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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 11, 2011
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
This review originally appeared on my website.

What if I told you that the act of reading maintained our humanity? That, as our world becomes more fully digitized, our lives will morph and emulate into tags and clouds? According to de Kerckhove in his short e-book "The Augmented Mind," reading (especially silently to one's self) is what will keep humans from losing their lives to the virtual world.

Reading silently is what jumpstarted our humanity's real cognitive power, back in history when we (as a species) seemed to be crawling through our technological evolution.

"Silent reading marks the full appropriation of language by the human body. It introduces the consciousness of words inside the mind, voiced within only for the reader, and that only on command. Reading and writing bring forward language to the mind in a controlled way, allowing for the identity of the individual reader to affirm itself in a detached self-image, a homunculus that thinks."

Reading silently is the secret to strengthening the autonomy of the individual mind. It combats the augmented mind, which, while it is has many exciting attributes and innumerable networking capabilities, ostracizes humans by taking their individual minds and segmenting them through sharing.

The generation currently inhabiting the scientific (sociological, etc.) fields have noticed this trend developing quite rapidly already. However, this will become blindingly apparent once the "always-on" generation (the digital natives, those that were born after the Internet was in full-swing) grows up a bit more and starts infiltrating the creative and industrial fields.

The connecting elements of our forms of media create a vacillating, textured picture of any one concept. If a digital native is required to research Iceland for a school project, they will be able to experience, via the Internet, YouTube videos, podcasts, Wikipedia articles, blog posts by Icelandic authors or blog posts about Iceland, etc. etc. They will be able to take little pieces in various formats and put them together in their mind to form a living idea. According to de Kerckhove, reading (especially silently) is a way to create augmentation, but solely contained in your brain (as in, rather than using the Internet, you use your mind as a world wide web).

He also discusses the virtual worlds of SecondLife and The Sims and how they affect our currentsociety's perception of reality. Really, they are exercises in the "Objective Imaginary," those fanciful thoughts that can be translated onto a screen. This is yet another contributor to the augmented mind.

Along with Wikipedia and Innocentive. Innovation engines are taking what is our minds and are contextualizing them, tagging them, and sharing them.

"With these kinds of new tools we are literally hypertextualizing, as well as externalizing, our mental processes in a shared, connected cognition."

All of this tagging and segmenting of words is moving technology from cloud computing to "intelligent dust." Intelligent dust allows for the power of cloud computing to be paired with the strength of networking and sharing.

And while it is performing virtual miracles in the "digital fleshing-out" of our global mind, it presents an imperative to the individual: while this is happening, we need to remain aware and conscious of our own private identities. We need to continue reading and performing logos with our own minds.

"Though we can hardly resist its increasingly rapid and complex momentum, people can retain a modicum of individuality by learning to negotiate the interaction."

de Kerckhove certainly presents an idea that is at the cusp of our sociological cognition. It's something that many of us (especially those of us that are fully imbibed in the technological world) think about: how is this going to change the nature of our personal lives, our nations, our world? Everything is happening so fast! How can we hold on when the merry-go-round of technology is spinning at a nauseating speed?

Here's how: look down at the hands on the wheel and remember they're yours. Be aware of your own mind and propogate your individual thinking patterns. Maintain the individual while taking advantage of the wondrous new world that is emerging.
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