retrievers” on the web, we will experience a loss of depth and wisdom as a society, seems a little too extreme for me. It is true that over the years, the internet has become the primary resource to attain all kinds of information, but it does not necessarily mean that we as a society have lost wisdom.

  21. Sara Grevera says:

    I have to agree with most of the ideas presented in this article. This blog took a long time for me to read because of all the distractions the web provides such as facebook, email and constant advertisements. But I eventually managed to read the whole article.

    The internet has definitely changed the way I read. Back when I was in elementary and middle school, I could read many books for longs periods of time without skimming through it and thoroughly enjoying what I read. But now that I am older and technology has advanced significantly, I am finding myself skimming over articles that I may have read in the past just because I want to finish reading as fast as possible. Writing essays are hard for me because I have fallen victim to using sparknotes or wikipedia because I just want the main summary of a certain book and not worrying about the details.

    I agree with Birket and Carr’s ideas of becoming “information retrievers” on the web. Society today just wants to know the important facts, not any insignificant ideas that may be presented in an article. But I do believe that Carr’s idea of “deep thinking” and getting the depth of an article can be attained if one puts the time and effort to focus on the words for a longer period of time than it takes to just get the gist of the article. So this does not necessarily mean that society is losing wisdom, it is just significantly lower than it would have been just a decade ago.

  22. kgm11 says:

    I think a number of good points have already been made, but I’d like to add one more. In 1940, Mortimer Adler wrote a book (later updated by Charles van Doren) called, “How to Read a Book.” What strikes me a particularly interesting is that much of his advice is aligned with the sort of reading that’s described in the original post. That is, he suggests that – when you’re reading something (even something as complex and multi-leveled as what he and others term “the great books”), you should begin by essentially skimming to figure out what the main points and structure of the document are. However, he goes on to say that there are other phases of reading – specifically, figuring out the author’s arguments and then thinking about them analytically (critically). I wonder if it’s not these latter two steps that are getting lost in our new way of reading – that is, we think we’ve finished the work when we’ve just started. In a recent interview, Columbia Professor Michael Rosenthal suggests that he’s seeing just this in the classroom (http://eye.columbiaspectator.com/article/2009/09/24/rosenthal-retrospective).
    This is a really interesting topic, and I look forward to seeing where the discussion goes!

  23. Veronica Koo says:

    While reading this article, I noticed that I was listening to music and getting distracted by my surroundings. After noticing this, I read this article in a quiet area where I would not be distracted and realized how much information I could have missed if I had continued reading in that manner.
    The internet does not have a big impact on how I read. As I get older, I want to finish things faster & move on with my schedule, so skim reading is my way of getting things done, although this is not the best way to read. I feel as though the SAT’s has caused teenagers to read in an “F-shaped pattern” because we are trained to skim read & only get the main points in the readings. I have come to be accustomed to this style of reading so it has become a habit of mine.
    I do agree with Birkerts and Carr because people learn new things by researching topics “outside of the box,” for example, researching recent news about politics or natural disasters. People would not know about this information if it weren’t for the internet. Just by taking at least 5 minutes out of each day to grasp new information can give us time to gain wisdom of the world surrounding us.

  24. Sammy Riley says:

    I completely agree with both Carr and Berkirts. In today’s world, we are surrounded by an abundant amount of information. However, this also means we are surrounded by a number of distractions as well. Since there are so many interesting articles posted on the Web, we do not take the time to sit, read thoroughly through an article, and analyze what the article is trying to say. We simply skim the article, comprehend it, and then move on.

    As Carr suggested, the internet as also effected the way we read regular books. I have even noticed this myself this summer while I was reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I would skim long descriptive paragraphs, and, once I reached the dialogue, I could read the entire dialogue without skimming because reading dialogue goes much faster than reading descriptive paragraphs. It has become almost natural to me to skim any type of reading which almost scares me in a way because now I feel as though I do not analyze and understand the articles, books, or readings as well as I should. The sense of depth while reading is almost entirely lost to me, but through these couple readings and our discussions in class, I hope to improve not only my reading style, but also help others so we can retain the depth and wisdom presented in writing.

