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Whether an immersion in digitally dominated forms of reading will change the capacity to think deeply, reflectively and in an intellectually autonomous manner when we read is a question well worth raising. In my work on the evolution of the reading brain during the past decade, I have found important insights from the history of literacy, neuroscience and literature that can help to better prepare us to examine this set of issues.

And he did so on the basis of questions that are prescient today—and, in that prescience, surprising. Socrates contended that the seeming permanence of the printed word would delude the young into thinking they had accessed the crux of knowledge, rather than simply decoded it. For him, only the intellectually effortful process of probing, analyzing and internalizing knowledge would enable the young to develop a lifelong, personal approach to knowing and thinking, which could lead them to their ultimate goals—wisdom and virtue. Only the examined word—and the examined life—was worth pursuing.

Literacy, Socrates believed, would short-circuit both. Modern imaging technology allows us to scan the brains of expert and novice readers and observe how human brains learn to read. In the case of learning to read, the brain builds connections between and among the visual, language and conceptual areas that are part of our genetic heritage, but that were never woven together in this way before. The virtual automaticity of this first set of stages allows us in the next milliseconds to go beyond the decoded text.

It is within the next precious milliseconds that we enter a cognitive space where we can connect the decoded information to all that we know and feel. In this latter part of the process of reading, we are given the ability to think new thoughts of our own: the generative core of the reading process.

Perhaps no one better captured what the reader begins to think in those last milliseconds of the reading circuit than the French novelist Marcel Proust. Young reading brains are evolving without a ripple of concern by most people. Reading reflects our medium. And to the extent that a digital medium is going to require us to process large amounts of information very quickly, it will diminish from the time we have for slower processing work. And these slower processes are deep learning, the ones that are more cognitively challenging.

The digital medium affordance rewards and advantages fast processing at the cost of the slower processes that build our very important critical, analytical, and empathetic processes. To possess cognitive patience is to recover a rhythm of time that allows you to attend with consciousness and intention. Skimming has led to a tendency to go to the sources that seem the simplest, most reduced, most familiar, and least cognitively challenging.

I think that leads people to accept truly false news without examining it, without being analytical. There are no shortcuts for becoming a good reader, but there are lives that propel and sustain it. So, too, the good reader. There is the first life of the good reader in gathering information and acquiring knowledge. We are awash in this life.

We download or stream a song, article, book or movie instantly, get through it and advance to the next immaterial thing. Does the daily avalanche of information banish the space needed for actual wisdom? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information? We do not realize the insidious narrowing of our own thinking, the imperceptible shortening of our attention to complex issues, the unsuspected diminishing of our ability to write, read, or think past characters.

We must all take stock of who we are as readers, writers, and thinkers. The final perquisite of the third reading life is the ability to transform information into knowledge and knowledge into wisdom. Aug 12, Robin Bonne rated it did not like it Shelves: did-not-finish.

In the Shadow of Wolves

This was agist and biased. While I love books about books, it seems like books on reading generally make me grumpy. While I'd like to learn to read better, but the books on the topic have made me realize that I'm attached to my own approach. Many of the techniques these authors suggest don't work for me and their tone often strikes me as smug or condescending. This particular book is about the differences between reading electronic and print versions of a text and about the way reading online may be changing our reading h While I love books about books, it seems like books on reading generally make me grumpy.

This particular book is about the differences between reading electronic and print versions of a text and about the way reading online may be changing our reading habits. I should put it out there that I'm biased in favor of digital communication. Keep that in mind when I say that I felt the author had a strong bias the other way. She constantly makes unsupported claims that I might let slide if I agreed with her. For instance, she claims that critical thinking is increasing 'embattled' as technology promotes ease, efficiency, immediacy - no citation.

Are people getting worse at thinking critically? Is this because of the way we interact with material online? I certainly think this could be true, but if you're going to put something in print it feels authoritative and it should be supported with a citation. Even when she does cite specific studies, I feel like she's being at best imprecise and at worst misleading. As an example, she describes one study as finding that 'skimming is the new normal in our digital reading' and that 'as often as not' we read digital material with eye-movement that suggests skimming. She doesn't give us an exact percentage of the time this is the case.

She doesn't compare this to frequency of skimming when reading a physical book. And she doesn't describe the purpose of the reading someone is engaging in when skimming. I'm often reading online to find specific information, so I skim to find it. That's different from reading for complete comprehension. All of this lack of detail may simply be the author trying to simplify, but I find myself suspicious that a more complete picture wouldn't support her narrative as well.

