Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Monday, May 17, 2010

bleg!

Gracious readers, I need some help. I have a vast compendium of stories and quotes about reading that I'm drawing on for my book, but there is one story I can't find — I may not have saved it. And though I have mad Googling skillz they have let me down this time.
Here's what I remember: it was a newspaper article that quoted a college student saying that he didn't see any point in reading books because he could get the necessary information more efficiently online. I found that interesting because it reflects a certain idea about reading that I want to contest, i.e., that's it's fundamentally a way of uploading information to the brain.
And here's what I think I remember: the guy was class president, and maybe even student body president, at a university in Florida, and was a philosophy major. (That last item really caught my attention.)
You'd think with all that information I'd be able to track down the story . . . but no. So I would be thankful for any help y'all can give me.

14 comments:

  • You may have stumbled upon this article, "Do Millennials Read? Yes, But They Read Differently." Carol Phillips references a book by Don Tapscott, Grown Up Digital, in which he "describes Joe O’Shea, a 22-year old student leader from Florida State who was on his way to study at Oxford. O’Shea had this to say about reading books:

    'I don’t read books per se, I go to Google and I can absorb relevant information quickly. some of this comes from books. But sitting down and going through a book from cover to cover doesn’t make sense. It’s not a good use of my time as I an get all the information I need faster through the web. You need to know how to do it — to be a skilled hunter.'"

    Is this what you're looking for?

  • That's it, Scott — Bingo! (and in less than an hour) I had seen it in Tapscott's book, not online. And that's just the quote I was looking for too. Thanks!

  • As a Florida Gator I just can't resist the urge to note that it was an FSU Seminole who said that . . . Just saying . . .

  • If you need more evidence of the same... I also remember quite a lot about this same idea from some MIT students in the "Digital Nation" video by Frontline.

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/digitalnation/

  • Alan, for whatever it's worth, I recognized the quote you were looking for as soon as I saw it because Nicholas Carr uses it prominently in his new book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. It's a great book--I'm reviewing it now--and you'll definitely want to give it a look as part of wherever your current research is leading you.

    And incidentally, the student in question was a philosophy major and a Rhodes Scholar. Ugh.

  • It's all coming back to me now, Russell — it was Carr's book (I got galleys of it) that led me to Tapscott's book. I haven't decided whether to review Carr's book yet, but I was somewhat disappointed in it. I felt that he spent too much time rehashing the arguments of others and not enough developing his own, which is a particular shame because Carr is one of the sharpest cultural critics around. But your comment makes me think that I had better read it again. . . .

  • This piece by Tapscott has more details about O'Shea and reading habits.

  • >>I found that interesting because it reflects a certain idea about reading that I want to contest, i.e., that's it's fundamentally a way of uploading information to the brain.<<

    Not that you'd be rehashing the arguments of others or anything.

    :-)

  • I have a vast compendium of stories and quotes about reading that I'm drawing on for my book,

    Well, I can't help you with the specific story, but have you read Steven Berlin Johnson's essay "Tool for Thought" regarding DevonThink Pro?: http://www.stevenberlinjohnson.com/movabletype/archives/000230.html . I ask because having DTP changed my work habits (for the better, I think), and is making my life easier in a lot of ways.

  • DevonThink is a great app, Jake, though too much of a Swiss Army knife for me. I moved from it to Yojimbo and then to Together — and Together is the perfect fit for me.

  • I am a master rehasher, Nick, but that one I've been arguing for about a decade.

    But even if you tweak me I'm still going to re-read your book, 'cause that's the kind of guy I am.

  • Actually, not 'cause that's the kind of guy I am, but 'cause Nick Carr has done so much good work I want to make sure I don't miss anything.

  • Alan, I respect your judgment, and heaven knows your far more widely read in this area than I am. And it's true that Nick's book is a synthesis of neurological science, literary theory, textual history, and psychological research, all done by others. But many syntheses are greater than the sum of their parts, and I can't help but thing that Nick has put all these arguments together in a way that is very persuasive indeed.

    Nick, link to my review when I put it up!

  • You've already found your missing source plus some, but I'll volunteer to be your sock puppet. Tell me what bogus opinion you want me to espouse and I'll put it on my blog.

    Disclaimer: just to be clear, I'm being arch here. The idea seemed to me worthwhile to suggest considering how eroded is the authority of the Web.

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