A neuroscientist explains what tech does to the reading brain - The Verge
For anyone who has ever been a reader, there’s much to sympathize with in Maryanne Wolf’s Reader, Come Home. The UCLA neuroscientist, a great lover of literature, tries to read Hermann Hesse’s Glass Bead Game, an old favorite, only to realize that she finds him boring and too complex. She wonders why he ever won a Nobel. And Wolf, who previously wrote Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, is horrified that this is what has happened to her ability to concentrate.
So what’s changing now with technology? How is that affecting our circuits?
The fact that a circuit is plastic is both its beautiful strength and its Achilles’ heel. Reading reflects our medium. And to the extent that a digital medium is going to require us to process large amounts of information very quickly, it will diminish from the time we have for slower processing work.
And these slower processes are deep learning, the ones that are more cognitively challenging. They’re the basis for going beyond that initial short circuit of decoding the information and understanding it at a very basic level. The digital medium affordance rewards and advantages fast processing at the cost of the slower processes that build our very important critical, analytical, and empathetic processes.
Reader, Come Home is about, as its subtitle states, “the reading brain in a digital world.” The Verge spoke to Wolf about how technology is changing the brain, what we lose when we lose deep attention, and what to do about it.❞
My proposal is for a “bi-literate brain.” We need to train children to evaluate what is before them. What is the best medium? There are certainly going to be more than two mediums, and some will be far more visual or kinesthetic. So the real goal is to figure out how to preserve what we have in deep reading and be able to exert that at will.