I did enjoy some of her explanations of basic science, such as how the brain processes the written word. However, when she strayed into science I knew, I found her descriptions vague to the point of being wrong. She also on many occasions explained a study in such a way that I couldn't tell if the study coined the word for a particular phenomenon or showed that phenomenon was actually happening. Alternately, she might state something authoritatively and than go on to discuss whether or not what she said was true.

I am unpleasantly surprised that someone who studies language would use language so imprecisely and it does almost seem like she's trying to fool an inattentive reader. Last but not least, there was some of the usual snobbery I've noticed in books like this. The author claims without support that a generation used to the characters of twitter would have a hard time handling sentences of words in some classics.

When discussing genres we might read, she gives positive descriptors of all genres but romance described only as 'bodice-ripping'.

Proust and the Squid : The Story and Science of the Reading Brain

She also name-drops specific authors in the other genres she mentions, but can't be bothered to mention any well known romance authors. Anyway, I hope you don't mind yet another rant about a book telling people how to read. I think I'll be moving on from my ill-fated experiment with reading about reading, so this should be the last one. This review was originally posted on Doing Dewey Feb 08, Alicia rated it it was ok Shelves: adult , stem-nature , nonfiction. View 2 comments. The first book about the author was about reading in generale and the way reading makes a path in our brain and how the difficulties of reading can create a different path.

This one, that comes after 10 years, devolves in the way digital reading is making new changes in our brain and in our way to read. I found this book better than the first one, more interesting, but I cannot avoid to say that sometimes the author and I came to very different conclusions, but I'm sure it is my fault.

That said The first book about the author was about reading in generale and the way reading makes a path in our brain and how the difficulties of reading can create a different path. That said a very interesting book. Aug 03, Lissa rated it it was amazing Shelves: edelweiss. As the parent of three school-age children, I encourage reading and definitely lead by example, but the siren call of the IPad can at times overrule.

According to this book, we are definitely not alone with this dilemma. Maryanne Wolf's writing is not always easy, and requires the deep reading that she discusses, but the message comes through clearly. The way in which we digest information is changing and as we get used to reading smaller snippets online, we are losing the ability to empathize with others and form researched opinions. Thankfully, the author does not have only the bad news to depart but offers concrete advice for using both the digital realm and books to create multi-faceted learning that promotes close reading, analytical thinking and empathetic decision-making.

I learned so much from reading this book and as a reader and a parent, it is extremely important information. I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The author discusses how a change in what we read and how we read is affecting the brains of both the young and old. It took me four months to finish this book but overall, I'm very glad I did. I have never in my life prior to this , while reading the library book, felt the need to go out and buy the book just so I can make pencil lines and comments.

There were just so many 'ah-ha' moments! Here's the biggest points I'm taking out of the book: Part of the reading process includes learning words, The author discusses how a change in what we read and how we read is affecting the brains of both the young and old. Here's the biggest points I'm taking out of the book: Part of the reading process includes learning words, and syntax, and grammar, but part of it also involves thinking about what you've read, gaining empathy for others, and putting the learned information into a larger framework that allows you to gain knowledge.

Digital reading, as it usually occurs today, is super distracting - flashing ads, links, etc. Since we're becoming more concerned with speed and brevity, language decreases in richness and complexity and analysis of the information decreases. If children learn this way, and shape their reading lives this way, around so much distraction and speed, less comprehension and analysis will occur. What happens to our voting population if they rely more on external sources of information because they never really learned or internalized a framework of information, as well as the ability to make analogies, draw comparisons, etc.

This is all scary and bad, but the author provides some suggestions for how to help children get the best of both the newer digital world of reading as well as the old school print. What freaked me out while reading this was that this digital effect has crept into my reading style. I'm not a fan of computers, electronic gizmos, reading off phones, etc. I read pounds of hard copy fiction and non-fiction a year. But because I have to read scads of emails and documents online due to my job, I've changed the way I read.

And that saddens me. Do you notice when reading on a screen that you are increasingly reading for key words and skimming over the rest? Has this habit or style of screen reading bled over to your reading of hard copy? Do you find yourself gradually avoiding denser, more complex analyses… are you less able to find the same enveloping pleasure you once derived from your former reading self?

Have you, in fact, begun to suspect that you no longer have the cerebral patience to plow through a long and demanding article or book? I've started picking books sometimes based on shortness novella - nice! I read in short bursts - fifteen minutes, then I need to clean the kitchen - and have found it difficult to sink into stories like I used to. And I scan paragraphs for dialogue or short bits, sometimes skipping chunks and this is in good books. I've found myself less able to remember books I read in the last couple of years largely due to this 'blow through' style of reading.

