Nicholas Carr at RoughType cites some new research about how Google and other search engines are changing the way we search for and process information. We are leaving the linear print model far behind and moving to an approach on the web that emphasizes speed, scanning, and skimming (see: Rewiring the mind). Below is an excerpt from his blog note:
The research documents a "new form of information seeking behaviour" that "can be characterised as being horizontal, bouncing, checking and viewing in nature. Users are promiscuous, diverse and volatile."...By breaking the linear print model that has dominated the transmission of information for the past five centuries, the hyperlinked web seems to be instilling a hyperactive approach to gathering and digesting information, an approach that emphasizes speed, scanning, and skimming. In one sense, the process of information retrieval seems to have become more important than the information retrieved. We store lots of information, but like distracted squirrels we rarely go back to examine it in depth. We want more acorns.
As both a blogger and a web browser, I have absorbed this lesson all too well. Perhaps this style reflects my natural proclivities for processing information, but I now have almost totally lost the ability to read and absorb a longish article on the web or in print. To create my blog notes, I browse various web resources and write relatively short notes such as this one. I also restrict my blog notes to about 200-300 words, assuming that my readers have a short attention span similar to mine. Distracted squirrels of the world unit. I think that the future looks bright for us.