Monday, June 7, 2010
I just read a review of The Shallows, by Nicholas Carr. Carr explores other historical paradigm shifts (the advent of literacy, the invention of the printing press) as well as neuroscience to figure out how the internet is changing our minds. His basic argument is that the internet, while allowing us to take in unprecedented amounts of information, is decreasing our ability to pay attention, think deeply, and remember. The result is a society left intellectually "splashing about in the shallows."
So what does this have to do with my research on new media relationships in the context of the Bloggernacle and Raymond Carver's "Cathedral"? It makes me wonder if the internet is having a similar effect on our relationships or communities that Carr says it is having on our ability to think. While the internet is facilitating the formation of online communities that would not otherwise exist, bringing people of different backgrounds or geographic locations together in ways never before possible, is it decreasing the depth of traditional, face to face relationships? Are traditional communities based on location, culture, etc. more meaningful than these new virtual ones like the Bloggernacle? Are traditional communities more meaningful or valuable than new virtual ones? Are we forfeiting the strength of traditional communities by forming "shallow" virtual relationships? Are we moving toward a future where will we have hundreds or thousands of "virtual friends" instead of having a smaller number of deeper face to face relationships? I'm not trying to be alarmist, and I haven't formed solid answers or opinions on any of these questions, but I think they are worth exploring.