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  • A backlash against the Net, it seems, is underway, and it is by no
    means limited to the scribbling of disillusioned middle-age authors.
    Software programmers have begun to write applications intended
    to shield us from the Net’s distractions…

    Nicholas Carr, in THE SHALLOWS: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains

    (This is the first in an ongoing series of comments on books I am reading, have read, and maybe even want to read but have not gotten to yet. And in posting this, I invite you to share notes on your own favorite books. Not reviews. Just notes. Keep it simple. Tweets welcome. I feel that in sharing books with each other we can deepen and enrich our experience here in the community, opening another “Window on life” as we are living and experiencing it in the books we love.)


    Do you still read books? Many people don’t these days, or if they do read them, find it hard to concentrate, and can only read in short bursts of attention.

    Nicholas Carr writes:

    “For the last five centuries, even since Gutenberg’s printing press made book reading a popular pursuit, the linear, literary mind has been at the center of art, science and society. As supple as it is subtle, it’s been the imaginative mind of the Renaissance, the rational mind of the Enlightenment, the inventive mind of the Industrial Revolution, and even the subversive mind of Modernism. It may soon be yesterday’s mind.”

    If you are suffering from either a mild or serious case of Net Addiction, if you are finding it hard to concentrate, if you can only read a few pages at a time, it may be, as Carr argues, because there are fundamental changes taking place in your brain. You read that right. Spooky concept, this. Carr provides the guide to what may be going on for so many of us, and THE SHALLOWS is winning wide acclaim.

    Perhaps as an example of what Carr is talking about, I find that I tend to read “around in” books these days, rather than reading from cover to cover. Sometimes I even start at the back to see what the grand conclusions are. Sometimes I open at random. Point being, I just do not read the way I used to, and I believe that the Net has a lot to do with this.

    One thing of which I am certain: I am part of a growing minority which could be called the “Net Backlash Generation.” With THE SHALLOWS, Nicholas Carr takes a well deserved place with Marshall McLuhan (UNDERSTANDING MEDIA), Jerry Mander (FOUR ARGUMENTS FOR THE ELIMINATION OF TELEVISION), Jaron Lanier (YOU ARE NOT A GADGET), and Sherry Turkle (ALONE TOGETHER).

    This one is too good to miss, and, confession, I am only on page 20, but THE SHALLOWS feels like a book I have been waiting for, and you may feel the same. It feels like a book I am going to read cover to cover.

    It already appears to be a book that may change my life.


    (Photograph by Alex in Buddha Center in the 3-D virtual world of Second Life)
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