Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The shallows

I have not yet read "The Shallows" but I definitely will! I have heard the premise is that the Internet has made us consumers of shallow but broad information. Jack of all trades, master of none?

I studied English literature as an undergraduate and part of the program was learning to appreciate how much the actual spoken and written language changed over time. Chaucerian English (spoken and written) is totally different to Shakespearean/Elizabethan to 18th Century, etc. What we have witnessed is that speech patterns became less complex, and reading and writing became more accessible to the ‘masses’. As such the transfer of information, theoretically, became more accessible. Is not the Internet just the continuation of that process? A new lexicon is developing (shorter, quicker) because we type it not speak it? The shallowness did not start with the Internet; it is just its latest iteration.

We live in a culture of multi-tasking and whether it is the internet, a report for work, a tv show, or a book, we just don’t have the time to focus on ANYTHING in great depth. So are we shallow because of the internet? Was the Internet just in time to address our need for shallow but broad knowledge? Or is it like the great vowel shift that took place somewhere between the 13 and 15th centuries in England…No one really knows but it is alive and embedded in our speech.


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