Elon University

The 2010 Survey: Anonymous responses to a tension pair on the impact of the Internet on reading, writing and the rendering of knowledge

Responses to this 2020 scenario were assembled from Internet stakeholders in the2010 Pew Internet & American Life/Elon University Future of the Internet Survey. Some respondents chose to identify themselves; many did not. We share some—not all—of the responses here. Workplaces of respondents who shared their identity are attributed only for the purpose of indicating a level of expertise; statements reflect personal views. If you would like to participate in the next survey, mail andersj [at] elon dotedu; include information on your expertise.

Future of the Internet Survey CoverThis page includes details of the anonymous responses to a question about people’s perceptions of the Internet’s influence on reading, writing and the rendering of human knowledge. This was one of 10 questions raised by the 2010 Elon University-Pew Internet survey of technology experts and social analysts. A report outlining results of five of the survey questions was unveiled at the annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Survey respondents shared thousands of issues-exposing predictive statements after being asked to consider “tension pairs,” thus projecting their attitudes about the likely state of things in 2020. Experts were asked about the Internet and the evolution of: intelligence; reading and the rendering of knowledge; identity and authentication; gadgets and applications; and the core values of the Internet.

tension on rendering knowledge predictions chart

Following is a selection of responses from survey participants who preferred to remain anonymous. Additional anonymous responses to this question will be posted soon. To read the responses of people who took credit for their remarks, click here.

“Handwriting will suffer, and our spelling won’t improve any, but there are more tools to write with, more content to read, and more knowledge that’s rendered. The Internet is an overwhelmingly positive force here and should continue to be.”

“While I’m not sure I agree that the Internet is entirely to blame, I think that we really need to re-focus k-12 education to train people to be more effective readers and writers. Too many of my students have abysmal reading-comprehension skills, which translates into very poor writing skills, and I think the skimming habits encouraged by online reading do contribute to this. I don’t think books are going anywhere, though, because long-form documents are an engrained part of our lives. More people might be using Kindles or the like by 2020, but you will have to pry my books out of my cold, dead hands!”

“Electronic books will certainly continue to enhance reading and writing.”

“Oh please, how can you even ask the question? The Internet is made up of ‘reading, writing, and the rendering of knowledge.’ It encourages more people to do these things in more and more interesting ways.”

“Of course this depends on the definitions of knowledge, intelligent rendering, … More people will know Jeopardy-type information. More people will have the chance to delve deeply and very narrowly into individual interests.”

“Well, again, this is a distinction without a metric. I think long-form expressive fiction will suffer (though this suffering has been more or less constant since the invention of radio) while all numeric and graphic forms of rendering knowledge, from the creation and use of databases to all forms of visual display of data will be in a golden age, with ordinary non-fiction writing getting a modest boost. So English majors lose, engineering wins, and what looks like an Up or Down question says more about the demographic of the answerer than any prediction of the future.”

“More speech means more bad speech but hey, it’s all good! Recall how difficult it was for people to talk to an answering machine 30 years ago! Technically well-off cultures have a vastly improved sense of self-in-relation-to-others. It’s great. Youtube and homemade porn, it’s mass culture in a way never achieved before.”

“This is actually my hope if we understand that the Internet was built and need to stay plastic enough, and open enough…allowing the development of a ‘knowledge Web.’ We may be able to attain this through applying the separation of concerns principle and interoperability.”

“The effect of the Internet today on reading, writing and knowledge rendering is already evident – and it is not positive.”

You don’t give a middle ground response here and you should. I don’t think that the level of reading and writing will change very much from today.

“There will always be those who say that people are getting stupider and stupider because of the technology of the day, but it seems that over all we seem to get smarter and smarter in terms of what we accomplish as humans. I think this is even more true with the Internet technology, so the same phenomenon is increasing at a much greater rate.”

“I just do not see the downside in my own kids, my cousins, my extended circle, my students, and so on.”

“Another interesting question that cannot be answered by a poll. Only time and scientific analysis will tell.”

“I doubt it will be clear by 2020, but the Internet seems to be encouraging people to use the written word more rather than less. Hopefully it will continue to democratize content: so, we’ll have plenty of misspelled words, grammatical errors, and flame wars. But, better to have written a misspelled blog post than never to have written at all.”

“My response must be qualified. There will be a lot of gobbledygook but accessible libraries will increase.”

“Internet is two-way communication, you need both reading and writing skill. People can read and write any kind books and articles through Internet.”

“Texting and chatting create less need for proper spelling and grammar. Spellcheck and other devices also create less need to learn to spell and use grammar properly. also, people are more tolerant of misspellings in these environments. I also think that less people are reading full tomes – people read more in snippets online.”

“Yes, because it’s too much like TV.”

“Reading and writing will be diminished, but rendering of knowledge will be enhanced.”

Twittering and texting via cell phones (not the Internet) is ruining spelling. And I fear that social networks, twittering contribute to attention deficits that may have in-depth knowledge implications.”

“Print media will only exist in limited areas, such as academic publication.”

“I teach graduate courses and students use the Web but their writing is still awful.”

“The burden for making this work lies squarely on the shoulders of educators. Reading and writing have the potential to be improved by Internet use only if proper incentive is provided. I am reminded by a comment re: the use of Twitter in the classroom – Since tweets are limited to 140 characters, students are forced to carefully organize their thoughts and express them succinctly.”

“1, Globally speaking.”

“If, however, we look only at the most elementary communications (epitomized by illiterate and stupid postings on chat sites or comment pages) then there would seem to be a dumbing-down caused by the Internet. This is shooting the messenger – the Internet doesn’t CAUSE people to write in emoticons (which I also do from time to time – lol), but is simply facilitating ALL kinds of communications from the smart, dumb to the simply inane.”

“Again, I think not binary. Access to information, any time and place, access to communications, any time and place (and communications as a process and interaction rather than information alone key) makes the first option the obvious answer. Yet as an example of the second, how many of us now struggle to hand-write a letter? Or, Japanese having to re-learn how to write Kanji characters: recognizing these thousands of characters not a problem, seen on screen or paper they are the same. But remembering the strokes and stroke order when writing by hand rather than ‘constructing’ from a keyboard is a different matter.”

“Particularly the ‘Twitter’ concept, going to the limitation of characters to convey actual thoughts and messages.”

“Neither, again, but the nature of the measures will change. It’s actually tv that has diminished reading and writing abilities but compensated with abilities to convey and receive information in a/v form. Remember, writing was only invented to increase durability and portability of information, not for the sake of ‘writing.’”

“We will read (and write) more graphical visualizations.”

“While the Internet has the capacity to enhance reading and writing, the movement tends to be toward sloppy spelling and grammar, abbreviations that only communicate to a limited group, and a situation that could lead to massive communication breakdowns. Language can make the difference between war and peace, success or failure.”

“Reading sure, it will be still tons of things to read, writing is the one that might be in danger, for year 2020 large quantities of the communication, access, search, etc.. will be in video or via voice recognition. Knowledge will be easily accessible, surely allowing faster and better improvements in all areas.”

“It is a sign of an educated mind not to expect more certainty from a subject than it can possibly provide.” (Aristotle) Interest is based on understanding. This is a fundamental change, said John Chambers, moving from transactional communications to collaboration, from information to experience.”