  25. Zune Nguyen says:

    The growth of technology has undoubtedly affected and changed our lives. The amount of available information makes it impossible to read everything in depth. People try to be as efficient as possible, limiting the amount of time spent on one task. “Deep reading” is not impossible, but it is indeed difficult. The Internet has changed the way we read, but we are still able to engage in “deep reading”, and drift into that “other world” if we choose to. Horizontal reading, or “skimming” is not necessarily a bad thing; we need to be able to adapt to the constantly changing world, and assimilate the new living methods.

  26. Leonard says:

    I first had a hard time reading this blog because I was constantly distracted by the urge to use the internet. After founding myself merely skimming through the article and even skipping some paragraphs in the middle of the screen, I finally decided to print it out and read it away from my computer. When I did, surprisingly “Deep Reading” became less painful and I could ponder on the context and the implication of each sentence more naturally. I felt much calmer and less tired when my eyes were looking at the letters printed on actual paper. Did the internet entirely change my reading habits? Partially, I agree with Birkerts and Carr that, because we are given so many options when surfing the web, it is almost impossible for us to engage in deep thinking. However, I think I can still intuitively sense the level of importance for each reading and concentrate when it comes to reading more sophisticated academic papers as long as they are in paper format.

  27. Owen Jacobs says:

    The internet has drastically altered the way I read. As both articles suggested, I have a difficult time focusing on the entirety of a long webpage or a thick book. I do find myself skimming the pages just as a matter of convenience to gain just a minimal level of comprehension. However, skimming can be a very efficient tool sometimes.
    I agree with Birkerts and Carr that that eventually we will lose our depth as a society. However, I disagree with them that it is a bad thing. The world we live in today is always changing and developing. It is ridiculous to think that we should be able to achieve the same depth as those living in the Middle Ages who studied only a few books for their entire lives. Current events alone have reached the global scale and trying to reach a deep understanding with the world economy, world politics and world events is an impossible task in this modern age.

  28. noojoh says:

    Information is so readily available nowadays that it is difficult to put a value on what to read. There is not enough time to read whole pages and so people find themselves skimming the pages to read only what they consider necessary; therefore, the internet has changed how people read. I find that “deep reading” is harder and trying to sit down and read a book is a different experience for me than it was when I was younger. One of the reasons why is because of the fact that people do not simply sit down and read books anymore. The Internet has replaced dictionaries, encyclopedias, etc. I agree with Birkerts and Carr that, as a result of people depending on the Internet too much, there is a loss of many important aspects of human life. Books are becoming less important and students use online sources to be able to get away from reading. Wisdom is no longer passed down from generation to generation but rather from what people upload onto the Internet. In some cases it is not a bad thing, but people are definitely losing things to the Internet.

  29. Paulina Perezalonso says:

    I have realized that I fit the stereotype that this blog describes of a student that has been accustomed to read short articles and quick summaries instead of long articles that will just take up more time. And yes I do believe having access to these certain types of quick sources of information on the internet has impacted the way I choose what I read or what I believe is the most important information. I feel in a way that the internet in some ways can devalue the purpose of a certain book or article. Reading small bits of information just to get homework done and answer certain questions doesn’t allow me to fully engage myself in a certain book or to fully comprehend the authors message at times. I say this yet at the same time I find myself constantly going back to reading Sparknotes or easily getting tired of reading long articles. To fully comprehend a certain reading, I think what we need to do is give it time and patience, something that is taken for granted now that we live in this fast paced world. I do agree with Birkerts and Carr because little by little I can see that we just look for information in a certain reading that we need in the present or at the time. When instead we should be reading something with our full attention and seeing what the true message behind it is so that we can get something more from it and actually remember what it was about a month later. When we lose interest, we stop caring about the important things.

