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Maybe Shallow, Poorly Supported, Arguments Make Us Stupid?

Nick Carr’s new book gets smacked upside the head in LRB by Jim Holt ( hat tip to Scott Shipman).

Smarter, Happier, More Productive

…This is a seductive model, but the empirical support for Carr’s conclusion is both slim and equivocal. To begin with, there is evidence that web surfing can increase the capacity of working memory. And while some studies have indeed shown that ‘hypertexts’ impede retention – in a 2001 Canadian study, for instance, people who read a version of Elizabeth Bowen’s story ‘The Demon Lover’ festooned with clickable links took longer and reported more confusion about the plot than did those who read it in an old-fashioned ‘linear’ text – others have failed to substantiate this claim. No study has shown that internet use degrades the ability to learn from a book, though that doesn’t stop people feeling that this is so – one medical blogger quoted by Carr laments, ‘I can’t read War and Peace any more.’

….It’s not that the web is making us less intelligent; if anything, the evidence suggests it sharpens more cognitive skills than it dulls. It’s not that the web is making us less happy, although there are certainly those who, like Carr, feel enslaved by its rhythms and cheated by the quality of its pleasures. It’s that the web may be an enemy of creativity. Which is why Woody Allen might be wise in avoiding it altogether.

Meanwhile, futurist Jamais Cascio asks “Is the Alphabet Making Us Stupid?”

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