David Weinberger published a piece on Huffington Post a few days ago about 13 Ways the Internet is Making Us Smarter.
The entire article is worth a read, but here are a few points I found particularly thought-provoking:
Linearity of the Book Limits the Reader (But Empowers the Author?)
“Books have favored long-form, sequential chains of thought that lead readers to the author’s conclusion. That’s one useful way of thinking, but it reflects the limitations of paper. The author has to try to keep us on the bus rather than letting us explore more widely because paper knowledge is hard to traverse. The author has to anticipate objections, rather than entering into real-time conversation with readers, because paper knowledge is only made public once it’s done. And it has given us the overly-simplistic idea that a world as complex and chaotic as ours ultimately reduces to long, knowable sequences of logic.”
I’ve thought for a long time now that the hyperlinked and “webbed” nature of the internet is a much closer model to the way we think than the linear form of the book. We think in a messy, jumbled fashion that’s characterized by random connections and associations.
But while the internet itself more closely resembles the way we think, is it the best way to formulate a strong argument to present to others? Maybe it’s the technical writer coming out in me, but I really value a clear, concise, linear argument–one that lets me know exactly what the author is trying to make me understand or see.
A sentence may be made up of a string of independent words. But those words only make sense if you string them in a particular order. If you change the order, you change the meaning (or worse–lose ALL meaning).