In The Times, Ben MacIntyre quotes Harper Lee, in one of her very few public utterances since 1964:
Today, aged 84, the author of one of the bestselling novels of the last century lives as she has always lived, with her older sister, in Monroeville, surrounded by books. In one of the very few quotable things she has said in the past 40 years, she remarked: “In an abundant society where people have laptops, cell phones, iPods and minds like empty rooms, I still plod along with books.”
I am tired of this lazy shortcut, which equates using technology with stupidity of having an ’empty mind’. Clay Shirky’s essay on ‘Cognitive Surplus’ (which I believe is the topic of an entire book to be published next week) dismantles this idea. What do Lee and the other smug detractors of the Internet think we are doing with all this technology? We are consuming ideas. We are thinking, collectively more deeper and with more eclecticism than ever before. Such technology liberates us from the (admittedly) homogenizing forces of mass media, and instead allows us to seek out a greater spread of ideas, art forms and entertainment. When people sneer at this,I think it is just a form of elitism: The “laptops, cellphones and iPods” allow anyone access to the world’s information, not just those who can afford the money and space to store tons of bound paper on shelves (aesthetically pleasing though that is…).
See also: Kafka would have had a twitter feed…