What is lost on the Net?

A response to Nick Carr and other proponents of the "Crisis of Attention"

To merely "decode" Information is too easy. Some fear it reduces the ingenuity, creativity, that arises from struggle. But what if the opposite were true? That our rapid consumption of information and news is in fact creating a far more informed, tolerant, and active generation. The more you know. I don't need to read an entire book to learn the difference between Sunni and Shia. I can watch a 7 minute Youtube, or a podcast, or read the intro of a wikipedia page. I am then presented with a choice, I may go further or I may stop there. What's wrong with being able to choose?

I don't deny that this change must be overwhelming for older generations, and more difficult to optimize to their needs. Unlike Carr, I don't feel that hyperlinks "propel" me into a different article. I may bookmark it for later, and I can choose to look at it or not. He turns this privilege into a negative. He sees the Net as an evil, all-consuming force that makes him spend his days frantically skimming article after article. Instead of complaining about his inability to focus and blaming it on the Net, Carr should consider how he spends his time and what he can personally do to change his habits. Even if the Net is to blame, it is undeniably here to stay.

This idea that the Net makes information too accessible is what I find most troubling. In a world where certainly higher education, and even sufficient primary education is a thing of privilege, the must be another way for those hungry for knowledge to gain it. The Net has at least a small equalizing effect on inequality of access to information.

The Net can be seen as a giant library (which is how the Novel debatists seem to view it), but none can deny how much more than that it is. The Net is a public square, a laboratory, a canvas, and more. All these uses require different infrastructure and regulation. In time I think we will come to realize that the current internet needs to be re-designed with these varying needs in mind. Already, there has been a huge evolution in appearance from the first computer screens to today. As we continue to figure out how the internet fits in and complements human activity, it can be optimized to serve our individual needs. For example, Carr will be able to alter his Net to override hyperlinks. Unless he decides he actually does like them.