The Scientific Indian

Nicholas Carr has an insightful post that points to a fascinating study of online user behavior while they are looking for information and researching some subject, done by British Library (the research study, 35 pages PDF, well organized and well worth your time).

…In one sense, the process of information retrieval seems to have become more important than the information retrieved. We store lots of information, but like distracted squirrels we rarely go back to examine it in depth. We want more acorns.

The authors note that this kind of behavior is not restricted to the young. It characterizes web users of all ages. It does not, therefore, appear to be a pattern that people will outgrow as they get older. Rather, it seems to represent the new way of of processing information that our new universal medium has imposed upon us – and not against our will. The researchers write that the log studies reveal “that, from undergraduates to professors, people exhibit a strong tendency towards shallow, horizontal, `flicking’ behaviour in digital libraries. Power browsing and viewing appear to be the norm for all. The popularity of abstracts among older researchers rather gives the game away. Society is dumbing down.”


  1. #1 Dave Briggs
    January 25, 2008

    Rather, it seems to represent the new way of of processing information that our new universal medium has imposed upon us – and not against our will.

    I am a former computer guru and lived through the start of the PC revolution. It was obvious even in those days that there was a new paradigm. Only a few could explain it at that time but no body could tell where it was headed. People interfacing with information from all over the world, at their fingertips in an instant hadn’t even gotten a lot of press in SCI Fi movies of past generations!
    I think just as the computers are evolving, so are we in our understating of what we can do with the machines, and what is our instinctual responses to their powers. It’s an interesting ride and I am very thankful; the machines showed up!
    Dave Briggs :~)

  2. #2 yogi-one
    January 29, 2008

    It’s the time-crunch thing.

    In the mid-20th century we were promised that technology would free us from hurried lifestyles, and we’d have 30-hour workweeks and lots of leisure while the technology did all the heavy lifting. However, something different happened.

    Everybody got busier, made MORE work to do, and crammed their lives even more full of stuff everyday, since now they could cram more stuff in smaller spaces, faster.

    Who has time to read a book? Got the message – click – next! A movie? Flip through the filler , watch the cool scenes, done, Next!

    Need to get up to speed on a subject? No prob! Google, read the first paragraph or two of four or five articles, and done, – Next!

    That’s how you get a society full of folks that know a little bit about everything, and a whole lot about nothing.

    Need expertise? No Prob, someone in India or China has it cheaper and faster.

    Are the we there yet? Is this the new world order? Have we “arrived’ at the future?

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