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.