The Shallows? No, Not Really.
July 13, 2010

Nicholas Carr speaking at the VINT Symposium h...
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Both Sam Rubenfeld and Dylan Matthews seem to think that my argument connection the overshare phenomenon and idle chatter is roughly equivalent to the argument Nicholas Carr (pictured) presents in The Shallows. This calls for a little clarification.

I haven’t read The Shallows, so I can’t judge the argument in its entirety, but I will say that I find the central thesis kind of implausible. Carr seems to be arguing that the way in which one typically interacts with the web—by multitasking and skimming along the serve of vast quantities of material, as opposed to concentrating intently on one thing at a time—is fundamentally altering our consciousness and making deep concentration and reflection more difficult. I’m actually a lot more sympathetic to Steven Pinker’s rebuttal.

But this confusion makes me think I should have been clearer what I was talking about when I referred to “distraction.” When it comes to serious reflection, it would seem that deep concentration is of secondary importance to what that deep concentration is projected towards. When I talked about a lot of personal blogging as a form of idle chatter, my true concern was that simple emoting and identification was not so much distracting people with short attention spans, but rather being consumed (and produced) as a paltry substitute for serious reflection. Attention span has very little to do with my argument.

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