A lack of vertical consciousness

The infinite amount of information whizzing around our brains through cyberspace has paradoxically created a kind of indifference to knowledge.  So says Sven Birkerts in his essay "The Owl has Flown" from his book The Gutenberg Elegies. In it he focuses specifically on the question of the problem of wisdom in a culture in which we are drowning in information.

He believes that in being exposed to an unprecedented breadth of information, we are experiencing a loss of depth, or vertical consciousness.  This is opposed to the horizontal consciousness created by the internet, the horizon of information spreading infinitely in all directions.  In other words, our thinking these days is a mile wide and an inch deep.

For all you readers, writers, and thinkers out there, here are some thoughts from Sven to "whet your whistle".

"Awed and intimidated by the availability of texts, faced with the all but impossible task of discriminating among them, the reader tends to move across surfaces, skimming, hastening from one site to the next without allowing the words to resonate inwardly…Quantity is elevated over quality. The possibility of maximum focus is undercut by the awareness of the unread texts that await. The result is that we know countless more 'bits' of information both important and trivial, than our ancestors. We know them without a stable sense of context, for where the field is that vast all schemes must be seen as provisional. We depend far less on memory; the faculty has all but atrophied from lack of use."

Don't I know it!!

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