Changing the Subject Book Summary By Sven Birkerts

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Changing the Subject is a book about how our increasing digital connection to the world is changing us.

In it, author John Lennon delivers a critical and concerned look into how the internet affects our lives in terms of individuality, attention span and intelligence.

Aside from just talking about these issues at length, he delves deep into the consequences of them, ultimately questioning if we are destined for one giant hive mind or if there is still hope that we can disconnect from our technology-driven society and reconnect with ourselves.

This thought-provoking book delves into questions of identity, communication and belonging in the digital age and will undoubtedly leave you pondering these concepts long after reading it.

Changing the Subject Book

Book Name: Changing the Subject (Art and Attention in the Internet Age)

Author(s): Sven Birkerts

Rating: 4.4/5

Reading Time: 12 Minutes

Categories: Science

Author Bio

Sven Birkets is an author with a passion for reading and a critical eye.

He gained recognition in 1994, when he published The Gutenberg Elegies; this book warned of the potential dangers of technological advancement on our reading habits and sparked much-needed discussion.

Since then, he has become renowned as an essayist and literary critic, releasing many books, such as Changing the Subject: Art and Attention in the Internet Age.

His works are always full of insight, making him a valuable voice in today's society.

The Digital World: Understanding The Implications Of Social Media And The Internet On Our Lives

Social Media

It’s undeniable how the new digital world has transformed our lives and drastically altered our experiences of life, from becoming more individualistic to shifting our perceptions.

With almost all of us having access to the internet and being filled with social media from every corner, it is bound to leave a tremendous influence on us.

It’s thus essential that we take a step back and critically review how these rapid changes in the digital world shape us as individuals.

Through this book “Changing The Subject”, you’ll be reflecting thoroughly on this topic.

You will gain insight into how these changes affect your intellect, disconnect you from reality, and possibly even alter your neuronal functioning.

You will also see why navigation systems are best used when not being overused, how search engines and YouTube negatively impede knowledge acquisition ,and why taking time off for a good novel should never be set aside in a world saturated with screens.

The Price We Pay For Instant Knowledge: Reclaiming The Rewards Of First-Hand Experience

In this digital age, information is more accessible than ever.

It’s just a matter of pushing a button or two and you can get the answer to nearly any question.

But while this convenience saves us time and effort, it also takes away from our experiences and can make life less meaningful.

Think about GPS, for example.

While it’s great to have when you’re in an unfamiliar place, it also keeps us from becoming familiar with our own environment.

Rather than having to interpret maps and use our intuition like we used to do, we just rely on technology to do the job for us.

And because everything comes so easily now, there’s not as much gratification when our efforts pay off in knowledge or understanding.

Before the internet came along, if you wanted to connect with an artist’s music scene or learn the names of musicians who played on a particular album, you had to search radio stations and get recommendations from people you trusted – it would take time but when you hit that “pay dirt” moment then it really was rewarding.

You felt connected because of all the work & effort put into discovering new music which made it more personal!

Relying On Social Media Hinders Our Ability To Foster Internality And Connect With Ourselves

The digital world has a way of making us reliant on external influences for fulfillment, instead of relying on ourselves.

We often turn to our phones or the internet for comfort and escape when we feel bored, lonely, or helpless.

This creates a false sense of security and an avoidance of deeper issues that need to be confronted.

It can also be difficult for us to foster internality, a space for self-reflection and self-realization when our need to be connected with the outside world is constantly hindering our ability to become self-sufficient.

We’re waiting for responses from others rather than looking within and finding out what we really think.

This reliance on external opinion disconnects us from our individuality and real facts of our real life situation.

We look to these external sources as easy fixes which only delay the problem instead of facing it head-on.

Eventually, people start feeling incomplete and anxious due to this detachment from reality.

It’s important to find balance between knowing yourself and being aware of the world around you in order figure out truly where your sense of fulfillment comes from.

How Technology Is Impairing Our Ability To Think Deeply And Reflect


Our digital fixation is slowly but surely negatively impacting how we process information.

We’re so used to quickly scrolling through pages and being distracted by the internet that we’ve almost forgotten that reading with a clear purpose– understanding what we read– is important.

We no longer take the time to read in-depth articles or books and instead are satisfied with just reading headlines and highlights.

This type of behavior not only affects our ability to think and reflect, but can also have physical consequences on our brains as well.

Scientists have found that even cab drivers, before they were equipped with GPS systems, had larger hippocampuses because of the need to memorize all the roads and routes of their city.

Our brains grow when we use them, but if we don’t strive for deep thoughts, they can start to stagnate.

In this way, our behaviors are closely linked to how our brains function– it’s vital that we understand this connection and carefully consider how much time we spend on technology if we want our minds to stay healthy and happy!

The Meaning And Context Of Knowledge Is Lost In The Digital Age

When it comes to learning something new online, we often simply read a Wikipedia page or watch a YouTube tutorial and assume that’s enough.

But this approach strips the information of its context and meaning.

Take the French Revolution as an example.

Sure, you can get all the facts on a Wikipedia page, but have you really understood anything? That kind of information lacks critical and unbiased viewpoints which are essential for understanding any subject.

To learn what actually happened would require reading multiple books by different authors, who have carefully researched the subject from all angles and presented their findings in a coherent way.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always supplied on the internet.

Google’s universal library project for example is trying to compile all books into one massive cross-referenced database, but by chopping up those books into chunks of data that link to each other we lose out on the details and context that makes them meaningful.

We no longer get a cohesive and independent statement from an author because all that info is mixed up with everyone else’s thoughts and ideas.

The Power Of Novels: Unlocking Our Imaginative Potential Through Books

Power Of Novels

Reading novels can give us a great opportunity to both reflect on our positions in the world and fuel our imagination.

We often neglect the printed word in our lives, relying instead on digital sources for information and entertainment.

But if we truly want to improve our thinking and intellect, it’s important to read books – particularly novels – frequently.

Novels invite us to examine our lives with clarity and can help us understand who we are as individuals.

Furthermore, when reading from the printed page, it becomes easier for us to stay focused and fully immerse ourselves in the author’s world.

With digital sources, however, we are often distracted by other things competing for our attention.

Therefore, taking some time out of your day to pick up a book can be incredibly beneficial for your mental health and development.

Reading novels challenges you in ways that few other activities do – it requires you to focus and pay attention so that you can comprehend the author’s words and discern their message.

It is an immensely rewarding experience if done right!

Wrap Up

“Changing the Subject” is all about breaking away from our dependency on digital technology and taking a step back to reconnect with life.

It encourages us to put down our smartphones, pick up a book and take some time for introspection.

In the end, we’re reminded of how important it is that we make our own decisions and confront our emotions without shying away from them.

This message – to use technology responsibly, appreciate what it means to be alive, and invest time reflecting on our experiences – is something that resonates throughout this book.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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