Super Shallow True Reading Story (Pedagogy of the Depressed)

I finally got my hands on Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows:  What the Internet is Doing to our Brains…and I couldn’t bring myself to finish it.


It wasn’t that I couldn’t finish the book.  I’m sure I could have, as it was a very good book.  It contains important information about neuroplasticity, and the way technologies affect the human brain.  Things library school professors should be addressing.  Hell, things society at large should be addressing, before we collectively dissolve into a nation of drooling, tapioca-brained, blithering idiots.  And while it is, at times, both dry and didactic, it’s also fascinating, intriguing, and scary.  You should stop reading this blog and go get yourself a copy, right now.  I’ll wait.

It was also, however, extremely depressing, if you’re at all a fan of books and print media.  Ergo, having read above and beyond the Pearl-mandated 50 pages, I put it aside, with a twinge of sadness at how much of a relic I have already become, at my tender age.

[Nota bene to new grads: No, you may not have my job. I am not quite finished with it just yet. :) ]

In my melancholy state, I returned to the novel I was, comparatively, enjoying far more than The Shallows, although “enjoy” is probably the wrong word to describe what happens while reading Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story.  Told through a combination of e-mail, chat, diary entries, social network posts, and straight narrative, it is the story of a fortyish man who falls in love with a shallow, self-absorbed younger woman.  The generation gap, the technology gap, and other gaps in their relationship play out against a frightening political landscape where your civil rights and social worth are determined by your credit rating, and privacy only exists in the few copies of print dictionaries that are collected by random eccentrics.

About 3/4 of the way through the novel, it dawned on me:  Carr and Shteyngart are writing about the same themes.  Only the literary form varies.  Preferring the novel to the work of non-fiction tells me that I learn better through the medium of story and literary artifice, rather than the straightforward recitation of facts and figures.  But how wonderful it is to have both!

Which leads me to wonder:  which enterprising library science prof will teach these two texts in tandem in their next technology class?  How edgy would it be if the next innovation in library technology education is…the print novel?  When will we, as library professionals, start critically examining the effects all of our shiny new toys  in the classroom, via the variety of cultural artifacts produced in our brave new world?

A lady can dream, can’t she?

If you are doing this sort of thing in your classes already, do share.  I’d love to learn more (and, possibly, sign up).  What else are libsci professors teaching — or not teaching — these days?  What do you wish you were reading in class, gentle library school students?  MLIS-holders, what do you wish you had read in library school, libsci-related or otherwise?

Maybe I should start my own online MLIS program.  Alchemy University.  Hm.  At least I could promise you a few good laughs. :)  Bonus points to anyone who spotted the Oxford comma, above.

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  1. JoJoMoore said,

    September 22, 2010 at 9:27 am

    I like the way you think, lady! During my last semester at Pitt’s MLIS program, I took the Storytelling class, even though I never never never (did I mention never?) want to work with children. I did it because I believe we don’t stop learning through stories after we leave elementary school. Storytelling has been crucial to my learning and my efforts to teach others.

    In fact, I’m convince that the reason I got a job a week after graduating is that I turned my interview presentation into a story. A love story in fact. Oh, Google Reader, our love will never die!

  2. LAV said,

    September 22, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    Congrats, JoJo, on getting a job so quickly, and hail to Pitt! I have heard nothing but good things about that storytelling class, and have always regretted not taking it. I may have to audit it…hmmm…

    Story is SO powerful, and SO important. I hope that, no matter what happens wtih formats, we will continue to appreciate its power and resonance…

  3. jessa said,

    September 23, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    Yikes. Sounds like some creepy reads you got dere, LAV.

    I’m not too worried about our collective turning into a drawerfull of dull knives. The teens I worked with seemed no duller than the teens I went to high school with, and besides, when the oil runs out we won’t be doin’ a whole lotta texting or Internets-ing or other brain-shallowing-stuff…ing.

    I’m reading a book right now about transitioning from oil dependence to local resilience, and it focuses on the need to tell a compelling story about the good things that will happen if we band together and make them. It points out that environmentalism tends to focus on a story of, “Use less or dieee!”, which isn’t terribly engaging. But “Focus on your neighborhood and look at the cool parks/gardens/safety/noms you will have!” is a bit more appealing. Story forever!

  4. LAV said,

    September 24, 2010 at 10:07 am

    Jessa, as ever, your cheerful, well-reasoned outlook is appreciated for counterpoint. :) And I’d love to get my hands on that book..title?

  5. jessa said,

    September 24, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    It’s called “The Transition Handbook: from oil dependency to local resilience,” and it’s by Rob Hopkins.

    An ex once called me “terminally optimistic.” Alas, it’s true. :D

  6. jessa said,

    September 24, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    Wait, no, it was “pathologically optimistic.” Ha… still true.

  7. LAV said,

    September 24, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    Heh. Thank you for the title – a number of people have mentioned reading it, now, so on the list it goes – your mini-review has sealed the deal! Here’s to pathological optimism. ;)

  8. January 2, 2013 at 1:41 pm

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