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Is The Smartphone Behind The Web’s Shift From Enlightenment To Entertainment?

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Over its brief quarter-century of existence, the Web has transitioned from a place of enlightenment where we gathered to learn from the collective wisdom of others and engaged in informed debate into a place of entertainment where we turn to briefly pass the time and enthrall ourselves with endless streams of funny cat videos. Could the rise of the smartphone and the mobile Web be the cause of this devolution, as our increasingly mobile use of the Web creates a new era of “micro-attention” in which the time we have to consume content is now so little that we simply do not have the time to consume meaningful material?

The Web today is very different than that of a quarter century ago. It is no longer a library containing the world’s collective wisdom. It is the ultimate entertainment system, an archive of funny cat videos and mindless material that imparts no knowledge or wisdom, but merely passes the time. In the immortal words of Newton Minnow, it has become the “vast wasteland” that television was half a century ago.

Could one of the driving forces of this transition be the changing way in which we access the Web?

We no longer navigate through the portal of cyberspace to broaden our horizons through the wisdom and experience of others across the world. We surf the Web to kill time on the morning commute, watching brief clips on our phone as we wait for the bus to arrive, then try to finish them as we jostle with other commuters and try to focus on the shaking small screen in front of us as the bus somehow manages to hit every pothole on the road.

Such conditions are hardly conducive to reading great literature, deeply immersing

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