Web Is Killing Narrative (News at 11)

Not only is the internet reducing our attention spans, attacking our minds, and threatening our children, Ben Macintyre says, “The internet is killing storytelling.”

The internet has evolved a new species of magpie reader, gathering bright little buttons of knowledge, before hopping on to the next shiny thing.

Ben Macintyre’s article accuses our attention of incontinence, and claims that the creation of MIT’s Center for Future Storytelling was “aimed at protecting the traditional tale from oblivion.” The CFS site seems to tell a different story, one of a collaboration between the Media Lab and Plymouth Rock Studies, an East-coast film and television venture that is itself experiencing some complex narrative lately.

Though Macintyre does note that “what is needed is a machine that can combine the ease and speed of digital technology with immersive pleasures of narrative,” the article also boldly asserts that “the internet...does not really ‘do’ narrative.” “Very few stories of more than 1,000 words achieve viral status on the internet,” he worries – a concern that would seem to argue that 20th century newspaper writing was also a doomed literary concern and its practitioners – Hemingway, Runyon, London, O’Henry – were just grinding out birdfeed.

Meanwhile, a generation is tuned, increasingly and sometimes exclusively, to the cacophony of interactive chatter and noise, exciting and fast moving but plethoric and ephemeral. The internet is there for snacking, grazing and tasting, not for the full, six-course feast that is nourishing narrative. The consequence is an anorexic form of culture.