Nowadays, reading has become mostly digitalized and people read a lot of content on their computers, tablets, Kindle and mobile devices. Digital devices have become a central feature and the main sourceof media and content consumption in everyday life in households, offices and schools around the world.
As screen technology continues to improve in favor of readability, our user interfaces have become increasingly intuitive to account for this change.
Even though a lot of attention is paid to the aesthetics and design sides of this development, there is a dire need to address the various social, behavioral and cultural effects that may follow in the wake of a paperless world.
The Risk of Under-Developing Brain Capacity
Infants learn about words, sentences and stories long before they can read for themselves. Their vocabulary and oral language is developed when other people speak or read to them. A child experiences different changes that shape the brain step-by-step before becoming a fluent reader. In the initial phase of this process the child picks up on vocabulary and grammatical knowledge, it gives a child the time it needs to understand, predict and interpreting a text.
A slower pace allows us time for reflection, contemplation and wonder. Our reading brain rearranges itself more easily by creating a foundation for new, innovative thoughts and the development of advanced intellectual skills. The brain processes words and their meanings and provide the opportunity to weigh them up, reflect on them and to form their own opinions.
But the modern readers with immediate access to online information run the risk of under developing their brain capacity. Our children as young as five spend an average of six hours every day in front of some kind of screens, teenagers and adults probably more.
Between an individual and the limitless amount of free data that is available on the internet stand the few uncritical clicks of the mouse. Through this process, children may become mere decoders of information i.e. tricked into believing the unlimited access to information equals true knowledge.
The research into the implications of this are still in the initial stages; however the current evidence indicates that digital reading of content might be inferior in relation to comprehension and learning of books. Readers through the century have found that a text that they had studied attentively allowed them to regard it from a distance, to approach it critically and reflect upon what was written.
Today, we are increasingly communicating through text messages and e-mail rather than face to face, we become friends with hundreds of people online yet we may not know the people next door and the first place we look for information is Google.
A Society With Plenty of Answers But Very Few Good Questions
Our behaviors and attitudes are changing due to technological ubiquity and electronic flood. Internet has the power to lead to fundamental change in our brain, leading it to be tremendously modified. The digital networks have developed a culture of massive response. Being available all the time has left us no time to think properly about what we are doing.
The electronic euphoria has created fewer possibilities and fewer opportunities to develop an original mind and is chipping away at our ability to concentrate too. The digital devices are turning our brains into a society of scatterbrains; we are scrolling our days without even thinking deeply what we are really doing.
We are developing a society that might be globally connected and collaborative but one that is also impatient, isolated and filled with individuals who are unable to think by themselves in the real world.
To sum up the digital culture:
- The rapid response culture and ease of access to information is encouraging mistakes.
- Multitasking is increasing stress related hormones like adrenaline and cortisol.
- It is encouraging thinking that is devoid of context, reflection and awareness.
- We are living faster than we are thinking, we force ourselves to respond without thinking things properly.
- Our “speed is good” motive is having a negative impact on the economic growth or progress.
- Constant digital disruptions and too much information is atomizing our attention as well as splintering our concentration.
Human Brain: A Primary Tool for Economic Production
What makes us uniquely human is the kind of thinking that is associated with new ideas that moves the world forward. The type of thinking that is inherent in strategic planning, scientific discover and artistic invention. The thinking that is focused, considered, deliberate, independent, imaginative, calm, relaxed and reflective is what make our brains exceptional.
The knowledge revolution has replaced human strength as a primary tool for economic production. We are required to stop confusing movement with progress and get away from the idea that all communication and decision making have to be done instantly.
The following steps can be adopted to make our thinking more active:
- We can make more effective decisions if we walk away from a problem and allow our brain to mull it over from a different perspective.
- We need to focus on slower pace as it will have a positive impact on the economic growth.
- We need to focus on the reality that attention is power and it is trust in information that is critical.
- Our thinking needs to be not just deep but also wide, consenting for the cross-pollination of ideas and activities.
The attention restoration theory claims that, just like sleep is necessary for people, our brains need to take time out from the deluge of outside stimuli in order to relax and restore effective functioning. Doing so is one of the main ways of improving our mind and its capabilities.
Digital reading has its place, but the old traditional ways have a long-lasting charm and appeal according to this author.