is the sacrifice worth it?

Lots of posts recently related to critically examining technology, sorry techno-junkies. I have been reading three books related to the subject so my mind has been spinning. I’ll keep this one short & only ask a question: “Is losing the deep, nuanced, linear thinking ability worth having all the worlds knowledge at our fingertips?”

This is not a false dichotomy. Our thinking abilities are shaped by the media in which we express/acquire our ideas. The book is linear, the web is not. So is it worth it?

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7 Responses to is the sacrifice worth it?

  1. Jerrid, I’ll push a little a bit.

    Texts aren’t inherently linear; neither are books. We can skip around in a book or manipulate it for different kinds of reading experiences. It’s true that books are most often used in a linear manner. However, for counter-example books that are explicitly non-linear, check out Cortazar’s Hopscotch or the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Series. Or the I-Ching.

    If we go reductio ad absurdum here, then we should close down all of our libraries because users can hop around from book to book willy-nilly. Moreover, we should only let people have one book at a time in their homes, and, furthermore, we should restrict a person’s life-long reading to texts based on a single interpretation of a single topic.

    The Internet is a vast library with apps that let us interrelate materials in ways that externally mirror the internal connections we make between texts as well-read readers; text remains linear or hyper as we conceptualize and employ them. There are plenty of linear texts online. Most Web 2.0 tools present data linearly by chronological order. Regardless, as soon as I read 2 texts, I make non-linear connections in my mind despite the texts ostensible linearity.

    It is not a false dichotomy to say that there’s deep thinking and superficial thinking. It is a fallacy to think that there’s no hope for deep thinking left inside techonology’s Pandora’s Box.

    I might also suggest that linear thinking is not deep or nuanced; where would allusions be if we thought linearly?



  2. jerridkruse says:

    I am not arguing for only promoting the linear thinking promoted by books (which are linear). Even the choose your own adventure series in linear, you can’t jump into page 56 unless directed there (you have choice of the line you follow, but that doesn’t make in not linear).

    My point is that we must conserve the deep, nuanced thinking promoted by books and not allow the “skim the surface” thinking to totally replace the valuable thinking of the past. I am not claiming the internet has changed our thinking, but changing our thinking. I’m raising issues (as others are) so that we (as a society) don’t lose things….in some cases conservative thinking is as important as subversive thinking :)

    Of course there are people who will continue to think deeply about the snippets of information on the net, but what happens when books are no longer made & no one writes a long drawn out argument. If no one is ever asked to create, or follow a long, nuanced argument, how do people learn to make or follow such arguments. Then don’t, they don’t have to because they can find the “executive summary” and believe they are informed or believe they have thought deeply about a topic. But what may actually happen is our definition of “deep thought” could be eroded into a shadow of its former self. These changes happen without our knowledge. Denying them only perpetuates their silent nature.

    An important point is that I don’t believe these things have happened, but are happening. It is not too late. Go read a book. :)


  3. Steve Davis says:

    One can have all the world’s knowledge at their fingertips and yet not have the ability to learn from, implement, and effectively utilize that knowledge.

    The linear, nuanced thought found in books allows us, and our students, an opportunity to live vicariously through fictional characters or those before us and learn from their mistakes and triumphs.

    Both are needed and are growing into a symbiotic relationship.

    Is it better to walk with your left leg or your right leg?


    • jerridkruse says:

      Steve, the problem with your thinking is that you assume symbiosis rather than competition. If we are not careful competition will develop and the quick access will win out considering what our society values.

      Also, I find it interesting that when talking about books you talk about fiction. What I am more concerned about disappearing are non-fiction books, but that is my bias as I am not very fond of fiction :)


  4. @mattledding says:

    I like the comment of left or right foot. Many tech junkies watch tv (linear) while surfing the net.(non)

    Games are often linear, tech can be linear, but you have to draw the lines.

    For non-fiction, I think the internet has made it flourish. Tim O’Reilly’s Safari books on line has a linear library that you can access in a non-linear fasion. With Guttenburg, I can read Chesterton or Bertand Russell in my bathroom over my mobile phone. (my childhood dream of having a bathroom with a huge library is real now!) The classics are accessible to everyone. The challenge is to practise focusing and to know when to unplug.

    As a tech head with a cassette player in my car, your post does get me thinking though… when was the last time you heard a cd that was linear, and not just a collection of wannabe singles? A linear progression like “The Wall” by Pink Floyd, Mike Oldfield’s tubular bells doesn’t happen today. There are collections, or themes, but not linear progression.


    • jerridkruse says:

      Great point about how the concept album is no longer valued. (at least nit as much).

      The tv/net surfing brings up another point-while they do two things at once, they do neither well. Multitasking is a myth. Multitasking only results in decreased attention to the task. This is not a problem with TV, but is with other tasks :)


  5. Pingback: Technology: Friend or Foe? | Reading Countess

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