I use bloglines to keep track of a variety of sites so that I know when something new appears on one of my favorite sites (not counting the favorite sites I check obsessively for which I need no notice). One of those favorite sites is Critical Mass which is written by National Book Critics Circle board of director members. They have a post up titled, “Around the World on Friday.” In the listing of various links-of-the-day, they include this one: “Khalid Mir wonders if there isn’t such a thing as too much connectivity when your goal is reading.” Not surprisngly, this link leads to a post by Khalid Mir (on a blog at GuardianUnlimited). He writes about being overwhelmed with information in the Internet age.

I post the various steps by which I came to his post to reinforce the degree of information to which we have access. Along the way I could have followed numerous alternative paths leading in countless possible directions to more links, posts, stories, images, videos, etc. It’s enough to make a person wonder how we might seek to make sense of it all. Which is, I suppose, the point of Mir’s post. He wonders about “the profound way in which the internet affects us in our ability to communicate meaningfully with one another.” He raises red flags about the consequences:

It is, rather, whether how we think about something is radically altered when information is available at the click of a button. What does access to vast amounts of information and the pressures of instantaneity do to our age-old habits of discernment (Google’s “top gaining queries“, for instance) and quiet reflection? Will we ever be able to return to the “exalted silence” of the book or even read “linearly” (as Jonathan Franzen asked in his celebrated Harper’s essay)?

The assault on the senses – whether the dazzling of the eye by the profusion of images around us or the drowning out of silence by background music and conversation and now the hyperinflation of words – can only lead to overload, triviality, and an eventual collapse of meaning.

He concludes the piece by writing:

Ultimately, in an age of “instant living”, does the Internet offer us any sense of permanence? How many of you will go back and read this article in three days, I wonder?

One of the things that got me interested in sociology in the first place was the impact technology has on our individual and collective lives, especially its impact on community. So I always find essays such as Mir’s intriguing (even if, in three days, I won’t be able to remember that, not only did I read his article, I wrote about it).

Advertisements