“If by ‘reading’ and ‘writing’ we mean 20th century notions of literature, then probably these will be endangered and diminished. New forms of literature will emecgred based on interactivity and media blending. Knowledge will be shared, but in different ways, perhaps more immediate and less reflective.”

“Again, I don’t like either choice. I think that we’ll find that No Child Left Behind has diminished and endangered reading, writing, and intelligent rendering of knowledge. But we’ll blame technology.”
“I believe reading skills develop more quickly via interest, and the Internet enables people to find things they are interested in. Once books are accessed more easily via the Internet and other devices in formats that are easier to use, they will also grow in popularity. Plus there will be more literacy in parts of the world where there previously was none.”

“More and more people will create content, either for wikipedia like structures or blogs.”

“No matter your attitude toward the Internet, it does encourage people to read and compose. While I personally worry about the imminent descent of language into the ‘cackling of senescent macaws,’ to paraphrase James Thurber, I will also reluctantly admit that the purpose of language is ultimately the accurate exchange of ideas. So long as that is taking place, the Twitter-driven reduction of the once proud English language to a series of vowel-less truncations is tolerable, albeit painful for a grammatical curmudgeon such as myself. Books as collections of the written word will adapt but never become extinct, I fervently believe, for as books go, so goes the human intellect as we know it.”

“There is no question there will be gains in the presentation and expression of knowledge that will be anchored in traditional reading and writing, but be greatly expanded via a wide range of new mediums.”

“It’s already clear to anyone with a teen-age child or who teaches in a university.”

“I have hated seeing the impact of the Internet on newspapers. I used to trust newspapers more than the Internet because they maintained a sense of editorial control and fact-checking, whereas the Internet was part of the 24-hour media machine whose sole purpose was to post new content as quickly as possible. When I heard that newspapers were laying off copy editors and fact checkers, I became immensely concerned about the social impact of news coming more and more from media branches more concerned about fresh content than critical thinking and accuracy. As for writing, hard to say…there are plenty of bloggers, but nothing on the Internet that constrains one to cogent, cohesive writing.”

“2, But question shouldn’t combine the 3. I believe reading and knowledge rendering may not be worse, but writing could very well diminish.”

“Classic reading and writing will be hampered as the online communications are often abbreviated. The rendering of knowledge will likely expand because it will be much easier to do so.”

“This is another one that’s a bit difficult to answer and is more somewhere in the middle than black and white in either direction. But the international nature of the Internet and the shorthand that’s grown up around the culture means that ‘standard’ grammar and spelling are becoming endangered. Is that a bad thing? Well, if it means the world moves toward a standardized language for communication, that might be just peachy.”

“The Internet facilitates storytelling.”

“It will have improved it. Whether people will take advantage of this or will stick with predigested knowledge is another matter, of course.”

“Handwriting will be almost dead, since we are more and more typing.”

“The Internet will give us the capacity for knowledge, but information without action is not knowledge. People will read more than ever before. I’m fearful many will never learn to write anything longer than 140 characters.”

“Reading and writing may be worse, but the intelligent rendering of knowledge may be better. Visualizations, crunching of data, this is where the genius leaps will occur. But it will not be about ‘reading’ and ‘writing’ in the traditional sense.”

“I can tell you that Twitter sure has made me more concise with my written communication. The challenge is to be accurate – and to proofread. Social and other media have made us more critical of poor communication.”

“Even the concerns over texting and ‘txt spch’ are perhaps a bit unwarranted. In the worst-case scenario, it’s simply the latest evolution of language; 2000s English is different from 1900s English, and so forth.”

“Today, the next generation and this generation of students don’t read for comprehension or knowledge. They read only to get whatever is necessary for the next regurgitation. Reading is now scanning for quick snippets of information, not for knowledge. This process will only continue, since there is no incentive to Know, only to spew back what you think is required. Writing now is ‘texting,’ there is no grammar, no structure.”

“One must know how to read and write to use the Internet even at a low level. That is a current problem. I have helped and endless number of people to get online and use the Internet because they could not write or type, or both, or spell correctly, and the Google help can only go so far. It does not read minds.”

“It is misleading to focus on books, books are just containers and you run the risk of romanticizing a tool. Information will continue to be hyper available. People will write and read more, but differently than today.”

“You mix too many things that defy mixing. Writing skills may be diminished. Rendering of knowledge may be enhanced. Hopefully reading skills will not be adversely affected.”

“You can clearly see today that there is less attention to quality in our communications, from an empathetic point of view as well as a knowledge point of view. There are no indications that this situation is improving, thus I expect it will get worse.”

“Never before have so many people been involved in communicating! There will be changes. Spelling and handwriting will continue to worsen. Long documents will be replaced by short forms. Graphics and photos will replace much of the written word. But the Internet is still the equivalent of the printing press in its ability to give people untold powers to express themselves in writing and share others thoughts in reading.”

“Really, reading and writing are fading, along with attention span. Nothing is purely linearly related but I do think our definition of learning and intelligence is being shaped by use of the Internet.”

“It’s not clear that the benchmarks we use to measure reading or writing skills in the 20th century will be particularly useful further on in the 21st.”

“Will technology drive our enhanced communication skills by 2020? Will voice-directed technology replace the pen, pencil, and keyboard? How will we communicate, by voice or visually? Technology will ultimately determine improved reading and writing skills. In the middle of the previous century penmanship was an integral part of early education. The use of a keyboard was relegated to upper grades. Today, penmanship is not taught and youngsters in early education already know how to use a keyboard (the one connected to their computer). By 2020, early education might include voice-communication skills in cloud-based and hand-held devices.”

“Much more writing will occur, and even reading by some than they have ever done before. Improvement will happen.”

“There will be changes, as always, with how people process information. It all comes back to purpose. Why do we need the information and what do we plan to do with it? Reading, writing, and the rendering of knowledge will be different, not necessarily better or worse than it is now. The difference will be how widespread access should become by then. The concern is how governments may limit access.”

“Society, not the Internet, is making people dumber. When it became more important to max out a credit card trying to pretend to be rich and have status than to actually have an education and work for a living, America’s dumbing down happened.”

“The ubiquitous penetration of the Internet likely will improve functional literacy even as it devalues previously cherished forms of exposition. The peculiar language brought about by SMS on t-9 keypads is not longer for the world, in an environment where personal communications devices are more expressive.”

“The Internet will enhance reading and writing skills of everyone because many of us still prefer written communications. E-mail is still the 500-pound gorilla of the Internet.”

“By 2020 it will be clear that the Internet has elevated video to replace the written word as the preferred method of rendering knowledge.”

“It is impossible to not be connected to text in 2010, and this will only continue into 2020. People of all ages will be writing and reading all the time and they will have a good grasp on the differences between reading and writing situations. For example, they will understand that writing a Twitter message is different than writing a letter to a professional colleague and requires a different tone and language than the Twitter communication.”

“The Internet needs a worldwide, integrated system for handling micro money accounts.”

“We will then move to a very literate world where there is universal pressure to learn to master the written word. It is not just the rendering of knowledge but all the written forms that people find usefulness and pleasure in.”

“It already has diminished writing. I teach at a university where some instructors in the English composition course are teaching blogging. The concept of a serious, long, thoughtful discussion that involves multiple drafts and critical thinking is in jeopardy when any random ideas can be posted for the world to see.”

