What does it mean to read in a digital age? There seems to be quite a bit of comment on this issue appearing in the media at the moment. A week ago the New York Times published a list of resources relating to how reading may be changing on the Internet which I’ve been browsing with interest. Meanwhile, the The Atlantic Monthly asks what the Internet is doing to our brains in an article titled Is Google Making Us Stupid?
“We are not only what we read,” says Maryanne Wolf, a developmental psychologist at Tufts University and the author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. “We are how we read.” Wolf worries that the style of reading promoted by the Net, a style that puts “efficiency” and “immediacy” above all else, may be weakening our capacity for the kind of deep reading that emerged when an earlier technology, the printing press, made long and complex works of prose commonplace. When we read online, she says, we tend to become “mere decoders of information.” Our ability to interpret text, to make the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely disengaged.