By Bill Tsutsui
Chair, AAS Editorial Board
Like many faculty members these days, I am prone to fault college students (not to mention most of my fellow Americans) for their ever-shorter attention spans. 140 characters is, after all, not long enough for a decent subordinate clause, many cherished phrases of academic jargon, or some lengthy place names in Thailand.
And yet, when I am completely honest with myself, I have to admit that I too become fidgety during 50-minute lectures, have been known to criticize two-hour movies as “just endless,” and tend to shy away from big, thick volumes on bookstore shelves. In our information-saturated lives, there is much to appreciate in the expression of complex ideas in forms that are focused, clear, and concise. Brevity need not mean superficiality, or suggest any lacking of ambition or effort. As the philosopher Blaise Pascal once famously stated, “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.”
In recent years, the aca ...