Skip to content
La Novella Orchidea

X-brain: the culture of ‘visual shreds’

It is not the books that will disappear, but our interest in them. This is more or less how the writer Gary Shteyngart put it in his novel ‘Super Sad True Love Story‘. He paints a future world in which paper books still exist, but people are no longer aware of their use and employ them as doorstops. The image might make us smile, but the bitter reality is another. The book is no longer the basis of contemporary culture. It gratifies neither those who write it nor those who read it, and above all it disappears quickly.

The culture of visual shreds

Maryanne Wolf, a cognitive neuroscientist at Tufts University, had already expressed much concern ten years ago, wondering whether time spent online was not causing a culture of ‘visual shreds’. Before the internet, reading was linear. One page was followed by another, there were no constant interruptions of banners, videos and images. It seems easier to search for information with a click. However, the sheer volume of content in front of us has made our brains develop shortcuts for orientation. Some examples? Searching for keywords, scrolling to the bottom of the page, quickly opening and closing links that do not interest us.

The problem is that this attitude has led us to no longer be able to read (and understand texts) as we used to. Andrew Dillon, a professor at the University of Texas, summed up the phenomenon this way: “We spend so much time tapping, mashing, linking, scrolling and jumping up and down through written pages that when we sit down to read a novel we do it the same way. Our daily habits of linking, clicking and scrolling up and down are ingrained in us.

A future of X-brain?

But how to counter this process? Easy to say, less so to do. By reading. We can try to read at least a little every day, reclaiming that time we so easily spend (or throw away) on TikTok. Let’s focus on finishing all the lines, without jumping to the bottom of the page after the first paragraph. I personally look for challenging novels that stimulate me in the fuller and more conscious use of language, often sacrificed online in the name of ‘social democracy’.

The eBook has never been more important. It is the bridge between the paper book and the subscriber articles. The perfect layout and the advertising-covered links. The smell of the binding and the plastic smell of our smartphones. Perhaps that is why it is so mistreated: it lies in limbo between two opposites, and does not easily find its place.

We will all have to come to terms with it, sooner or later. As we deal more and more with digital, it is inevitable that our cognitive habits will change… as long as we don’t become X-brain (Twitter).

Dopo una lunga esperienza nella gestione dei forum e un'esperienza editoriale triennale a tutto campo in una redazione digitale, gestisco da nove anni la promozione della collana digitale "La Novella Orchidea".
Want to read more?
Stay up to date on our publications and promotions!