“Older folks may not like the grammar or the way language evolves, but younger folks are writing more, if only because of SMS, IM and blogs.”

“Books as they exist today will not be replaced by digital means, but the Internet and innovative mobile devices will add options how books can be read.”

“If the Internet underpins many of our activities, socialization, banking, communication, etc, it will for now improve reading. The question is how will we interact with the Internet? Type as we do now? Or rely on context-sensitive applications that, for example, can sense if we are about to miss a deadline and remind us in some other way than text? In terms of writing, I am not sure it will benefit writing in the pure sense. Now spelling and grammar are automatically checked, so it removes the need and the responsibility to be a better writer. We will be more knowledgeable, but again I have to wonder if we will be more knowledgeable about celebrity lives or the climate debate.”

“Reading and writing skills are probably being diminished by the Internet. The tendency to jump around from Web page to Web page, to mobile phone, etc., has to be having an impact on the development of the brain. The brain develops in response to stimuli and these are surely different today than they were 30 years ago. However, there is a risk of moral panic on this issue. I spent much of my childhood and teens watching too much TV, and then when arcade games came out (Space Invaders) I spent too much time playing them. I’m sure this has impacted on my development in some way, but the net effect? Perhaps I would have been better off if I’d spent my childhood playing World of Warcraft and chatting with friends on Facebook or whatever rather than spending those hours in front of sitcoms. I do think our ability to render knowledge is possibly being negatively impacted by the Internet. As mentioned earlier, for me, the challenge of school and university education was rendering knowledge, and possibly the Internet is doing this more for people and they may lose the skills in the same way I lost or didn’t develop good mental arithmetic skills because I relied on calculators.”

“Reading and rendering, yes; writing is less certain.”

“By 2020 reading for pleasure and great writing will suffer due to the Internet. The intelligent rendering of knowledge will be greatly enhanced, however.”

“We are likely to read less, but information in different forms will be available.”

“The question itself is problematic: it depends on how you define reading and writing. The Internet will surely change the way we read and write.”

“Thanks to the Internet, people read and write more than ever before.”

“Most of my peers don’t read a newspaper; they get the headlines online. We write in shorthand – in instant messaging, text messaging, etc. My students sometimes use this same shorthand when addressing e-mails to me, the dumbing down of Americans.”
“More knowledge, less writing, even with spellcheck.”

“We’ve seen this already, I think, in declines in attention span made possible by frequent bombardment of text messages, pop-ups, etc.”

“The Internet certainly has, and continues to improve, access to the written word, and gives a broader audience to writers in a broader range of forms than ever before.”

“More for the elites.”

“It can have both effects, depending on the level of advanced knowledge and preparedness of the users.”

“I am pessimistic about this, mostly because I think the Internet is encouraging reaction rather than reasoned argument. This is linked to my earlier comments about pondering that leads to new insights, viewpoints, and arguments. That’s not to say that the Internet cannot support this activity, but by encouraging quick, rather than thoughtful responses, I think it is an overall negative influence.”

“The use of Internet can enhance reading and especially rendering of knowledge. Just I am pessimistic about writing. I think the Internet will have a very negative impact on writing. People will use hand writing less and less. If we understand literacy as ability to read, write and count, the concept of literacy will change. The ability ‘to write’ can change to ability ‘to type.’ But I am optimistic about the future of books. The Internet is supplementary source of information. The value of the book won’t diminish (by 2020!).”

“This is a tough one. The rendering of knowledge will certainly be different, but will it be better or worse. I’ll side slightly with worse because I do think that journalistic standards have helped to create a high standard for the rendering of knowledge. These standards will soon be lost and the quality of literature and journalism is certain to suffer. Other areas may improve, but reading and writing haven’t been served particularly well.”

“The Internet is improving reading and writing skills.”

“Communication will evolve towards more instantly recognizable, visual displays of concise information. Details stuffed at the back if you really want them. Pack up War and Peace and refer to the information card in the seat pocket in front of you.”

“The computer provides a powerful incentive for children to learn to read and type. The danger comes not from the Internet but from small mobile devices that encourage shorthand messaging. We are in danger of children being uninterested in the correct spelling of words or how to create a complete sentence. But I don’t think the Internet is the source of the problem.”

“Reading is not the same as books. Reading is using words, which I am doing now.”

“The Internet is merely a tool. How that tool is used may decide, but the presence of the Internet, by itself, does nothing to diminish human intelligence anymore than the telephone.”

“Two of three: Reading and rendering of knowledge. Writing – definitely not.”

“I’m sure there is research on this, but I don’t know it so I’m reluctant to make a selection. The Internet does encourage people to read in short bits and skim more than paper-based reading does.”

“1, Absolutely true.”

“Writing for the Internet is quite different from the usual writing and, as the world becomes more connected, the way we were used to deal with written knowledge will change. So, it is endangered if we believe the former way of writing was the right one. As for reading and rendering, I do believe those will be improved.”

“This was a hard choice. If people choose to do so the Internet will enhance knowledge. Those who do not choose wisely will be diminished by the use of the Internet.”

“In-depth reading is likely to suffer somewhat without dramatic improvements in online storytelling and engagement. But the breadth of information available and the timeliness of that information will continue to improve.”

“Again, I am choosing the first response because it is closer to my own sense of the world. But I want to qualify this in a number of ways. I believe that our engagements with online communities and digital media are expanding our conception of what counts as literacy, allowing us to engage in a range of new communication practices and processes which improve learning and enhance the production of knowledge. That said, there are some signs that the growth of these skills may come at the expense of some traditional forms of literacy and that the distribution of these skills are uneven across the population. Both of these problems need to be engaged by researchers in the coming years.”

“The ways in which we read and acquire knowledge are changing. Vast amounts of knowledge are literally at our fingertips. We read constantly, although maybe not the classics. Writing, not so much. Texting, e-mail, IM, and spell check have had a negative effect on writing and spelling abilities.”

“Internet will improve the rendering/dissemination of knowledge, but will probably diminish writing skills. I am more neutral on reading.”

“I agree that information sharing will dramatically increase – but that is not the same as the future of knowledge. Books, ah, I love books. Books will continue to be published – certainly, there will be more ebooks. This is fine with me if it gets more people reading. But I hope the interpersonal engagement finds a way in the world of ebooks – like in book clubs, readings, etc. There is no reason it shouldn’t – but I would hate for group activities to go the way of communicating – texting, for example!”

“Even with the opportunity for personal blogs that stretch non-professional writers’ legs, the Internet will overall decline our comprehension, reading, writing, and memory, purely based on how convenient it is to use spell check, Google, etc.”

“The effects will not be the same for all people. However as a student, the ability to locate and download research articles has completely changed the way I work and I would not want to go back to inter-library loans for all the money in the world. The democratization of access – again, with limits because not everyone has the same access, and there is a cost for these materials – has had immense benefits. On the other hand, I worry about students’ ability to navigate outside this environment. For me, the ability to use the Internet comes after having learned to find things ‘the old way,’ and so I can visualize the process behind the published article. I’m not sure that’s true for young people who have never experienced a pre-Internet time.”

“Right now people don’t read, they only skim through the text, so in the next 10 years it can’t be better.”

