OK this is Mark Bauerline again, this time writing in the ChronicleReview.com with a rehash of the ideas he expounded in ‘The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future’ and particular emphasis on the discovery by Nielsen et al in 2006 that “Eyetracking visualizations show that users often read Web pages in an F-shaped pattern”. Now, Nielsen’s discovery is actually not surprising since much if not most web content is designed to be skimmed in search for particular items rather than to be read completely; Nielsen both acknowledges other possibilities with his “often” and doesn’t claim any earth shattering implications other than to make reasonable conclusions about how to design web pages of the kind intended for skimming in such a way that that skimming will be effective. But Bauerlein infers a lot more. Mostly unfounded nonsense.
The fact that much of the web is skimmed (especially by younger folks) speaks not to the dumbness of those kids but to their intelligence in treating the content appropriately. Those who skim inappropriately might legitimately be chastised, but Bauerlein establishes neither their predominance in the readership of on-line material nor their absence in the readership of hard-copy.
He goes on to complain about various students’ lack of appreciation of such things as the need to be able to find obituaries of famous writers without using the Internet, the intellectual joys of “checking a reference book … and finding a microfiche”, and “plowing through Middlemarch”.
Just a minute now! I haven’t actually ever read Middlemarch but isn’t it supposed to be a novel that one reads for entertainment? If I had to “plow” through it, there wouldn’t be any point would there? God save me from an English prof who presents our kids with the jewels of literature as something to be plowed through!
Perhaps it would have been smarter of me to skim Bauerline’s rant with an F rather than plough through the whole thing.