I’m constantly reflecting on how my own reading has changed and the effects that all of the streams are having on my ability to read deeply. From a news perspective, I think this captures the tension pretty well:
On smartphones, through which the vast majority of the world’s population will get their news, people love succinct and scannable information. We are gravitating to formats that do not require us to click through and consume paragraphs of prose. The update stream popularized by Facebook and Twitter — and ultimately derived from the phone-indigenous SMS — is ideal for breaking news, but it is ill-suited to deeper analysis.
Meantime, the classic article is a carefully crafted bundle of facts, photos, and quotes bolstered with historical background and analysis. But when the news is already known to the reader — thanks to the stream — these bundles can become confusingly out-of-sync even when they are just a few hours old. And more and more news content is being created on mobile phones: celebrity tweets, handheld videos, location-specific checkins. Taking the time to turn these short-form nuggets into articles adds limited value, so they are made and viewed in a mobile-friendly format, cutting the article out altogether.
These are the irreconcilable differences, and they are cause of the inevitable divorce.
So, I’m wondering, who else is thinking about “attention literacy” as Howard Rheingold and others have called it? How do we teach our kids to deal with this shift?