This is a response that I wrote and didn't know if I was 100% in agreement with my own thoughts. So instead of sending it, I decided to post it here.
I am with Rachel and Chris on this one. I do have a bit of a caveat.
With shorter attention spans, there is less time to communicate complicated concepts. Bullet pointed, sound bite news is a symptom (or perhaps a cause) of such a phenomenon. As Postman argues in 'Amusing Ourselves to Death' there is also a danger that television has turned all information into entertainment. I think that argument could be expanded to include the examples in Dr. Arola's initial email (chatting et al). If all information is thought of as entertainment, where does the urge to act come in? Perhaps this paradigm is what got leaders to buy the graphic artists rendition of railway car laboratories in Iraq? I think that the web also has this possibility, but that the relationship has a rather interesting twist. If information is characterized as entertainment then at some point there is an equality of value. Once that milestone has been reached the relationship can be inverted and entertainment can be utilized as a pedagogical tool. It is my opinion that we are there.
Jonathan R. White presents an idea that terrorists are created when a threshold is passed that he references as the "Doctrine of Necessity". The concept revolves around the idea that there is a point where it is morally apprehensible to remain inactive. About 8 years ago the Presidency of the United States of America was (arguably) given to a man whose brother was the Governor and who had not won the popular vote. The American public did not react beyond some outrage. Was it faith in the positivist system? Or was it simply that the story was dramatic enough to be entertaining...a Law & Order/Westwing episode.
While I am not about to play the role of a small fowl or forward the idea that we (as a class or citizenry) take up non-symmetrical warfare, rather that through the changing forms of media content has also been shaped. I would like to take the position that literacy in terms of Wysocki's & Johnson-Eilola's article is the best way I would say that the term could be defined. On page 367 they refer to literacy as 'often contradictory', 'clouds of positions' to paraphrase. From that position it is possible to recognize that there is some credence to the apprehension that people are not reading as much or as long, but it also recognizes that there are other ways in which that population is becoming articulate.