“That’s really not the question–the question is how these capacities will play out in an on-line environment.”

“Google may not make us stupid, and the Internet may not endanger reading, writing and the intelligent rendering of knowledge, but I do fear a diminished depth of knowledge and scholarship. We’ll all have the opportunity for more access to information, but fewer of us will take the time to learn, truly understand and add depth to our knowledge and research base.”

“It’s hard to judge either way. I don’t think people will stop reading, given the popularity of on-line booksellers and electronic reading devices like the Kindle. I do worry that writing will continue to suffer, as people increasingly communicate via the Internet in ways that are based more on speed and brevity rather than thoughtful, clear prose.”

“The Pew Internet Project’s survey of teenagers in 2007 demonstrates that even those young people who are the largest consumers and users of Internet enabled writing/reading do not see their skills enhanced by it.”

“Books will always have a future, but possibly reduced.”

“Absolutely. Txtg (texting) has abominated spelling. Books will be electronic.”

“Because the Internet requires quick access to knowledge, the art of writing and the focus of reading longer pieces is being diminished.”

“The Internet has moved information from formal channels, formal sources – like published books – to a more informal model. It is now easier to find information from multiple points of view, and to hear about everyday lives of people. But people are less likely to read long works of literature, preferring ‘chunks’ of information. Is this bad? I don’t think so, but it’s different. Teaching and education need to rapidly change to keep up with this desire.”

“When it comes to reading, I do wonder whether there will be more people who actually appreciate and engage in developing and learning via new literary forms and/or study of ancient, historic and contemporary literature and writing. But I have to lean toward the realization that the extent of the instant and text messaging and other forms of online reading and writing may indeed signal that there are more prospects for enhancing the experience of writing and reading for more individuals.”

“Learning improves with interaction among learners. The current methods of CMC [computer-mediated communications] do not enhance learning. I am not sure if they will improve by 2020.”
“This won’t actually be clear in a mere 10 years. Frankly it never is clear. what is good writing, what is a fad, and what is bad – it constantly changes as people across cultures and generations put their own imprint on it. In 10 years we will still be learning how to integrate our text-based communication with graphics (both static and in motion), links to additional sources, notes, and references to social media sites and wikis. It may well be that what is considered ‘good’ then will judges based on the quality of a ‘dialogue,’ with many moving pieces and perspectives – rather than a textual rendering of a particular point of view.”

“The communications I see via the Internet tend to be unformed, confusing, and lacking the ability to communicate complex ideas and feelings. A generation ‘speaking’ online in short phrases, abbreviations, etc., seems to be lacking the ability to construct communications that inform and enlighten. Unless the information is presented in short sentences and expressed in a simple declarative manner, comprehension is poor among many individuals using the Internet. This is not true of all individuals or all age groups, but based upon personal experience it is increasingly evident.”

“In addition, many individuals are seeking only the most basic information online. No explanation and no details are wanted. This is a trend that I believe will only continue as information providers seek to provide smaller bits of information in order to attract a greater number of users to their sites. Fast, limited, information is frequently ‘good enough’ for the individual who doesn’t want or believe that they need a solid understanding on the subject.”

“The book will increasingly be made available via different technology. However, the printed book is a marvelous piece of technology. It is easily portable, easily shared (without worrying about formats, compatibility, or licensing), and an incredible library of materials covering the sum of human knowledge. I don’t believe that the printed book will cease to exist by 2020 (and I definitely hope not) but current and new technology will increase the formats available on a greater variety of titles.”

“It depends on what kind of reading, writing and knowledge rendering. I think we will all do more of this, but the style will be different. For example, literary fiction has already changed in style from word based imagining to screen based imagining in that most new novels read much like you would watch them on a television or movie screen, changing from a mostly mental narration to a mostly visual narration.”

“While it is true that the advent of text messaging and Twitter tends to impede rather than promote good writing and reading, other sources on the Internet – e-mail, Web journals, RSS feed syndications (blogs), etc. – have the opposite effect. Prior to the advent of e-mail, many people had entirely lost (or never developed) letter writing skills. Now scores of people write far more than would have been the norm just twenty years ago. So, yes, the Internet has had a positive effect overall.”

“We must have media literacy and education, please!”

“The Internet promotes short attention span and the use of abbreviated words. The Internet is ‘quantity’ and ‘speed’ and doesn’t promote thoughtful consideration.”

“It will have increased overall access to words, numbers, and knowledge … and will have also widened the knowledge divide.”

“Conversation, in my opinion. Everything is immediate.”

“Too many sources, unchecked, uncertain, without culture and education.”

“I now receive one newspaper both in paper form and on the Net. The Internet version is displayed exactly as it looks on paper, with zooming-in capability, so it is familiar and easy to read. The Internet version also makes it very easy to share articles I know are of interest to others. With the coming new readers such as Kindle and the reportedly new ‘tablet’ from Apple, I expect this will make reading from electronic devices much easier.”

“Access to Google creates a false sense of intellectualism for many younger Americans even among the college-educated. While they may be reading material online, the quality of writing online leans more toward colloquial language, trendy talk, and visual aids.”

“Depends on what you want to read, think should be read, is shared. The computer is not the greatest device for reading Homer’s ‘Iliad’ or Milton’s poetry, nor can it replace the Royal Shakespeare Company’s rendering of William Shakespeare’s history cycle. But the potential is there even for the spread of such legacy cultural icons. Google translate is very imperfect, but it gives us the ability to read newspapers in Russian, Arabic, Chinese, and Swedish on a real-time basis. Wikipedia is full of errors and biases, but it is getting far better at sending us to other sources than Britannica ever was.”

“How many millions of people regularly write blogs who never would have had an audience or possibly tried to communicate in writing in the past? What about free access to books on iPhone’s Stanza? Or the opportunity to challenge and comment on the work of well-known thought leaders? How about Yale classes on iTunes U? The only thing I see as being endangered is handwriting.”

“There is one trend I find disturbing. Back to the notion of human nature, filtering and Google making you stupid. I don’t think that ‘stupid’ is the right word. But I believe it’s possible that the Internet exacerbates the polarization of ideas, because it’s very easy to only read what you already agree with, and to miss opposing points of view.”

“I don’t think the Internet (the medium) can enhance or diminish reading and writing. Internet may change how people get educated.”

“Just as with intelligence, the Internet will continue to expand the basic human rendering of knowledge and related human skills of reading and writing.”

“I don’t think it will be improved, but I’m not sure it’s been diminished either. I need a third option here. We just begin to see more and more of what mediocre grammar we have in general. Texting language is the new slang, it doesn’t have to replace traditional English education. Books, storytelling and the sharing of information through prose will continue to be important and key to generational sharing. The medium is changing, the Kindle, Nook, etc., may make paper book printing obsolete.”

“Writing for a wider audience can cause authors to put more work into that writing such as checking information.”

“The Internet allows for increasing ease of communication. Most electronic communication will continue to take place through the interface of reading and writing. The ability to read and write fluently and concisely will remain an essential skill and practice makes perfect. The ability to access ever greater quantities of written text (e.g. electronic books) enhances our incentives to read.”

“Although young people use their own texting ‘code language’ with abbreviations etc., I believe that email, IM, and texting will result in better reading and writing skills. Therefore, the rendering of knowledge will improve.”