  30. Zoraida Aceves says:

    I believe that the internet has not effected the way I read but school, however, has. There is always so much pressure through homework that the initial reaction that most students have is to get it done as soon as possible. Time is always an issue because time is valuable and as years progress we learn that the sooner we get things done the more time we have to do whatever we want. Therefore, since so much information is often presented through readings we automatically think of skimming it and finding the things that really matter. This mindset that many students have when doing homework related to research is often transferred to homework having to do with “deep reading.” We are so accustom to reading bits and pieces that we can’t engage in books that have an ongoing story. This in turn leads me to agree with Birkets and Carr that we can never experience this ‘depth and wisdom as a society.’ Our society will probably never be able to connect to readings like the people of other generations because of our general knowledge of many things. We have no time to focus on one thing so our experiences will never make us as wise as philosophers use to be.

  31. Melissa says:

    As I was reading this article I was feeling distracted and had a hard time concentrating on the reading. I do believe that the internet has allowed people to just receive the nformation they want. Generally speaking when a reading assignment is given I try to just get to the end and don’t really try to grasp at the significance of what I have read. Often times i find myself having to reread sentences or paragraphs in order to understand the main ideas. But when I select a book to read I can focus pretty well. I can concentrate and finish reading a book in a day if the topic interest me and I find myself discussing the book with other people. I agree with Birkerts that in order to fully understand the meaning of an article or book we need to give ourselves time and not try to rush. The problem is that in todays world we are focused too much on setting up a certain amount of time to do something or spend on an activity. Everyone always complains that there is never enough time in the day to do the things we feel are necessary or high priority. This mentality prohibits people in general from being able to enjoy reading.

  32. Sean Grey says:

    I do believe that the internet has changed the way our generations are reading now because of the fast paced moving society which we live in. The society that we live in now is so upbeat that many people now-a-days are in demand of what they need and don’t take the time to fully analyze the text, instead we get people skimming articles and books to receive the information which they want and then moving on to the next subject. I believe that the internet is such a powerful tool which is sometimes abused by people because they lack the consistency to deep analyze and read and instead confiding themselves to the “F-shaped pattern” which was discussed in the article. Our habit to quickly read and skim text has blinded us to the quality of the reading and the actual meaning of what we are reading. I do find it more difficult to find myself “deep reading” because of so many distractions, for example, when you are reading an internet article, you fall victim to the hundreds of advertisements and temptations from other websites to drop what you are doing and to see why their website is so much better than what you are doing. I do not agree with Birkerts and Carr that, as a result of being “information retrievers” on the web, we will experience a loss of depth and wisdom as a society because of the fact that our generations have become so much smarter over time. I believe that somewhat you could receive that gist that we are falling victim to it but overtime our generations will soon because so knowledgeable of this tendency that through skimming and quick reading we retain the quality information which is presented to us through the text.

  33. william truong says:

    Currently, I am checking the scoreboard of yesterday’s NFL games, blasting the speakers with my music, while finding it difficult to fully immerse myself into this online article. As a result, I merely skim through the passage, collecting bits and pieces of information in hopes of getting the main point of the article. My online reading habit has given me complete shock because I read ten times faster than I do from a book from skipping through the passages. However, I never truly grasp the full context or engage into deep reading from all the distractions on the computer. Occasionally, it has led me to become a victim of relying on online sources to quickly understand the underlying meaning of a passage. Yet, as a semi-professional “information retriever,” I am able to distinguish whether most information is legitimate or not, and often times, come to a conclusion that the information is written by an individual who would be bewildered to have read what he or she wrote. In addition, I have realized that the most effective source of learning resides in my own efforts to interpret the text.

  34. Aaron Lynch says:

    The internet has not changed neither the way in which I read, nor the ways in which most others read. My reasoning for this is that technology has overwhelmed us. Where once we had time to read, synthesize, and comprehend, we now are overwhelmed with social networking sites, smart phones, e-mail, and instant communication through text messaging. When reading, we attempt to extract the most important ideas from the article in order to summarize. This bears a striking resemblance to the way in which all of our memories function. We do not remember every mundane detail of our daily lives. Instead our memory recalls important events then pieces the events together to form a memory. However, each time we recall or retrieve a memory we most definitely alter it. I do agree with the eventual result Birkerts described as a loss of wisdom if we do not acknowledge the decline in our comprehension as readers. In order to reverse these effects we simply must make efforts to read more, in a focused manner.

