Deep Reading vs. the Hive Mind

Look. I'm no reactionary, and I was only a Luddite for about two years in the early 90s, but this excerpt from an interview with the essayist and book critic George Scialabba at the Boston Review website is pretty darn interesting.
GS: My idea of the end of the world would be the hive, the hive mind. Sven Birkerts has a wonderful description of how the horizontal, linked world is gradually evolving in that direction, to where nobody is ever really alone, nobody is able to just sink deep into his or her own imagination or feelings, the constant pressure of the horizontal connections keeps you from descending below a certain depth. If he’s right about that, it’s the end of individuality as I’ve known it and come to admire and treasure it. And it may be that people who haven’t had the formative experiences I’ve had will find it perfectly satisfying, and that I don’t have the imaginative resources to either pity or envy them. Their experiences may fall beyond my comprehension.

Interviewer: For you, is the rise of the hive mind tied to the decline of the book?

GS:Yes. Because you’re alone with the book. Other people may be reading it somewhere else, but you don’t know. I mean, you do know that there are people out there, but to read a book, you can’t be paying attention to lots of other things. Things don’t pop up on the page. They do pop up on the screen. And books don’t have hyperlinks, so you can’t run off and forget about the book for a bit.


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