“2, Just because when we have to filter much more, we drown.”
“The origins of literature as a social function were in a collective, knowledge sharing and mostly unanimous manner, hypertexting will tend to resemble original literature: written and the reading experience.”

“The reading and writing on the Internet for personal interconnectedness will be done in time and space constrained environs and will be truncated in its composition and thus its reception. It is hard to see how this set of communications would substitute for the required clarity of communications to audiences with whom one has no personal or a priori knowledge basis.”
“2, It has already done so.”

“People write more now than ever, and in new ways. Never mind Susan Greenfield.”

“’Reading’ and ‘writing’ will turn into multimedia activities which will enhance communications as the process can now reach different ways in which humans access knowledge (i.e. learn).”

“It might seem that the two are mutually exclusive but they are not. The Internet allows many people to have access to data, books, newspapers, etc. that they otherwise would not have. This will enable the readers and writers to continue and even expand what they read and write. However, there are and have always been those who neither read nor write and access to the Internet might actually piqued these individuals’ interest enough to get them to do some reading where they did none previously.”

“While a large amount of content will be available in video, the written form will still be prevalent online. Mini-vlogging will never take off. However, the quality of the language will be down to the lowest common denominator ever in human civilization. People’s ability to think, dream or see the big picture will be reduced as much as the number of characters on a tweet. People will live in their comfortable bubble of truth, with the blogs and people who think like them or like the same things. Books will become a collectors’ item that our kids will look at in disbelief. 140-character versions of Shakespeare, Plato, and Voltaire will be easily available for kids to know what the story is about.”

“I think even the automatic spell check has made us worse at spelling. Grammar? A lost art online. I’d blame texting only, but along came Twitter.”

“As the publishing industry adopts electronic distribution and delivery reading skills will continue to allude the economically challenged on the over side of the digital divide. As far as writing, find me someone today who can even write a decent letter. In 10 years the extent of ‘good writing’ will be your ability to distill your communications into a array of acronyms in less than 160 characters.”

“The Internet is based on bullet points, bite-sized bits of information, thus creating an environment where extensive reading is not necessary. This may improve knowledge but will not encourage extensive reading. In a sense, both answers are correct. These questions are really not worded very well.”

“Oh, I so hope that the Internet enhances reading, writing, etc.! I’m going to be an optimist. One reason I say this is anecdotal – how often I have read or heard from people who say that reading books online (via e-readers, including cell phones) has increased the number of books they read. The key will be information literacy and critical thinking, however – and also avoiding too much narrowcasting of what you read/write/are exposed to.”

“Printed books are going to become a lot more rare and expensive. Writing (good writing, anyway) will become more rare as the tendencies toward an instantaneous reactivity common of bloggers (and flamers and demagogues) becomes more widespread, and bidirectional voice-recognition capabilities become embedded and provide ways to bypass the ‘written’ word altogether. The basic premise of ‘thinking before you speak’ (or publish) won’t be followed by the vast majority of Internet users, which may prove to be highly lucrative for some attorneys and law firms.”

“This is a tentative vote of optimism. Access to quality, affordable education is more of a determining factor on this result than the Internet.”

“The easier it becomes to communicate, share ideas and information, the greater the likelihood for expanded knowledge by those participating.”

“The Internet has got more people reading and writing on a daily basis than previously. But overall, I think that our modes of reading, writing and knowledge will have changed in many subtle ways, rather than improving or getting worse by historical standards.”

“As a teacher with almost 40 years experience with preschoolers through adult learners, I can say the Internet has not improved these skills. There are programs that help with certain skills, but unfortunately teachers are allowing the machines to do the teaching for them and the teachers are not nearly as engaged with the students as they should be to make appropriate learning decisions for them.”

“Young people are not learning from the Internet, they are merely copying content they find on it. They are not absorbing what they are copying. The use of texting has already had negative effects on young people’s ability to actually spell a word. They are getting more ignorant by the day.”

“This is the most troubling because the digital divide may change to become those who value literacy (in all its forms) and those who do not. I worry that schools will be less effective unless they embrace the new ways of working and playing as part of the pedagogy.”

“Based on my experience with senior-level college students at a well-ranked university, using the Internet is related to a general decline in the ability to read, write, and critically reason. This is not an inevitable result of Internet use. This has occurred because teachers, parents, and other authority figures and leaders have ceased to demand and value excellent reading, writing, and reasoning skills. The Internet could be used as a tool to enhance those skills. As a society we lack the expectation of excellence in reading, writing, calculating, and reasoning. This is highly unfortunate because research shows that reading, writing, and reasoning are essential for people to attain and maintain optimal health for themselves and their families. The Internet can never replace books for me. There is nothing like holding a book in one’s hands and being able to turn real pages back and forth at will. I do think we need to use more just in time printing technologies to make the printed work accessible to the increasing population of low vision persons.”

“All three were declining before the Internet. They will continue. I believe my ability to string together coherent sentences and paragraphs my path to full employment for as long as I want to work.”

“People are just reading differently. Reading ability will diminish with the increased access to audio books.”

“1, People master reading, writing, and communications by doing them.”

“People are exposed to a greater number of books, ideas, and information sharing through the Internet.”

“Oh, please, the Internet [through use of search engines] immediately states did you mean? So having to use your brain to use tools like a Dewey Decimel system or catalog isn’t even needed. By 2020 the modeling from a statistical level (x people have wanted this therefore y is = to) will supersede the need to write or type correct information queries. Bringing speech into the world – as Google plans to do – will make the need to query the question in a non-context-sensitive way even easier and the ability to have the returned Internet material read out to you will be available. So why do you need to learn to read? Why write? For those who love to have a book, a tangible item that you can touch, mark up, and turn the pages of, and reread, and immerse yourself, the book will be there in used book stores. Those who never read will be read to. Those who like the gadgets will have the Kindles, those who are connoisseurs of the written word will have a book always.”

“With the advent of Kindle, reading is enhanced by the Internet, but texting has eliminated the need for writing grammar and spelling.”

“Our education system is already in peril. Internet technology will only accelerate the matter.”

“2020 will be too soon to render reading and writing obsolete, or to seriously damage them. The technologies themselves are all still based on reading/writing/orthographic skills. But, by 2050, it will mostly be visual and auditory. Then, we’ll see.”

“The proclivity to read and write well one brings to virtual media.”

“I would say this is true only if continue to hold to the same standards and push back against the new spelling, text messaging, etc. Books will still be around; they just might be distributed in a different manner, people will still read and you’ll still have the people who don’t.”

“Grammar, spelling, and critical thinking are in a woeful state. With Internet-based communication the method of choice for many (especially amongst teens), this situation is unlikely to improve in the foreseeable future.”

“Same response as question #1. In particular, the use of text and instant messaging causes additional problems.”

“It is entirely up to us where this goes.”

“Frankly, this seems to be a wash. Yes, there will be people whose attention span for reading will be diminished. Yet there will always be an attraction to longer form entertainment and enlightenment.”

“eBooks will have increased significantly and that reading and writing skills will have improved. Cloud applications that easily combine typing, drawing, audio, and video and invite input and suggestions from others will have an important impact.”

“My hope is that the fundamentals will still be taught.”

“I just hope Pew learns to capitalize Internet.”