  35. Grace says:

    As society becomes more technologically advanced, we naturally cannot help from becoming idle. Technology is designed to improve society so what exactly is the problem? The Internet was created for easy access to information and communication, to simplify our methods of research in order to accomplish more; and ironically it has been the main hindrance to our intellectual development. It is certainly true that as the internet consumes a larger part of our lives, with social networking and other time-consuming sites, we begin to condition ourselves to skim pages and absorb the central facts, while never fully appreciating literature and reading thoughtfully. There is an ethical question. What difference is there if we thoroughly read a literary work or simply skim Sparknotes for the general summary along with important “stuff” such as themes, motifs, symbols, etc? Regardless of which path we take, one could argue that we will inevitably reach a general consensus about the key points portrayed in the work. How then can we prevent ourselves from succumbing to the quicker route to “success,” or, perhaps a better word would be, completion. Surely, Birkerts and Carr are correct in their conclusion that as a society, we are losing that sense of depth by the inability to focus with so many distractions in our lives and as a result are losing the wisdom that our society once had due to technology’s consumption of our minds.

  36. Alex Ambrose says:

    I think that Birkerts’ analysis of our society today and how we read is generally accurate. The abundance of information today makes it so that we really have no other choice but to skim if we ever want to take in the amount of information we feel like we need to on a daily basis. This increase in information received corresponds to a loss in depth. However, I also think that we still have the choice to slow down and read something with depth and understanding. The problem is that everyone is so used to the information overload that they don’t want to slow down and put in the extra effort just to get that little extra bit of understanding that (they feel) isn’t really worth the extra time investment. Online news articles or blogs cater to the “F shaped” reading pattern to the point where there isn’t even a deeper meaning in them. It would be like trying to read Spark Notes with depth and understanding; it just doesn’t work that way. As a result of this loss of depth at the text level, people forget what it’s like to read “vertically” when they actually come across a writing that contains a deeper level of understanding that must be worked for.

  37. Victoria Vargas says:

    Although the internet has provided us with a great source for fast information, I feel like the internet has stopped us from indulging in a good book. We have become too dependent on receiving condensed information from the internet because now-a-days we are too busy to sit down and read a newspaper. Personally, I find it very difficult to read from the internet, so i basically printed out the article to read it. The internet not only makes my eyes hurt because of the computer screen but I find it really hard to concentrate. I would much rather read from printed sources instead of the internet because i find it more concrete and credible. The internet itself is a distraction and reading from it becomes really difficult with all the advertisements on the side of the pages. Based on my personal experience with the internet, I do agree with Birkerts with his point that we are on the pathway of losing depth and wisdom because of the internet. I feel that people rarely go to the library anymore and check out a book. Our society is becoming handicapped by the internet.

  38. Audrey Kocmond says:

    Today most people feel as if the news and media give them a general idea of what is going on in the world around them. Although they do not have a complete understanding of the topic, a broad understanding is preferred in today’s society. Keeping up to date with what is going on in the present world is considered to be very knowledgeable and worldly. This maybe attributed to the changed meaning of what is considered to be “knowledgeable”. In earlier centuries men and women were dedicated to one trade and constantly worked at mastering it. This left little time to read excess material and was considered useless.
    In the present however we have a very different idea of what is considered knowledgeable or important. Even our classes require us to learn a broad range of material before we begin learning the specifics of our trade or major. Media today also promotes the concept of knowing useless facts over understanding more important information at a deeper level. Websites and applications such as facebook and twitter keep us constantly updated with people’s statuses and news.
    Our belief of what is important has changed over the years to the present. For example, we consider it a useless exercise when we are forced to make deeper connections in our English classes. Our view on reading has turned a complete one-eighty from the way our previous ancestors used to view reading. Our ideas have changed for both the better and the worse. Personally, I believe that we are overly obsessed with the constant update of news. Our lives fly by with no meaning, simply a way of passing time. Ultimately, the answer would be to remain updated on important issues around the world that may affect our lives or country, while focusing on smaller aspects of our lives at a deeper level. We need to use our education to develop stances on these issues that come up in our lives so that we may be able to understand the deeper parts of our lives. The understanding of our lives and ourselves should come prior to obtaining information about current events. In conclusion, I feel as if personal updates and encounters are far more beneficial to our understanding and knowledge of the world around us.