After reading this, I've been making a conscious effort to not skim unless the book is not good , and to savor the language, and to think about what I'm reading. Any reading is good reading so digital reading is fine, but we should all push ourselves just a bit, and just sometimes.

When you need that comfort food book of fluff, you should go for that. But sometimes, slow down and pay attention to each hill on the path. Aug 25, dv rated it really liked it Shelves: apprendimento-educazione , psicologia-psicanalisi-neuroscienze. This is an important book to be read today because it stresses the importance of reading in forming a "well-shaped" person able to walk into the world with civic sense, compassion, empathy and critical abilities, exactly what we're currently about to lose because of the speed and superficiality of the new medias.

The book is nicely constructed as a series of letter and even if it predictably indulges a bit too much at least for me in neuro-science data, it does well its job and should be a sug This is an important book to be read today because it stresses the importance of reading in forming a "well-shaped" person able to walk into the world with civic sense, compassion, empathy and critical abilities, exactly what we're currently about to lose because of the speed and superficiality of the new medias. The book is nicely constructed as a series of letter and even if it predictably indulges a bit too much at least for me in neuro-science data, it does well its job and should be a suggested read especially for parents, since big part of the book is focused on issues related to education and how to raise children in a technologically-driven society.

Apr 08, Charlene rated it did not like it. I was disappointed in this. Feb 23, Christine Fitzgerald rated it liked it. Written from the perspective of a true lover of literature who enjoys celebrating the human-driven achievement that is the reading brain. I would summarize this informative book as a cautionary tale of what is happening to readers these days or lack of readers. Sep 10, Sara rated it it was amazing. Once again, Maryanne Wolf has produced a fascinating read, grounded in extensive research and her own ethically-minded questioning of how digital media is impacting the way we now read and the way in which young people are being taught to read in both print and digital forms.

Good stuff. View 1 comment. So much to think about! I loved the reflection. She talks about things that have bothered me for some time now, like our diminished capacity to remember things and focus. Sep 04, Thomas rated it liked it Shelves: , audiobooks , science. I agree with many of the points Wolf makes, and I share her love of reading, concern for a lack of deep thinking and attention, etc. Unfortunately, I just don't think she adequately establishes a connection between the skimming habits of digital reading and the impending collapse of democracy for example.

People are terrible readers, and democracy may indeed be collapsing, but it's not always straightforward to connect the two. And I say this as someone who highly values reading.

Maryanne Wolf on the Reading Brain in a Digital World

My skepticism of Wolf's implied ideal reader solitary, focused, silent is also perhaps sharpened because I just finished Abigail Williams' The Social Life of Books and its descriptions of a very fragmented but vibrant and communal reading culture in the 18th century. I share Wolf's interest in attention, but our contemporary moment is absolutely obsessed with attention right now, and maybe we're all missing the point i.


  1. Auditory and Visual Sensations;
  2. Our ‘Deep Reading’ Brain: Its Digital Evolution Poses Questions - Nieman Reports;
  3. Watchful Wolves.

Maybe the experience of reading -and discussing what was read - in actual lived community, and not a feeling of empathy gained from reading fiction with adequate attention in solitude, would have a better chance of correcting some of the societal ills Wolf identifies - or maybe not!

The point is that a look at readers and reading in history results in a more complex picture of what "good" reading might be. All that said, the three central chapters on the "farming of children" are very much worth reading. Wolf tries to strike a balance on training students to be bi-literate - at home in both digital and analog cultures - in some ways inoculating children against the worst excesses of digital culture. I'm pretty sympathetic to this approach - but I do worry about the risks: Wolf is clearly an extremely well-read person who has had a lifetime to develop deep reading habits, and even she has trouble resisting the fragmentation of attention that online "reading" encourages.

What if the digital environment just proves too powerful to resist and the proposed inoculation ends up poisoning the patients? More work needs to be done on the impact of digital culture on the young as Wolf admits. But, it's worth trying to think this sort of thing through, rather than just passing the iPad to your toddler. Mar 29, Keith Akers rated it really liked it. Dear people worried about the digital revolution: The author is also well-known for Proust and the Squid , which was about how reading changed our brains.


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  • I hadn't read that book, but this book seems to pick up where that one left off. As she finished that previous book, she realized that just during the time that she had been writing it, the "reading brain" had changed because of the internet and social media. And, for the worse. Wolf's book, written as a series of letters, is just one of severa Dear people worried about the digital revolution: The author is also well-known for Proust and the Squid , which was about how reading changed our brains.

