shirky’s argument is that carr is not really just talking about ‘thinking’ and how the internet is rewiring our brains to read and think more in the shallows, but that he is actually discussing the threat the internet poses to enlightenment-born, liberal ideas about culture and intellectual merit (larry sanger argued this case also). shirky’s now famous quote that noone reads war and peace anymore, because ‘it’s too long and not so interesting’ is provocative. he goes further, claiming that there is now ‘an entire literature about the reading of proust…that is now more widely read than proust’s actual oeuvre.’
shirky wants us to acknowledge that the shift we find ourselves in is not optional and there are sacrifices to me made. so, he asks, what can we do to make the sacrifices worth it? how do we find a way to ‘focus amid new intellectual abundance’? my frustration is that he doesn’t give us any ideas about how we might achieve it.
i’ll close on one of my favourite comments following the article.
‘i went to my public library yesterday to get the new, highly praised translation of ‘war and peace’. it was out.’ (bob mchenry)