  39. Adriana Huerta says:

    I think that people might not read books and articles in depth, but people do take more interest in ideas, and such, because of the vast amount of information on the internet. The vast amount of information inspires people to explore these new ideas and such, rather than just imagine. Wikipedia, although it may not be a reliable source, however, the site is a source of interest. Whether it’s about an animal or historical event, because it is on the internet it gives a more liberating feel that books do not have. Books are limiting and confines you to just those X-amount of pages, whereas the internet is more accessible and there is a sense of freedom because you have more choices, and it’s faster. We are in a time of progress and change, and things must adapt to those changes, and books cannot do that. The internet is readily available, easy, and efficient, and it fits our circumstances. A book tends to be read in a time of leisure, which is seems non-exitent, if not minimal in this day-in-age. And I don’t think that the internet is all to blame because distractions like TV, advertisements, phones/texting, etc, that can also hinder our attention span. Before advanced technology, books were a distraction in itself, now that there are so many accessible electronic devices and attention on media, depth within reading is hard to come by.

  40. Andrew W. says:

    The internet is an archive of infinite information, and in my opinion one of the greatest innovations of our time. We can get instant access to information about any topic in a matter of seconds. This plethora of information that is the internet has caused us to develop what I like to call a “buffet mentality” (sorry I’m really hungry right now). At all-you-can-eat buffets, there is basically an endless supply of food presented before you, thus creating the indulgence for people to take more food than they can finish. People tend to eat a little bit of everything, but never focusing on a single dish. My example is analogous to the habits that we have formed from reading on the internet in that we tend to take in little bits of information from many different sources, while never truly delving into a single subject matter. There are both positive and negative aspects about this “buffet mentality” of reading via the internet. The positive side would be that one is able to attain a broader more global knowledge; able to be informed about our entire world and beyond. Of course the downside one can never truly reach a level of expertise in a single subject if he/she exclusively uses the internet as a source of reading material. Just as in buffets, quality is more than often sacrificed for quantity. The most holistic way to approach reading (or eating) is to of course have a balance of both vertical deep reading, and the broader horizontal reading.

  41. Isha Mehta says:

    The Internet has granted everyone quick and easy access to countless information. Although it is a helpful tool, the Internet does have its benefits and disadvantages. One on hand, while we have virtually any information at the tip of our fingers, we also have lost some of our ability to studiously read and interpret long amounts of text. In high school I found that to excel we simply had to regurgitate information, not as much to understand the material. That is why the majority of today’s students resort to spark notes and Wikipedia, because that provides the facts and data which we are expected to know. For example, tests on the epic Beowulf would ask the names of characters or simple plot events, questions that can be answered by simply looking up a summary online. I agree with Birkerts when he emphasizes this overall shift from “vertical reading” to “horizontal reading”. Humanity used to cherish and heavily study the few texts, like the Bible, that were available to them; now, instead of this intense concentration, we have resorted to browsing over lengthy novels. There is a general increase in the amount of information we intake daily and a decrease in attention span. The Internet and its vast range of information is a factor in the tendency for people to filter, separate, and block out certain parts of a text, instead of thoroughly reading through it.

  42. Trevor Wright says:

    The internet, although an incredibly useful resource for retrieving information, has changed the way I read books, and the internet. With summaries and brief explanations readily available, it has drawn me away from detailed literary writings, and cites containing more than a few pages worth of text. Instead I find myself skimming over internet writings, and skimming even the most brief and simple summaries. I feel this has made it tougher to engage in “deep reading” and understanding of written text because in order to read with depth, we need to break the habit of horizontal reading. Birkerts’ essay “The Owl Has Flown” also discusses how reading has changed from deep to shallow due to the mass production of literary works. Although the internet has greatly affected the way readers read and understand text, I do not think it has caused a loss of wisdom in society. Although readers are not learning vast amounts of information about a specific topic, they are however learning and reading about a vast amount of topics. This may be argued as a negative effect of the internet, but in my opinion it has only broadened the amount of wisdom and knowledge humans can read.