    Wolf's book, written as a series of letters, is just one of several that are describing what the internet is doing to our brains, but the first four chapters out of the eight total chapters are the best exposition of this I've seen. In the last four chapters, she describes what education should be really providing in order to develop what she calls a "biliterate" brain one part of the brain understanding reading and critical thinking, and the other part understanding the digital world.

    These last four chapters are well thought out and worth reading, but in my mind enough alarms have been set out in the first four chapters to question their relevance. Maryanne Wolf is a neuroscientist, and from her credentials and her way of explaining things, it appears that she knows what she's talking about.

    She reviews how the brain processes the written words in a book. It's interesting how much is going on, in all different parts of the brain. Reading doesn't happen in just one part of the brain, there is no "reading circuit" which activates when you start to read a book. Rather, reading requires activation of many different and varied parts of the brain, and in the process of reading involves connecting these many different parts. She tracks how the brain processes seeing the word "tracks" on the page and how it tries to retrieve a meaning, or meanings, for this word.

    Railroad tracks, which Anna Karenina threw herself on? Tracking the wild flamingo? So inevitably, even in assigning a meaning to a particular occurrence of a word, numerous associations are pulled up, and in a sense, your whole life flashes before your eyes. Enter the internet, and we have changed what we read, how we read, how much we read, and why we read p. We are flooded with information, entertainment, and lots of flashing lights and hyperlinks.

    Maryanne Wolf - Events - Harvard Book Store

    We skim a lot, and have lost patience for any such thing as "deep reading. News briefs. The author found that even her own personal abilities to read slowly and deeply had atrophied; she was unable to re-read a classic book that she had loved when she was younger. The book was horrid and slow, like pouring molasses over her brain. Well, I tried reading Magister Ludi many decades ago, decades before the internet, and just couldn't into it; but I did read Anna Karenina and War and Peace as a teenager. So I understand the process going on. This single simple anecdote, more than any flurry of scientific studies, was the most convincing piece in Wolf's book.

    It is of more than "academic" interest, of course, because it affects how we think and how we acquire information. It undermines democracy and science. Many writers are noticing the social and data processing consequences of computers, and drawing similar conclusions.

    On top of that we have Terms of Service by Jacob Silverman, which is another depressing tome on a similar theme, though Silverman is more preoccupied with the financial and political implications of how the technology is being used, not the technology itself. But of all these books, Wolf has the most unique approach, and it is so elegantly and compactly described that it is startling to realize that the first four chapters which require a bit of "deep reading" to get through are actually the shortest explanation of the problem.

    She has it backed up with the underlying brain science, so it is unique and convincing. At this point she stops her analysis and starts talking about how to educate children in a digital world. Bottom line, and this seems pretty obvious in a way, keep kids away from digital devices until they're older. Invest in education, invest in teachers, and so forth. We are trying to build a "biliterate brain. I expected her to declare that the only way forward was to pitch these infernal devices altogether. This is the direction I'm inclined to go. From other considerations outside of the narrow question of the effects of digital media on the brain, I somewhat doubt that we will ever reach the point of being able to implement something like her program of education.

    She is broadly aware of many of the problems here, but I suspect that our situation is considerably worse than she imagines. Further research is needed here, which she calls for, and that she would be MOST qualified to lead. My inclination would be to say that permission to use computers in the way they are currently used should go with permission to drive high school, or perhaps even only allowed to people with special training such as college. I really don't think we have the resources to provide the entire world with laptops and personal devices.

    Will someone please research this? To me, casually looking out on the data processing scene, we are burning up the rare earth minerals needed to produce digital devices which are also needed for many renewable energy technologies! It will, at best, create a world of digital "haves" and "have-nots.

    Energy problems ALONE may be sufficient to bring the information age to a crashing close, with all those lovely cat videos a distant and ephemeral memory. Basically, fossil fuels are creating catastrophic climate change, and we're running out of them anyway it's a race to see whether depletion or climate change will get to us first. Renewables aren't going to work long story here , and nuclear energy is itself depleting and politically unpopular.

    No way around it: we will have to adjust to a smaller human world. In an energy-depleted, overpopulated, and dangerously biologically homogenized world, the whole system is likely to collapse and we'll be back to the 19th century or worse before we know it.

    https://senjouin-renshu.com/wp-content/5/323-como-rastrear-o.php Thanks to the internet, we'll have a pretty good view of the first part of this crisis which is about, say, now , but it will become increasingly blurry, and we'll have a full-blown crisis and the whole system will collapse, before people have a chance to register the relevant facts in front of their overloaded brains. Research on information science on the technical aspects how do we do it?

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