Last summer, over in the related (but, at the moment anyway, sadly quiescent) space called Digital Geneseo, I posted a link to the cognitive scientist Steven Pinker's June 10, 2010 New York Times op-ed, "Mind over Mass Media". I thought I'd re-link to it here in light of some our recent readings and as a counterpoint to the general tenor of the PBS Frontline documentary, Digital Nation.
As with primitive peoples who believe that eating fierce animals will make them fierce, [media critics] assume that watching quick cuts in rock videos turns your mental life into quick cuts or that reading bullet points and Twitter postings turns your thoughts into bullet points and Twitter postings.
The solution [to the new distractions presented by technology] is not to bemoan technology but to develop strategies of self-control, as we do with every other temptation in life. Turn off e-mail or Twitter when you work, put away your Blackberry at dinner time, ask your spouse to call you to bed at a designated hour.
It’s not as if habits of deep reflection, thorough research and rigorous reasoning ever came naturally to people. They must be acquired in special institutions, which we call universities, and maintained with constant upkeep, which we call analysis, criticism and debate. They are not granted by propping a heavy encyclopedia on your lap, nor are they taken away by efficient access to information on the Internet.