Friday, July 16, 2010

Waffle Brains

Maryanne Wolf, author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, is concerned. Though her research as director of the Center for Reading and Language Research has not yet been conclusive, many signs point to a disturbing verdict: digital reading, as opposed to its paper-based counterpart, may actually short-circuit our brains. Wolf writes,
"We need to understand the value of what we may be losing when we skim text so rapidly that we skip the precious milliseconds of deep reading processes. For it is within these moments—and these processes in our brains—that we might reach our own important insights and breakthroughs. They might not happen if we’ve skipped on to the next text bite."

According to Wolf, the formation and development of complex brain pathways by reading takes years. She states that "there is no genetic guarantee that any individual novice reader will ever form the expert reading brain circuitry that most of us form." Thus, the brain of a reader who uses only a fraction of their available cognitive resources is less maturely developed than that of a reader who expends intellectual effort in proving multiple layers of meaning. And, just like a muscle, lack of exercise leads to atrophy. Our societal glut of immediate information, coupled with the effort to reduce that information to its tiniest magnitude, could have measurable physical effects.

Playwright Richard Foreman asks, in contemplation of the question, "How is the Internet changing the way you think," asks,
"Are we becoming Pancake People — spread wide and thin as we connect with that vast network of information accessed by the mere touch of a button?"
Maybe as Pancake People we're also developing Waffle Brains- little nutritional value, light as air, perforated by empty space.

No comments:

Post a Comment