Nothing else going on

Just finished watching (well, listening) to this Nicholas Carr lecture in which he says:

I think one way to think about this is that what the web does—despite the fact that it’s this incredible high technology and we think of it as the cutting edge and everything—is bring us back to a much more primitive and in a way more natural style of thinking. I mean I think Fred and Barney would have been very happy online and using our new technologies, because our brains seem to be naturally wired to shift our focus very rapidly. And you can understand this if you think about our distant ancestors in Stone Age times and so forth. You were rewarded by your ability to keep track of as much of what was going on around you at once. You know by shifting your attention all the time, by shifting your focus, you were the person who survived because you saw the predator approaching before everyone else, or you were the person who survived because you spotted that bush of berries that you could eat that everybody else missed. And so in a way we’re naturally wired to be distracted, to be interrupted, and what’s hard for us is to pay attention, what goes against our instincts and our nature is to focus on one thing. You know, the worst thing a caveman could do is actually focus on one thing for a long period of time because then he would end up being eaten pretty quickly.

And I think in this regard it’s very very interesting and very informative to compare what the web is doing to us with what the other great modern information technology did for us and that is the book. I mean, think about the difference between being online between looking at a screen and sitting down with a book. The fundamental difference is that whereas the screen bombards us with distractions and interruptions, the book, the printed page, shields us from those distractions and interruptions that come at us all the time. You know, we tend to think of the book, the printed book, as somehow being flawed today because it doesn’t have links, it doesn’t have video, it doesn’t have multimedia, you can’t like check your email while you’re reading a book, but in fact that’s the fundamental strength of the book as a technology. There is nothing else going on. And so that way of thinking that’s very hard and very unnatural for us, for we human beings, that very attentive way of thinking was encouraged by the book and in fact I  think you can argue that for many people over the last 500 years the story of our intellectual lives is the story of how the book helped us to pay attention. And that, because the brain is adaptable and plastic, our ability to pay attention that we learned from reading could then be applied to all sorts of other aspects of our mental lives.

Nicholas Carr
(starting @ 49:40; emphasis added, obvs.)

The first part (single-minded focus vs. multitasking) is interesting because it fits into where I”m going with my dissertation, this idea that in online writing we have conflict and misunderstandings because of a clash between worldviews, i.e. writers (creators) and non-writers (communicators). (Or literacy/individuality vs. orality/community.)

The second part… I’m like, hmm, I’m sure I’ve said/written something to this effect before. So then I dug around in my archives a bit and aha! I did indeed. Now I just need figure out how to get people to pay me to write books and give lectures based on my amazing and prescient blog posts.

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