I came across a fascinating article that described the effect of the Internet (as personified by Google), which included some fairly chilling impacts of heavy internet usage – diminished ability to do deep reading (and by association, assimilation of content) of books or articles. The upshot was an interesting exploration of how much the medium actually influences how we think and act. A larger discussion that is still going on is whether the web is making us stupid; affecting how we think and work, mostly in a negative sense. One side considers that we’re actually being freed by all of this; which would presuppose that some of the behaviors of pre-internet knowledge work were not necessarily very efficient. So, by using a more search oriented approach, we’ve achieved better efficiency. I have to believe there’s a continuum of effect; that in many case the summary information that a search provides is sufficient, but in some cases, particularly in highly detailed areas, the efficacy of a search / browse model has to give way to a more comprehensive, exhaustive informational model. I suspect though that the basic issue is still critical – how can we use the medium without being affected by it, or failing that, how can we control the extent to which the medium affects us.
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