Home > Uncategorized > Op-Ed Columnist – The Medium Is the Medium – NYTimes.com

Op-Ed Columnist – The Medium Is the Medium – NYTimes.com

Researchers gave 852 disadvantaged students 12 books (of their own choosing) to take home at the end of the school year. They did this for three successive years… They found that the students who brought the books home had significantly higher reading scores than other students. These students were less affected by the “summer slide”… In fact, just having those 12 books seemed to have as much positive effect as attending summer school…

The spread of home computers and high-speed Internet access was associated with significant declines in math and reading scores…  And this study used data from 2000 to 2005 before Twitter and Facebook took off…

Carr argues that the Internet is leading to a short-attention-span culture…  His critics point to evidence that suggests that playing computer games and performing Internet searches actually improves a person’s ability to process information and focus attention…

But there was one interesting observation made by a philanthropist who gives books to disadvantaged kids. It’s not the physical presence of the books that produces the biggest impact, she suggested. It’s the change in the way the students see themselves as they build a home library. They see themselves as readers, as members of a different group…

What matters is the way people think about themselves while engaged in the two activities. A person who becomes a citizen of the literary world enters a hierarchical universe. There are classic works of literature at the top and beach reading at the bottom…  Readers immerse themselves in deep, alternative worlds and hope to gain some lasting wisdom. Respect is paid to the writers who transmit that wisdom…

A citizen of the Internet has a very different experience. The Internet smashes hierarchy and is not marked by deference…Internet culture is egalitarian. The young are more accomplished than the old. The new media is supposedly savvier than the old media. The dominant activity is free-wheeling, disrespectful, antiauthority disputation.

These different cultures foster different types of learning…  The literary world is still better at helping you become cultivated, mastering significant things of lasting import. To learn these sorts of things, you have to defer to greater minds than your own…

Perhaps that will change. Already, more “old-fashioned” outposts are opening up across the Web. It could be that the real debate will not be books versus the Internet but how to build an Internet counterculture that will better attract people to serious learning.

via Op-Ed Columnist – The Medium Is the Medium – NYTimes.com.

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