With apologies to Buffalo Springfield:
There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a
gunbook over there
Telling me I got to beware…
Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going–so far as I can tell–but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy… 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.
I think I know what’s going on. For more than a decade now, I’ve been spending a lot of time online…
His article (a beautiful piece of writing, by the way) has set off a huge, lengthy debate on the web (of course), which you should dip into (or settle down with, as is your wont) at the Brittanica Blog’s forum on Your Brain Online.
Attention Conservation Notice: This is a long stream in an unordered distributed debate. It may not make much sense unless you’ve read the discussion that is taking place on various websites indicated in the following paragraphs. There are many strands in the conversation. The one I am following here is about whether books will be dethroned from their centrality in culture.
You’ve been warned. Now go forth and read.