Barriers of the mind?

Having spent most of my working life at the International Telecommunication Union, the lead organizing agency of the World Summit on the Information Society, and as a blogger and writer, I was a little taken aback by some words in Doris Lessing’s Nobel Lecture:

“We are in a fragmenting culture, where our certainties of even a few decades ago are questioned and where it is common for young men and women who have had years of education, to know nothing about the world, to have read nothing, knowing only some speciality or other, for instance, computers.”

and

“How are we, our minds, going to change with the new internet, which has seduced a whole generation into its inanities so that even quite reasonable people will confess that once they are hooked, it is hard to cut free, and they may find a whole day has passed in blogging and blugging etc.”

Although Lessing essentially addresses literacy, I tend to agree with Peter Griffin, who feels that in respect of the internet she may have missed its point, when he says in the closing paragraph of his article, Blog: Nobel laureate misses the point, in The New Zealand Herald: “…the one crucial area where the internet can empower millions, bridge the so-called digital divide, is in disseminating literature.”

In the early days of the Millenium, few literary magazines were available on the internet, submissions had to go by snail mail with IRCs, and online literature depositaries were in their early stages and tucked away. Today, thanks to the technology, writers and readers from all over the world are empowered, but not just to play; Normblog gives “five reasons for thinking that time on the internet can interact benignly with reading books, and not just as a distraction from it.”

Lessing, however, does concede: “What has happened to us is an amazing invention, computers and the internet and TV, a revolution.” The internet is a powerful tool, but a tool nevertheless. It is what we do with it that is important. And there is so much that can be done, once we remove the barriers of the mind.

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