Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Chapter four of The Shallows spurned several ideas in my mind after I read it. The majority of the chapter is basically all about the history involved with how and when written language came to be. One thing that Carr mentioned that I was especially interested in was how he wrote about people as they first began reading. He tells how people had a very difficult time reading long works and short works, saying that “reading was like working out a puzzle.” The first thing that came to my mind after reading about this was some of the discussions we had in class about modern reading abilities. We have discussed several times the matter that some people have difficulty reading longer works today because of the internet. I began to question myself. Are we going back to the same point in history that mankind had worked so hard to solve thousands of years before? Could we possibly be digressing as a race?
Over thousands of years now there have been men, who could read and write, and to this day the literacy rate is still reaching new highs each and every year, but it also appears that we are having more difficulty with our reading ability than we have had for hundreds of years. As time has moved on since the beginning of reading and writing the ability of every person seemed to get better, and prior to the invention of the radio, reading was a skill that everyone desired and needed to be successful in life. Since the inventions of the new technologies (such as television, radio, and computers) the interest in books and reading has gone down. Everybody knows how to read, but nobody wants to read any more. Today people are more concerned with seeing several short tidbits rather than learning in depth about one thing. This new desire has led to a shorter attention span for many people, similar to the short attention span that people had when they first began to read. Whether this short attention span is natural for humans and we had actually just been living with an unnatural change is yet to be determined, but one thing is clear, reading is becoming a very weak skill for many.
This all leads to the big question. Are we digressing? Many have said that history repeats itself and that history will come full circle at different points in time. So we very well could be seeing history come full circle. As a society we started off not reading, we learned to read, we became strong readers, now we’re back to weak readers, so is the next step going to be that we lose our ability to read and write? Our writing ability has gone from hand writing to typing, and now there is software where people don’t even have to type they can just talk and the computer will type for them. We very well could have our computers reading everything for us in the coming years; we have already had audio books for several years now for people who cannot or do not want to read books, so it wouldn’t be very surprising if reading and writing became a thing of the past. The true question that we have to ask ourselves is whether all of our new technology is helping to become a smarter, faster, and more efficient world? Or are we losing the basic functions of learning that are vital for us and generations to come needed for success?
By Marty Gray