Saturday, October 22, 2005

In defense of Googlectualism

Leon Wieseltier has a piece (sub required) in a recent New Republic whose main point is to sniff at Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's attempts to take up causes and be public intellectuals. Hard to argue with that, although a public intellectual who does guest spots on The Sopranos is hardly the right person to rail at the intermingling of politics and entertainment.

This offhand comment bothered me though:
But I have a suspicion that they corrupt the consciousnesses that they raise, because they confirm them in their belief in the moral authority of fame. With the exception of the cognitive habits of a Googling nation, nothing more disfigures personal authenticity in America than the veneration of celebrities. This is America's polytheism.
So "the cognitive habits of a Googling nation" are the thing that most "disfigures personal authenticity"? What does that even mean? I started off writing this post because, as the coiner of the term "googlectual", I wanted to defend a style of thought and writing that relies heavily on just-in-time searching and reading of texts on the Internet...or something like that. But I realize that I have no idea what Wieseltier is talking about, so I can't really form a reply to it. Maybe my cognitive habits have become permanently disfigured.

There's a serious issue in here somewhere -- what does the Internet, Google, etc. do to serious thought? Are academic blogs a great way for ideas to circulate both within and without the intellectual communities they serve, or just a distraction from serious work? Are we all becoming ADD-addled from information overload? Well, no time to answer that now, gotta go catch up with my inbox.

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