03 June 2010

On distraction

Nicholas Carr has written on The Shallows; what the internet is doing to  our brains. Note that I have not linked that title to Amazon or anywhere. That's because his blog post (which is of course linked from the header) explores whether embedded links (as opposed to the those gathered at the end of a post or a page in the manner of a bibliography) tend to distract the reader and to fragment the reading experience, and possibly the capacity to follow an argument:
"Links are wonderful conveniences, as we all know (from clicking on them compulsively day in and day out). But they're also distractions. Sometimes, they're big distractions - we click on a link, then another, then another, and pretty soon we've forgotten what we'd started out to do or to read. Other times, they're tiny distractions, little textual gnats buzzing around your head. Even if you don't click on a link, your eyes notice it, and your frontal cortex has to fire up a bunch of neurons to decide whether to click or not. You may not notice the little extra cognitive load placed on your brain, but it's there and it matters. People who read hypertext comprehend and learn less, studies show, than those who read the same material in printed form. The more links in a piece of writing, the bigger the hit on comprehension."
So if we place a premium on clarity and communication, is it stylistically better to gather the links at the end?

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4:58 pm

    Does it matter to provide links at all? Provide clues, such as, "this book may be found on Amazon.com" and make the reader do the work. That way a text becomes a solvable challenge, like a puzzle.


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