In Defense of Slow Reading

In Defense of Slow Reading - In Defense of Slow Reading By...

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In Defense of Slow Reading By Paul M. Davis Thu, Jun 25, 2009 Illustration by Mott Jordan To paraphrase Rick James via Dave Chappelle, “Internet’s a hell of a drug.” Like James’ storied cocaine habit, it’s addictive and alluring, its benefits debatable. I speak as someone intimately experienced with addictive drugs: two years ago, I quit smoking. To this day, I find myself smoking in dreams, and occasionally sneak them from friends at the bar. The rest of the time, the Internet serves as a proxy. Addictive personalities often replace one addiction with another. My new worst friend is the social web, the endless stream of information constantly streaming down Senator Ted Stevens’ infamous “series of tubes.” Here’s a short list of Internet services that I use and check with half- hourly frequency: email, Facebook, Tumblr, Delicious, Evernote, Twitter, Remember the Milk, Google Reader (tracking some 180 RSS feeds), and Yahoo News. I back up longer articles using Instapaper to read on the bus; at the office, I work with two web browsers open at all times, 10 individual tabs loaded in each, spread over two monitors. On the commute home, I’m checking text messages via my Internet-enabled phone and reading archived blog posts on my iPod. At times, it seems like a type of digital schizophrenia, or if nothing else, a hell of a drug. I’m what pencil-necked social media experts and Web 2.0 carpetbaggers would call a “power user.” I dine on a constant, movable feast of information. Scolds might suggest that this is a
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symptom of a larger Internet addiction, but when your day job involves managing web content and your night jobs are web design and freelance writing, it’s impossible to avoid spending 12 to 14 hours a day online. My habits are far from unusual; as we sit in offices for eight hours at a desktop computer, only to leave the office with iPhones, Blackberries and Kindles in tow, it’s clear that the moment futurists have predicted is upon us: the Internet has become pervasive, and it’s only going to become more so in the years to come. With so much information streaming at once, most of it with all the panache of a poorly- organized corporate database vying for attention with hard news and gossip masquerading as political analysis, there’s little room for critical engagement; there’s barely enough time for basic reading comprehension. I could read 50 news articles in a day about the Middle East and return with no deeper understanding of what happened in Iraq on that given day. My mind has become a decontextualized database of ephemeral facts, equipped with only the most rudimentary of search functions. It’s not exactly cheering to realize that I’m not alone. It’s a phenomenon that author John Lorinc bemoaned in his 2007 essay “Driven to Distraction”
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This note was uploaded on 09/08/2010 for the course ENGL 1B at San Jose State University .

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In Defense of Slow Reading - In Defense of Slow Reading By...

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