I have the honor of being the designated interviewee in the March issue of The Sun magazine. The interview, by Arnie Cooper, covers a lot of ground, and it’s been posted in its entirety on The Sun’s site. Here’s a taste:
Cooper: Do you think computers have harmed our relationship with nature?
Carr: I certainly think they’ve gotten in the way of our relationship to nature. As we increasingly connect with the world through computer screens, we’re removing ourselves from direct sensory contact with nature. In other words, we’re learning to substitute symbols of reality for reality itself. I think that’s particularly true for children who’ve grown up surrounded by screens from a young age. You could argue that this isn’t necessarily something new, that it’s just a continuation of what we saw with other electronic media like radio or tv. But I do think it’s an amplification of those trends.
Cooper: What about the interactivity of the Internet? Isn’t it a step above the passivity that television engenders?
Carr: The interactivity of the Net brings a lot of benefits, which is one of the main reasons we spend so much time online. It lets us communicate with one another more efficiently, and it gives us a powerful new means of sharing our opinions, pursuing our interests and hobbies with others, and disseminating our creative works through, for instance, blogs, social networks, YouTube, and photo-publishing sites. Those benefits are real and shouldn’t be denigrated. But I’m wary of drawing sharp distinctions between “active” and “passive” media. Are we really “passive” when we’re immersed in a great novel or a great movie or listening to a great piece of music? I don’t think so. I think we’re deeply engaged, and our intellect is extremely active. When we view or read or listen to something meaningful, when we devote our full attention to it, we broaden and deepen our minds. The danger with interactive media is that they draw us away from quieter and lonelier pursuits. Interactivity is compelling because its rewards are so easy and immediate, but they’re often also superficial.