Nicholas Carr on the attention span of the web:

The problem with the Web, as I see it, is that it imposes, with its imperialistic iron fist, the “ecstatic surfing” behavior on everything and to the exclusion of other modes of experience…

It’s the deep, attentive engagement that the Web is draining away, as we fill our iTunes library with tens of thousands of “tracks” at little or no cost. What the Web tells us, over and over again, is that breadth destroys depth. Just hit Shuffle.

Whether it’s news stories or pop songs, we’re skimmers now. It’s a one-hit-wonder world.


Earlier today, Michael Erard over at Design Observer posted a strange little essay on what he calls the attention economy:

I imagine attention-based pricing, in which prices of information commodities are inversely adjusted to the cognitive investment of consuming them. All the candy for the human brain — haiku, ringtones, bumper stickers — would be priced like the luxuries that they are. Things requiring longer attention spans would be cheaper — they might even be free, and the higher fixed costs of producing them would be covered by the higher sales of the short attention span products.


The question I’m still pondering: Is the premise of both author’s criticism true? Why are things of depth inherently better than things of breadth?

That I so easily jump to “of course!,” yet can’t explain why worries me.