Notes in the Margin

On the intersection of web apps, digital content and social media

E-Reads: The Medium is The Screen. The Message is Distraction

“My own research shows that people are continually distracted when working with digital information. They switch simple activities an average of every three minutes (e.g. reading email or IM) and switch projects about every 10 and a half minutes. It’s just not possible to engage in deep thought about a topic when we’re switching so rapidly.”

This is the opening of a sobering post from last fall, which I’ve just stumbled upon (as I willfully strayed from another article). I’m sure most would agree that reading and writing on and for the web is a different art, and one less inclined to the depth and introspection of their physical analogs.

Sandra Aamodt, former editor in chief of Nature Neuroscience, writes that “people read more slowly on screen, by as much as 20-30 percent… Distractions abound online — costing time and interfering with the concentration needed to think about what you read.”

The context was put perhaps most pointedly by David Gelernter, who described the move to e-reading and e-writing as “the cheapening of the word.” He describes an environment in which,

“…text messages buzz around the room and bounce off the walls, each as memorable as a housefly; where the narrowing time between writing for and publishing on the Web is helping to kill the art of editing by crushing it to death.”

Since the e-reading and e-writing phenomenon is here to stay, the only way out (as Robert Frost wrote) is through. We may all need to learn again how (and when) to read and write deliberately, with depth and introspection.

E-Reads: The Medium is The Screen. The Message is Distraction.


Written by tstaley

February 24, 2010 at 7:29 am

Posted in eBooks

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