“I see the endless potential of the Internet to encourage improved reading, writing, and dissemination of knowledge and information. What I currently see in emails, text messaging, twittering, etc., however, is ‘relaxed’ use of good English, ignored use of punctuation to the point that messages are unclear, and substituted shortened versions of words to save time and key strokes. Young people who are acquiring these habits as a cultural norm as they mature will have little reason to aspire to more structured, coherent writing because that will, indeed, be the ‘norm’ of their generation. I’m concerned that the constant availability of the social aspects of the Internet will distract people from taking time to read good literature, or more thought-provoking or informative resources. If people don’t read much, and lack coherent writing skills, it will impede the quality and availability of knowledge and resources.”

“1. Rendering of filtered knowledge could be creating a narrow-minded population. 2. How could quality of writing be assured – it looks like newborn words and slang are coming. 3. But overall spread of some kind of general knowledge and literacy probably improves because it is a must.”

“Writing is making a big comeback with the Internet, already.”

“It will not endanger anything – it will change it, as other major human developments have in the past. That change will not rid us of the ‘bad’ as none of the previous has. The ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ will keep on going, hand in hand, moving on to different shapes and forms and presenting humanity with different challenges. I find that both reassuring and stimulating.”

“The Internet will increase the rendering of content rather than knowledge. Inaccuracy of content coupled with the inability of many to use search engines effectively and know the difference between a rant and empirically-supported statements will hinder future knowledge. Internet users will selectively read, for example searching an article or e-book for keywords rather than read from cover to cover. This of course can be extremely useful but can also lead to loss of overall context for others.”

“I am generally positive about this, but even by 2020 it will be too early to know. At this point we can only really look back at technologies like radio or TV and sensibly answer this question. Has TV enhanced and improved reading, writing, and the rendering of knowledge? Maybe in comparison, the Internet will be an improvement.”

“Just like the intelligence question before, this answer lies somewhere in the middle. The Internet changes how we read/write, but it’s hard to qualify whether it is positive or negative – if the ‘traditional’ way we read/write is deemed best. than it has had a negative impact, and vice versa.”

“Humans are obsessive consumers of information. In the past, some interests were not well-represented by the publishing industries and so there appeared to be a divide between those who enjoyed reading books and gaining knowledge and those who did not. Instead, we will learn that the information needs of those who didn’t read books simply weren’t being met and that now while they may use the Internet to obsessively follow the every in-and-out of monster truck rallies or some other banal topic, they will be much larger consumers of the written word online and this inevitably benefits their reading and writing skills and adds to their store of knowledge, even if about allegedly trivial subjects.”

“Unfortunately I believe the Internet has diminished reading and writing. Text-messaging short-speak has infiltrated and been accepted broadly including within the business environment. People’s ability to communicate verbally and intelligently is declining because the Internet has fostered informal, colloquial communication.”

“People already dislike reading when there is a lot of information there. When people use the Internet, they skim to what is important or search for keywords that are important, and then go back to read for context. While this could be interpreted that people cut through the ‘fluff’ to read the important stuff, more information will be taken out of context and warped into different understandings of the facts. Downloading information will always exist, as will buying information. As to the form it comes in, that will change. For now, I see books being sold electronically for download (especailly textbooks and research). This would allow the book to be constantly updated with the latest and greatest. Will someone make an up-to-the minute publication that changes as the world changes? It’s like subscribing to a blob, except the author is talking about something real, something meaningful. Technology, will encourage younger generations to shortcut every form of writing. It will create a new language dividing generations.”

“The Internet is a great education tool – what’s not to like?”

“The youth of today are already more computer literate than many of us were at their age. That augers well for many disciplines in the future.”

“Again, the Internet is not separate and does not have independent agency. It is constituted by people and will reflect the efforts and energies that are put towards it.”

“The need to quickly read and understand vast quantities of information will increase reading comprehension, while the opportunity to enhance conversations by writing one’s own perspective will improve writing. Penmanship, however, is a thing of the past.”

“Writing will suffer more than reading, but the rendering of knowledge will evolve in directions different than we associate with an encyclopedia-like authoritative, linear presentation.”

“Studies have shown that students, while they may write “lol” [to represent the words “laugh out loud”] in informal online conversation, are better at writing formally in formal situations. I believe the prevalence of text on the Internet will aid in this development.”

“Yes, things will be different. Get used to it.”

“Restrictions of 140 characters or less have certainly created a whole new language, but in general, the art of writing has increased in importance. Learning to understand through our reading has also increased.”

“It will probably enhance and improve reading, writing and the rendering of knowledge if people will learn to be more careful of their spelling and grammar. I am always very disappointed when I get an e-mail or see a Web page from what is purported to be an intelligent person or company with errors in spelling or grammar. It gives me a vague feeling of unease about the person and company that is very hard to dispel. My husband, a college professor of English, tried many times to tell me to be less demanding of people in their use of our (or any) language. He insisted that English was a growing, evolving, flexible and living thing. I still tend to disagree with him on this point.”

“People read and write more than they ever have but these forms of reading and writing are not well understood. Hopefully, by 2020, we will understand the novel forms that have emerged with the Internet and value them for their novelty. I could write more but unfortunately, I’m out of time, so the rest of my answers will be quick!”

“U know that it not so.”

“The speed and immediacy with which people can post content to the Internet is diminishing peoples’ sense of a need for checks and balances – and even for proofreading their own work. On the receiving end, reading so much poorly-written content is reducing peoples’ exposure to good writing, which I believe is a key element in learning the fundamentals of good writing. On the other hand, the ease of self-publishing is increasing the diversity of voices, reducing the strength of societal hegemony. This leads to something of a balancing out of power in terms of whose stories/viewpoints are told; but at the same time, there is a fracturing of the nation’s sense of a common culture (which may have been a misconception to start with).”

“As an interactive medium the Internet can only improve reading and writing. If there is any hunger for knowledge at all, there will be a drive to improve communication skills.”

“This is already happening – with crappy grammar the norm.”

“I don’t think that the Internet will have an effect one way or the other on reading and writing.”

“The Internet has and will promise improve the creation and exchange of human knowledge. While many have decried the Internet’s influence on the printed word, both as written and read, much of this is exaggerated. First, as it stands now, the Internet is largely a written medium. Individuals both consume considerable amounts of written material and, increasingly, create their own. The great writers of human history rendered their power into words and ideas, not ink on a page. Such texts will lose nothing when viewed in digital form. Second, language is an evolving medium. Evolutions that help spread human knowledge, understanding and enhance communication should be supported. If anything, greater emphasis should be placed on context specific communication. In some cases, exacting clarity will be required, but in most instances, whatever best conveys the ideas presented should be sufficient.”

“Writing has already improved as spelling checkers highlight incorrectly spelled words. As computing power gets better, semantic checking will also get better.”

“Reading, writing, and knowledge will meet the needs of the community it serves. Cursive writing may go out of style, for instance, but people will still need to read, write, type and communicate in order to be successful in a 21st century world.”

“If anything, the Internet encourages reading and writing, and gives users new ways to render knowledge.”

