Michiko Kakutani has a very interesting essay in the New York Times entitled, “Texts Without Contexts,” which does a nice job running through the differences between Internet optimists and pessimists, a topic I’ve spent a great deal of time writing about here. (See: “Are You An Internet Optimist or Pessimist? The Great Debate over Technology’s Impact on Society.”) She surveys many of the books I’ve reviewed and discussed here before by authors such as Neil Postman, Nick Carr, Cass Sunstein, Andrew Keen, Mark Helprin, Jaron Lanier, and others. She notes:
These new books share a concern with how digital media are reshaping our political and social landscape, molding art and entertainment, even affecting the methodology of scholarship and research. They examine the consequences of the fragmentation of data that the Web produces, as news articles, novels and record albums are broken down into bits and bytes; the growing emphasis on immediacy and real-time responses; the rising tide of data and information that permeates our lives; and the emphasis that blogging and partisan political Web sites place on subjectivity.
At the same time it’s clear that technology and the mechanisms of the Web have been accelerating certain trends already percolating through our culture — including the blurring of news and entertainment, a growing polarization in national politics, a deconstructionist view of literature (which emphasizes a critic’s or reader’s interpretation of a text, rather than the text’s actual content), the prominence of postmodernism in the form of mash-ups and bricolage, and a growing cultural relativism that has been advanced on the left by multiculturalists and radical feminists, who argue that history is an adjunct of identity politics, and on the right by creationists and climate-change denialists, who suggest that science is an instrument of leftist ideologues.
It’s a great debate, but a very controversial one, of course. Anyway, go read her entire essay.