What I’m reading and writing, June 16

• At Nieman Reports, Nick Carr serves up an excerpt of his new book The Shallows that’s sure to cause another old media/new media dustup:

“On the Web, skimming is no longer a means to an end but an end in itself. That poses a huge problem for those who report and publish the news. To appreciate variations in the quality of journalism, a person has to be attentive, to be able to read and think deeply. To the skimmer, all stories look the same and are worth the same. The news becomes a fungible commodity, and the lowest-cost provider wins the day. The news organization committed to quality becomes a niche player, fated to watch its niche continue to shrink.”

• Another Web contrarian, Evgeny Morozov, takes to the pages of the Boston Review and takes aim at Cognitive Surplus, Clay Shirky’s new book:

“Shirky presents a world without nationalism, corruption, religion, extremism, terrorism. It is a world without any elections, and thus no need to worry about informed voters. Class, gender, and race make a few appearances, but not as venues of systemic oppression. They are just more testimony to the mainstream media’s elitism. Describing the media habits of his young students, Shirky remarks that they ‘have never known a world with only three television channels, a world where the only choice a viewer had in the early evening was which white man was going to read them the news in English.’ ”

This is excellent brain candy to help endure a long hot summer. Some great reading, and ideas, are abounding as the Web evolves, and the techno-utopians are fully engaged by thoughtful skeptics who are hardly Luddites. But will be labeled as such.

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