  43. John Michael Hansen says:

    While growing up every significant teacher in my life, from my parents to my first grade teacher Mrs. Simms, expressed to me the importance of being a well rounded individual. As a result of being a well rounded individual it becomes easier to communicate and find familiar ground when meeting new people. It also allows people at younger ages to understand the world around them, the idea being that knowledge creates tolerance. The way to become a well rounded individual is to absorb as much general information about as many topics as you possibly can. F style reading, and skimming over books and articles is the best, most modern way of taking in substantial amounts of information. Therefore I would say the skim reading is a healthy evolution of the literate world allowing people to have many pockets of knowledge. Arguing for in depth reading limits us to a narrow minded understanding of the world around us. So is being well rounded worth the cost of in depth understanding of only a few bits of material, or is well roundedness itself the most narrow of all professions?

  44. Avery Reiss says:

    As I read through this article, I found myself utilizing the very technique the text preached against- skimming through readings, without searching for depth or context behind facts. As I adjusted into a slower paced, more intense style of reading, I found that it was simply more difficult to read this way. I have grown so accustomed to skimming through text, because in high school, it was always enough to succeed in classes. After reading this text, I realized that I haven’t “read deeply” in quite a while, especially in online articles and blogs. It believe this stemmed from a packed schedule for the past four years; between being a two-sport athlete, a full time student, and an active family and community member, it just seemed like there wasn’t enough time to analyze and break down every point in every reading. I do think that if one is genuinely interested in the presented topic, it is well worth it to delve deeper, and engage in “deep reading.”

    I do not believe that society, as a whole will lose neither depth nor wisdom, because the total information has not decreased. Despite the fact that readers may tend to skim over text, the authors will still present meaningful, thoughtful points that have innate depth and potential wisdom. Although we may rely on these individuals to lead the pursuit of wisdom and knowledge, I believe society as a whole will indeed follow, and humans will continue to grow wise.

  45. Tommy says:

    Got a problem “Google it.” Who wants to read a book all you ever need to know is posted up on Wikipedia and spark notes is every English students best friend. Today, all the information in the world is at the finger tips of anyone with a computer.
    Before the digital age, questions provoked thought. Circles of people would read text out load. The Bible was the first printed book. For decades men and women scoured its pages for new answers. For most of the world, the Bible and a few other texts served as the only answers for their questions. There were few straight answers everything had to be discerned through thorough reading.
    Today, the computer represents an over whelming multitude of information, reading, discerning and thinking have been rendered obsolete. The computer has replaced the eyes. Wikipedia has taken the place of the mind. The computer does all the thinking. It can provide an easy answer to any question. Just ask Wikipedia.
    Birkets is right reading for depth is a method left in the past. It’s not necessary in today’s world where the answers can be found so easily. It would be like some person insisting on searching a hay stack for needles if they already have a full box. With the power of computers the world no longer needs depth. It needs a horizontal explosion the basics of everything available to everyone. The great virtue of the next generation is efficiency. They will need to skim through, evaluate, categorize and utilize the wealth of knowledge available to them. Either they will learn to cut through the crap or be buried in it.

  46. Kyle Quackenbush says:

    As I read this article I find it extremely funny that not only is the article posted online and is berating texts found online but also that I am reading and responding to this article via my phone. Technology is changing and with it society and culture. I sympathize with the author in that losing the ability to analyze and read a document in depth is a tragedy, however I hope and the standard can become dual-wielded. That one can both skim a document and extract the valuable summary of said document as well as analytical read the texts to gain a greater understanding of its meaning. In certain contexts both are usefull.

