Real Reading and Deep Thinking in Our Information Age

Lost ArtIn his extended essay The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time (Sasquatch Books, 2010), LA Times book critic David Ulin cites a 2009 study showing that in 2008, Americans consumed information for about 12 hours per day, and about 100,000 words per day. This, he explains, is the equivalent of a three-hundred-page novel, which at first seems encouraging. Except that much of this is a fragmented consumption of the “back-and-forth between texting, e-mail, print, Twitter, blogs and other websites,” amounting to what he calls a “collective data dump” (80).

He then writes:

“This is where reading, real reading, comes in – because it demands space…Perhaps most important, there is the way reading requires us to pay attention, which cannot help but return us to the realm of inner life” (80).

Then it gets really good:

He quotes a co-author of the study mentioned above, on the impact of these kinds of reading on deeper thinking: “Our attention is being chopped into shorter intervals and that is probably not good for thinking deeper thoughts.”

And from a psychiatrist working with ADD: “We have a generation of people who…are so busy processing information from all directions they are losing the tendency to think and feel. And much of what they are exposed to is superficial. People are sacrificing depth and feeling and becoming cut off and disconnected from other people” (81).

These insights should caution us against our often superficial habits of mindless information consumption (I myself am guilty of this), and more importantly, they should move us into being more intentional about doing the kind of extended, concentrated deep reading that is fast becoming a thing of the past for many.

Advertisements

One comment

  1. Generación Latina

    Very interesting. But as I was reading this I felt like I was losing my ability to think and feel deeply. I thought to myself: Oh no! Javi’s blog is a blog and part of my collective satay dump of today and not a book. I am doomed. #notrealreading

    Love you broer 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s