First of all, I forgot to mention something yesterday — if we’re losing our “deep reading” ability from Internet-driven scannerism, why should we care? What use is it to decipher “highbrow” literature?
From a security point of view, the answer is twofold. First, anyone who remembers English class will remember your teachers or professors explaining how “back in the day” people hid coded, subversive meanings in otherwise benign stories. You couldn’t openly criticize the King or Queen or other Powers That Be, they’d have your head off. So, you hid your mocking through symbolism and allegory… and since the secret police tended to be a little thicker than your friends, you were more or less safe.
(Something similar persisted in the Soviet Union up until the fall of the wall, and still persists in what the west considers totalitarian countries. Indeed, writers were famously one of the most spied-on and monitored groups under Communism for their ability to do this — as immortalized in “The Lives of Others”.)
Losing our ability to “deep read,” as it were, means we lose this covert social communications channel — the ability to reassure each even in the worst of situations, “yeah, I think this is crap too.”
Second, in the past “deep reading” provided an important bullshit filter. It’s difficult to prove this with specific examples, so I’ll give you my general opinion: looking at societies where long-form deep-reading rules (such as pre-Depression America or the better educated parts of Germany) people simply don’t take as much crap from those ostensibly in authority. The level of critical thinking is simply higher.
(Yes, there’s still plenty of excrement in the air, but nothing what you get when everyone is running from one shiny object to the next; this is also just my opinion.)
What remains to be seen is what will happen when enough people develop their “skimming” to the point where they can instinctively pick out the bits of truth in an Augean stable of an article… which is the optimistic view of this development.
The pessimistic side is that, having become so focused on seeing only what’s lit up in bright flashing neon letters, the communications of the Internet-using world become that much more obvious and easier to monitor.
So I find few things more annoying than US politics, which is why I try to avoid covering it here. However, every once in a while something comes along that’s just too remarkable… like this Princeton (!) study.
According to this I-didn’t-know-you-were-allowed-to-acknowledge-this-outside-conspiracy-blogs bit of peer-reviewed research, “the preferences of the average American” have a “minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact on public policy.”
Rather, just like EVERY CONSPIRACY THEORIST EVER has always claimed… America is actually run by a wealthy elite.
Not much more I can say to that. (What’s next… Harvard biologists show Henry Kissinger is a shape-shifting reptile?)