“I suspect that by 2020 there will be some increase in reading skill, since much of the Internet is presented in Web-based/textual form that requires reading. As far as writing or rendering of knowledge it isn’t that clear to me – I expect the trend of ‘tweeting’ to continue, which encourages more of a sound-bite style communication. Writing is a skill that is developed through study and work, to develop coherent points of view and present them in an understandable fashion. Given what I see as the future uses of the Internet, I don’t think it will encourage these types of behaviors, in and of itself or the entities that provide content.”

“Will reading and writing be altered?! Of course it will. Will it still be reading and writing? We don’t know, therefore we can’t tell if its better or worse, because its likely something different.”

“It’s already apparent that writing and expression of ideas have been degraded by such things as texting-driven abbreviation of language (LOL, OMG), movement away from personal and live-voice interactions and peer/crowd visibility inhibitions.”

“I really hate to agree with this statement, but those people who are only interested in finding ‘answers’ will be tempted not to read, think and formulate their own ideas about things.”

“A true fear about the Internet is that it will drive people away from in-depth reading and thought.”

“Sadly, I think that deep reading and writing are suffering, and will continue to suffer with Internet usage. Sound bites prevail! It is the one negative feature of the Internet.”

“I’ve done blogging, podcasting, and video. I’ve found that each level required additional forethought and refinement. To do an effective 3-minute video takes a whole lot more work, editing, and thoughtful integration of techniques and tools than blogging a few hundred words. Lazy video is poor video.”

“I find this very hard to answer as framed. I think that the Internet will broaden the proportion of the population capable of average sorts of effective writing and communication. However, it may well threaten the best writing, and reduce engagement by readers with extended arguments and ideas that challenge their preconceived notions and biases.”

“Already we are seeing shorthand text infiltrate essays written by teenagers, I can’t imagine it will get any better.”

“The Internet promotes reading and writing through its content and delivery. Even if content distribution focuses more on videos and images, we will still rely on reading, writing, and rendering for effective communication, regardless of the form of delivery.”

“To explain my choice should be more available learning options, and to share my views of the Internet’s influence on the future of knowledge-sharing in 2020, especially when it comes to reading and writing and other displays of information – laziness is likely to stay the same and on demands will be different. I think the future of books is in electronics forms. The positive side is that more will be available to everyone, and the negative side is that sometimes a book just feels good in your hands.”

“Although I think it likely that our reading and writing skills will change, even diminish, they may be replaced by an alternative style of information and knowledge exchange that has increasing value e.g. multiple citizen bloggers may be of greater relevance and usefulness over time. It doesn’t necessarily follow that the intelligent rendering of knowledge is also diminished.”

“Knowledge both in developed countries as well as developing and least-developed countries will increase by 2020.”

“I scan instead of read because of the volume of information I have to manage and process. I have to force myself to slow down and enjoy the words when I read a book nowadays.”

“The ability to read and type is essential in the future. Handwriting is going by the wayside, which is probably a good thing due to the readability of some handwritings. The future of books is electronic. Libraries will evolve to reference centers incorporating more computers than books eventually. Brick and mortar library buildings will become obsolete, allowing for electronic access to library materials.”

“Reading and writing are certainly evolving as new styles of gathering information and new genres of writing emerge online. The ways that people express themselves in 2020 will look strikingly different than they did in 1990. I’m not sure how we translate difference into a normative assessment of quality.”

“I am concerned about the affect of abbreviations, shorthand, lack of punctuation, spelling and grammar skills on the future of intelligent writing and reading. I refuse to give in to the acceptability of misuse or disuse of such writing skills, but I feel I am already in the minority. I fear proper use of written language will only decline with upcoming generations because of its acceptability online.”

“We’ve already seen that people love to interact via the Internet (and not just read), that I can’t imagine it won’t continue. Don’t ask about grammar though, given the 140-character traits being developed.”

“I don’t know if it will diminish or just change. Reading will always be there but the length of time reading one thing might change. Writing will definitely suffer, by our standards, but probably not by the creators. Schools will need to adapt how they teach writing, just like cursive disappearing now, and find ways to make it meaningful to the student/creator.”

“In the same way that the invention of the printing-press has had mixed results, the overall benefit is huge.”

“Writing will deteriorate into shorthand. Reading will continue, but be ‘impatient.’ Books will be electronic, except as gifts.”

“Punctuation, spelling, and polite conversation are not part of the e-mail/Internet experience.”

“Too many videos on the Internet and easy access to Internet television means that even the computer which once was focused upon reading readouts, now is killing the written word.”

“The dumbening of America has happened. We communicate fragments. Soundbites, talkingpoints, bumperstickers. Verbs are dead.”

“We already don’t read in the same manner that we used to. The Web has forced us to scan and pay attention to headlines and absorb a lot of information quickly, but I don’t know if our comprehension is any better as a result because of the disjointed manner in which we consume it. Books will be around but perhaps we will move to handheld electronic books in greater numbers.”

“On the whole, the Internet has decreased the attention span of some users. However, it may not be that writing is getting worse, but that more people can ‘self-publish’ and display ignorance and poor writing (and thinking) skills. It’s not clear to me that the total amount of good scholarship has decreased – in fact the opposite may be true.”

“We do not have to wait for 2020, I see it now in 2010.”

“It depends on what you call ‘improved.’ The Internet requires reading skills, but they are different from those needed to read a book, a math problem, or a newspaper, for example. A new way of reading will become evident. Writing will always vary. Take a look at the various examples found in blogs, online magazines or journals, or simple Web pages. I think the visual nature of the WWW will provide opportunities to experiment with the visual display of information and lead to design conventions that will support the acquisition of knowledge.”

“Books, newspapers, magazines are all going to go the way of the Internet, tablets and clean industry. How they will be paid for will vary, like it does today, library is a yearly membership, and some general news is overheard, and some special communication will be charged for. But in the future I get to be the curator, not someone else.”

“I don’t see writing skills improved, but I do see more intelligent rendering of knowledge. So, I’d say that I don’t like this question because I agree and disagree with different parts of it.”

“The Internet will become a powerful tool to expand opportunities to read, write and learn. Educational information can be tailored and presented in a way to suit specific learning styles. Children will be able to take advantage of online programs that teach them to read and write at a pace and format that optimizes comprehension and retention. The green movement will no doubt contribute to the decline of the published book. We’ve already seen the decline in demand for printed newpapers and magazines as factual information is increasingly consumed online. The introduction of the Kindle and similar e-book software heralded the end for published books.”

“The net result of all this is that people will become even more interested in reading, in acquiring knowledge; knowledge that forms a base that becomes a tool for their interactivity; knowledge that spurs them on to know more. People will become more interested in writing, in experimenting with ways of expressing themselves, as they do today in blogs and Twitter and MySpace and YouTube and Facebook.”

“And people will learn to participate in the creation and rendering of knowledge in groups rather than as Islands, Entire, or Otherwise.”

“The future of the book is assured. But not just the book as we know it; the future is in the books we cannot see today.”

“The easy access for authors to publish any and all writing (via blogs and popular discussion clearinghouses) adds noise to the fray, but the competition among authors for attention also benefits the quality of writing and writer available to editorial and publishing interests. Printed books may decline in popularity but they’re not going to vanish in a decade. You might see the book waning in the same way that printed photographs and film have.”

“I believe the Queen’s English is under attack, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that this impedes the future of knowledge-sharing. In fact, it has likely led to more democratization of written knowledge, because a new ‘online language’ emerged. Users of this language come from all walks of life – not just from formal education.”

