This morning, on TechCrunch, “Nobel Laureate Says The Internet Makes Us Dumb, We Say: Meh,” Duncan Riley complains that recent Nobel Laureate winner, Doris Lessing, dissed the Internet with these recent comments:
We are in a fragmenting culture, where our certainties of even a few decades ago are questioned and where it is common for young men and women, who have had years of education, to know nothing of the world, to have read nothing, knowing only some speciality or other, for instance, computers
TechCrunch’s sassy, condescending attitude aside, Riley does not help refute Ms. Lessing’s statement by championing Wikipedia as evidence that people can get smart by reading things on the Internet. What TechCrunch should point out is that smart people are using the Internet and reading and writing as much as ever. They just don’t happen to sit down and read a novel for several hours on end as much as previous generations. Lessing and many others are sincerely worried about what will happen to narrative and the quality of knowledge as attention spans get increasingly shorter.
David Brooks recently made a point similar to Lessing’s in his article “The Segmented Society,” in which he laments the fact that music no longer helps to unite society now that niche markets are so fragmented. What Lessing and Brooks have to realize is that digital media demands fragmentation, and it is our job to use these fragments as building blocks to create something new and valuable.