The Reluctant Luddite

Dirk Olin in Dartmouth Alumni Magazine:

ScreenHunter_07 Sep. 30 11.08 Carr’s biography makes sense in hindsight. Game player, English major, punk—he is now a journalist and leading iconoclast of the information age. He has written three books, with the most recent, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, arguing that online overuse is infecting society with collective attention deficit disorder. The book earned Carr the title of Pulitzer finalist earlier this year.

That thesis “came out of a personal realization,” Carr says. “I came to the conclusion that my brain had been reprogrammed due to my use of the Internet. I just didn’t have the concentration I used to have. And not just with books. I was getting antsy even reading a longish magazine piece.”

But isn’t that what happens as one approaches middle age?

“That was my initial thought,” says Carr. “But a lot of studies show that attention spans for things like reading can increase as you get older. No, I think the Net has retrained me so that I expect to consume information rapidly, jumping around and clicking on links and checking e-mail, even when I’m in the middle of reading something else.”

The point of departure for his current work was formulated as a question—“Is Google Making Us Stupid?”—that headlined his article in The Atlantic in 2008 and led to his Pulitzer-nominated tome. The Shallows offers calm, collected provocation. Slate called the book “Silent Spring for the literary mind.”

More here.