“This will depend on the state of education in 2010 and how educators use the Internet to teach reading, writing, and the rendering of knowledge.”

“I have a concern that we are evolving into a society of opinion-based rather that fact-based knowledge and expertise.”

“The Internet forces us to read. If people do not read, this has to do with the school system not Internet!”

“While the Internet has made information more readily available, the rush to be the first to post something has increases errors tremendously. Coupled with the invention of text-abbreviations that are widely accepted, our use of proper grammar is greatly diminished.”

“This is also a complex and far from a black-and-white topic. Many people who are book lovers and scholars are appalled by trends in our culture, especially among the many young people who don’t read books, magazines, newspapers, etc., and who consequently have little idea or appreciation of what constitutes quality writing and thinking. But the distribution of information is far more widespread, diverse and even deep, if you look hard enough. So, by 2020, there will be just as little that will be clear about reading, writing and knowledge as there is today.”

“The risk is present.”

“The Internet will have enhanced reading and the rendering of knowledge, but not writing, in my estimation.”

“Change isn’t necessarily bad or good – it’s just change. Content and container are becoming more separate. It’s a change from the way things were, but it won’t change literacy rates or even necessarily comprehension rates, once those of us trained to the book get used to it.”

“Here’s what I’m worried about: we haven’t come up with any technology anywhere near as effective as books for communicating knowledge. In order to stand on the shoulders of giants, you have to be able to climb up there and understand the view. You really do have to read all the arguments, understand the various schools of thought, the fits and starts, in order to get somewhere new and interesting. Factoids without context are trivialities. Then, having thought a worthy thought, you have to be able communicate it or it will never have any impact in the world. Learning takes time and persistence, and there seems to be no substitute. You can’t do a Google search for wise, well thought out, understanding, synthesis, or innovation.”

“Modern technology is creating a form of attention deficit disorder that will seriously endanger the 300-plus-page book in the future. People’s attention spans have been seriously affected by the instant-gratification nature of the Internet and cell phones, and sitting down to read a book over several months will likely hold little appeal to the children of today. I estimate most people will be gravitating to reading more varied, but much shorter articles/blog posts/stories.”

“Written communication will be enhanced since computers effectively improve on human-authored media.”

“There is a great future for books, but there will probably be fewer among us able to write one.”

“I thought books were dead, until eBooks. Actually, I don’t know that the Internet will really affect reading rates. Smart people will read, whether it’s print or digital. Dumb people will watch entertainment video, whether it’s MTV or Hulu.”

“Enhanced? Improved? Diminished? It will be a change in the kind of knowledge sharing instead of a change of degree.”

“Reading and writing are changing for the better – and the Internet has a lot to do with this. A couple of things that are getting better: 1) New, more direct forms of writing are emerging. The tweet isn’t a travesty, it’s haiku. And, from a reading perspective, it moves us from direct linear narrative to ambient hypertextual narrative. That’s not worse than books, just different. 2) The Internet is making it easier for people to become multilingual, they self study to get access to the content they crave. I see this all the time as I travel the world. 3) Most important: more people are becoming more literate across media. Reading and, especially, writing isn’t just about words, it’s about words, images, motion, sound, data, and so on. The distinction between these forms of expression is disappearing, opening up whole new realms of human expression.”

“I work in a public library where I see many students lifting information from the Internet word for word and claiming it as their own work.”

“The Internet is made from words – it can only improve the quantity of reading done by our species. On the question of the quality, however, the jury is still hung.”

“I would tend to agree with critics who say that texting, IMs, status updates, twitter, etc. are reducing our practice of communicating more complex and nuanced thoughts. Also, the sheer quantity of information now available limits the amount of attention I can give to any one issue or particular text. People’s attention spans may be decreasing as a result, which may result in a shallower and less complete understanding of complex issues and ideas.”

“As with the previous question, the dichotomy set up in the above is not true and not false. The answer is that reading and writing will be different, not better or worse. That is always true when language changes. This I am sure about, because this is what I have studied for 20 years!”

“Books – printed on dead trees – will always be with us. What publishing looks like will change (more paperbacks, more indie lit, fewer hardcover bestsellers as they exist today because hardcovers are poor investment of resources in terms of materials and money). Where something is published, in what format, who publishes it, who promotes it will be different – gatekeepers are expensive and arguably unnecessary as they exist today. Big publishing houses are in trouble the way record labels are – but there will still be plenty of writers and readers, just like there are still plenty of bands.”

“By 2020 both reading and writing styles will have evolved to take advantage of the features provided by the Internet. The importance of structured thought and argument will not be diminished by the Internet, however how that thought is communicated will change to better reflect the opportunities the media offers.”

“Books in their current form will still be of importance, if only due to the natural longevity and convenience of the format.”

“Although grammar and spelling will suffer, the general writing and reading abilities of the average person will be improved by simply making so much more interesting content and contacts available.”

“Both are right – not for all people. ;-)”

“The interactivity, accessibility, and complements to literacy outweigh the relative ease of anyone to publish online. Democracy will bring out both the best and worst in a literate society.”

“As new generations grow up with cheap, easy access to a wide variety of information sources and online services, the current rates of illiteracy will continue to dwindle. While there will certain by new or enriched pidgins and shorthands for many things, the prevalence of job-related endeavors being done on computers will strengthen writing and other communication skills.”

“On the Internet people can communicate, create, share, learn. If it’s not turned into a passive broadcasting like medium it will have a positive effect. That said, I believe that all the possibilities will increase differences between people; between those who want to learn and create, and those who are more passive consumers.”

“If search engines remain as poor as they currently are over the next decade, then knowledge – meaning, structured information – will be as elusive as it is today. Hopefully, the ability to filter down information will finally catch up to the sheer volume of information out there. Tools that can structure this information would also be welcome, but would represent a major departure from what we know about cyberspace today.”

“Point and click. ’nuff said.”

“I don’t actually subscribe to either answer. New literary forms are engendered by the Internet, and it’s not necessarily helpful to term them either better or worse than their predecessors.”

“The key here is knowledge. Information yes, knowledge no.”

“It’s hard to imagine that we are still using a keyboard designed 100 years ago to prevent mechanical jams but we are. Reading and writing a likely more persistent than we think. I think there is a serious question of editing that is more important that writing. Too many voices reduce the signal to noise ratio and too few excludes popular voices. We don’t know how to fix this and all the efforts so far are just first steps at accommodating a new freedom to contribute to public discourse. Wikipedia, blogs, SMS, social filters all have upsides and down. One hopes that society as whole can place these things in perspective and get the best from them. Early signs are mixed, but there is no alternative that comes to mind to do it better.”

“The Internet makes it possible to read what you want to read, when you want to read it. This would seem to stimulate intellectual growth, along with the enhanced effectiveness of written communication. This is with the assumption that a text reader/voice is not used.”

“The Internet also makes it possible for you to share your thoughts (in writing, by sound or video, via photographs, etc.) with the world.”

“I fear for the worst in this regard!”

“The Internet-related language has to be necessarily simplified.”

“The type of reading and writing will change but the skill set will improve. Some may argue this change represents a decline but it’s not.”

>> Click here to return to the Future of the Internet survey homepage
>> Click here to read for-credit respondents’ responses to this question