Review of “The Digitally Divided Self” by Semiotico blog
If I had to sum up this book I might say “Marshall McLuhan meets the Dalai Lama”, but this is too trite, simplistic a verdict for what is an important and erudite text which covers a lot of ground and alerts us to a surreptitious peril.
There have been several minatory counter blasts about the Internet published recently. Perhaps you have come across The Net Delusion. Well, this book provides a similarly sobering view on the internet but from the spiritual perspective rather than the political one. Where Morozov points to the stultifying nature of the internet, Mr Ivo Quartiroli highlights the effect of the internet on our psyches and our well being. What makes this an important book is that, whether you subscribe to the broadly mindfulness-based substrate of the thesis, it critically evaluates the internet from a genuinely humanist perspective asking how it affects our state of mind. Quartiroli seems genuinely concerned by the narcosis into which we may be falling as we rush headlong into the dubious embrace of digital media.
Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows warned us of a rewiring of our brains and the engendering of shallow, distracted thinking patterns through heavy internet use. Eli Pariser’s Filter Bubble highlights how – through the offices of customizing algorithms – search engines sequester us in walled gardens and render our Internet search experiences much more parochial than we’d imagine. This book is a more ambitious enterprise, with more far reaching ramifications, in the sense that it suggests that the internet is in the process of altering our very states of consciousness in ways we are not aware of. This is certainly not the first book on this broad topic. Sherry Turkle in her latest book Alone Together reveals research into the deleterious effects of Internet and mobile phone usage on families and how it erodes emotional closeness and intimacy amongst young Millenials.
Needless to say, I am very grateful to Chris for taking the time to share his deep insights about IT, the soul and The Digitally Divided Self.