The art of slow reading
If you’re reading this article in print, chances are you’ll only get through half of what I’ve written. And if you’re reading this online, you might not even finish a fifth. These are the two findings from two recent research projects, which both suggest that many of us no longer have the concentration to read articles through to their conclusion. The problem doesn’t just stop there: academics report that we are becoming less attentive book-readers, too. So are we getting stupider? Is that what this is about? Sort of. According to The Shallows, a new book by technology sage Nicholas Carr, our hyperactive online habits are damaging the mental faculties we need to process and understand lengthy textual information. Round-the-clock news feeds leave us hyperlinking from one article to the next – without necessarily engaging fully with any of the content; our reading is frequently interrupted by the ping of the latest email; and we are now absorbing short bursts of words on Twitter and Facebook more regularly than longer texts. Because of the internet, we have become very good at collecting a wide range of information, but we are also gradually forgetting how to sit back, contemplate, and relate all these facts to each other. Still reading? You’re probably in a dwindling minority. But no matter: a literary revolution is at hand. First we had slow food, then slow travel. Now, those campaigns are joined by a slow-reading movement – a disparate bunch of academics and intellectuals who want us to take our time while reading, and re-reading. They ask us to switch off our computers every so often and rediscover both the joy of personal engagement with printed texts, and the ability to process them fully. Lancelot Fletcher, the first present-day author to popularise the term “slow reading”, argues that slow reading is not so much about unleashing the reader’s creativity, as uncovering the author’s. And while Fletcher used the term...
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