Here's a great program from NPR about this exact topic: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/s...oryId=91543814
"Is the Internet Making Us Stupid?" and another article http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200807/google
"Is Google Making Us Stupid?" and the blog post that I side with, arguing against the Google article: From http://eripsa.org/blog/2008/06/distraction/
The article argues that even if we take in more textual information in the information age, our response to these texts is more reflexive and superficial. When we read online, "We tend to become 'mere decoders of information.' Our ability to interpret text, to make the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely disengaged." I’m not entirely sure why this is something we ought to worry about, but more importantly I’m not convinced that the premise is right. Personally, I find myself reading longer articles more thoroughly since I started blogging, because I am looking for specific quotes or themes that I want to echo here. While it is true that I read very little off-line, it is also true that very little of what I want to read is only found off-line. The trick, of course, is that what I read online is fairly tightly constrained by what I am looking for. Since my interests are pretty narrow and well defined– in other words, since my ‘rich mental connections’ are already formed– these interests ultimately guide my web crawling to places that encourage deeper thought and analysis. Such an approach ought to satisfy critics of the internet, who worry that the unguided dancing across hyperlinks leaves us without any unified narrative to tie together these disparate and otherwise unconnected patches of information. Since I bring my interests to the net instead of waiting for the net to give them to me, I remain coherent throughout the crawling experience, and can therefore exercise my intellectual needs in a satisfying manner. However, against the critics I would argue that unguided free play on the net can be incredibly instructive for shaping the interests and themes that ultimately begin to guide a mature use of the net. It is in this sense that Google isn’t merely a replacement for the automated routines of brains, but instead is something like an tutor that helps us sort out the tangle of information to make real the possibilities and pursuits that would otherwise get lost in the shuffle.