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Worth your time

Concentration

IF you are able to concentrate on anything for longer than the standard 7 seconds, this article is worth your time to read, and then I hope you will want to have a conversation about it here … or somewhere.

If the link is broken, you can cut and paste this — http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/21/books/21mash.html?pagewanted=1&ref=books

My favorite image from this essay is thinking of the Internet as a Cyberspace “Lord of the Flies.”

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6 replies »

  1. I notice the extreme relativity of the internet in recent exchanges on substantive issues. For instance, the emails I exchanged with a global warming denialist. I had links, he had links. Whose were better? Well, mine, because they referred to peer-reviewed science, not distortions and bullshit, like his. But hey. Links are links are links. I had ’em, he had ’em. He could come up with as many as I could. I failed to convince him. If anything, I just caused his views to become more entrenched. It was totally fucking pointless.

    As for mash-ups destroying good literature, as this article darkly hints, I don’t worry about that so much. Mash-ups are by their very nature derivative and mediocre and ultimately, they require good originals to mash up. There will always be a place for distinctive, original, good literature. It has to come from somewhere from someone. Even if those someones are labeled “content producers” rather than “authors.”

  2. What I mean is that the snowball is already rolling its merry way down the hill, and standing at the top trying to pee on it enough to keep it from growing on its way down is a waste of time. In other words, there isn’t anything I can do about what the next generation and generations is/are going to want and how they are going to think and how they will acquire and process information. I am better off entertaining myself.

  3. The older I get the less capable I become of pissing into the wind, or into anywhere.

    I believe that the intrinsic value of the western canon liberal arts education at the university level (noting why it is called a “university”) is to force people to do one of the most difficult things: confront and consider a wide variety of opinion and belief. That is the reason we, who were most fortunate enough to receive a full ranging liberal arts education at the university level, were required to study material we were not naturally interested in, and then to explain it.

    This form of education, which I think is probably fading away at the same pace intelligent discourse in general is disappearing, was not designed for a specific purpose — to make engineers, accountants, botanists, doctors, lawyers, and the rest of the specified work functions — but to form a liberal mind, an open mind, a mind with the tools to think, as opposed to providing the data for performing this or that function.

    There are people who acquire what a liberal arts education offers without any formal structure, on their own, as it were, but they are rare. Most of us need to be forced to learn how to think liberally and critically.

    In other words, and to your comment, it seems to me that most of the people who do no more in their reading or researching than seek only those sources that reinforce and sustain what they already think they know, or what they believe, or what they have faith in, simply never learned to think, they are missing the skills of the truly liberally educated person. Even if they may have have gone through the formal process, they just didn’t get it — you can lead a horse to water … . Which reminds me of the aphorism a horticulturist friend of mine often quotes: You can lead a hor to culture, but you can’t make her think.)

    Ironically, the Internet has the capability to be the grandest tool for a liberal education ever conceived, but in effect it is used for exactly the opposite, as nothing more than a resource to sustain one’s prejudices; in that nasty task, it has no competition.

    I had never heard of Malcolm Gladwell before the article, and now your mention of him. I’ll look him up.