  47. Kendra Postell says:

    I do not believe that the Internet has affected my ability to read in depth. In fact, I think it has been a vital tool in training me to be able to discriminate between what I can glance over and what requires my undivided attention. In today’s society one is, in fact, bombarded by unmanageable loads of information that are frankly, too much for a person to handle. However, it is not the Internet that causes this overload, but society’s expectations of how much an individual should know. For example, over the span of several months one is expected to become expert enough to pass final exams in several topics, respond lovingly to countless text messages and calls from friends be able to critique several box office hits, bestselling novels and know the words to iTunes’ top 10 bestsellers each week, just to name a few. The Internet may often be the medium by which we are bombarded with information, but we cannot blame the Internet itself for our own abuses. It is the pressure we put on each other to know so many things that often makes skimming an article or a textbook necessary. If one were to attempt to understand something in the depth Birkerts and Carr argue for, they would simply be left behind, because the truth is, one who attempted to vertically understand an entire eight-hundred page textbook in the span of several months would have to read all day every day causing them fall behind in all of their classes and keeping them from being a properly functioning member of society. The Internet allows us to understand in depth what we want to, and to skim through what we need to know to keep up with societal demands. It has not at all discouraged vertical reading, but has been a helpful resource for me in finding a balance between the vertical and horizontal.

  48. Aakash Agarwal says:

    This article opened in my eyes and made me realize that after spending much time reading on the internet, my style of reading has changed. It is much more difficult to concentrate on reading for other classes. For example, at the end of chapters in my Chemistry and Biology books, there are always summaries of what the entire chapter covers. Why not just read the summaries as if they were entries on a website like Sparknotes? With the addition of distractions like television, instant messaging, social networking, and the many leisure websites to spend time on, this task of looking for depth in passages becomes more and more difficult, especially those online. I will admit that reading this blog post took much longer than it should have! This is mainly due to the mentioned distractions. It is sad how much time is wasted nowadays when so much work could be done!

    I do agree with Birkerts and Carr that, as a result of being “information retrievers” on the web, we will experience a loss of depth and wisdom as a society. When we look for information on the internet, we look up what we are curious about. The “f-shaped pattern” was something I thought only I did! What’s the point of reading only pieces of an article when the author took the time to carefully write the whole thing out? After all, an online article is quite literally the same thing as a printed article in a magazine. Usually the main point is in the headline/title of an article… the rest are just details that we probably won’t even remember.

  49. steph says:

    When I started reading the article, I will admit, I was a bit frustrated when I saw the length of it and told myself “its ok I’ll just skim”. But when I started reading I was embarrassed because everything I was reading is very characteristic of my reading habits. Like many teenagers, when I read (especially school required reading) I try to pick out the important key ideas of what the author is trying to convey, and what I think the teacher might test us on. I think Birkerts and Carr were right on in their assumption that “information retrievers” on the web cause a loss of depth. With the internet so readily accessible, I often times put off research, or reading an entire article, simply because “I know it’ll still be there tomorrow.” I think the internet has caused us to take the information at hand for granted. With access to information at the drop of a hat, we fail to utilize it for what it has to offer, and instead do not take the time to fully understand the meaning of what we are reading.

  50. Richard Fong says:

    The internet has allowed many people to become authors even if they do not have a book’s worth of material to discuss. The articles I read on the internet tend to be from this type of authors, and when I read their work, I usually do not really read it, but instead look over only the parts that interest me. The prominence of such writing in our lives and our becoming accustomed to them does indeed make it a challenge to maintain attention on longer pieces. While the individual concise articles on the internet do not contain as much depth as entire books do, I disagree with Birkerts and Carr that this results in an overall loss of depth and wisdom as a society. Though readers can obtain a much deeper understanding of a few subjects through books, each individual in society can learn about a much wider variety of information and viewpoints though the internet. Those that put a great deal of focus on only a few subjects are sometimes not able to see the full picture by linking together all the more diverse information available on the internet. Losing the depth of individual subjects that books provide is not preferable, but the evolution of media into something that delivers a point in a quick and concise way has provided great benefits despite what it has lost.

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