Throughout Nicholas Carr’s piece of is ‘Google making us Stupid’. Carr is describing the overabundance of information that is readily available over the internet. Arguing that due to a sheer volume of information not only have we altered our methods of taking in information, but this volume of knowledge has led to a drop in intelligence and intellectual pieces.

Being a frequent Google-user myself, I have concerns with Carr’s argument. His reasoning behind his disagreement is that Google is primary representative of how the Internet is rewiring our brain and changing the way we think. Before Google, Carr states how we would ‘deep read’ which would progress into us making our own associations, draw our own inferences and analogies, and foster our own ideas.

Carr argues the youth of today favour more unrefined and trashy pieces opposed to literary work such as Tolstoy’s War & Peace. Yes this may be true that the level of writing and prose has dropped since search engines have been implemented. But as Clay Shirky (2009) states “Whenever the abundance of written material spikes, the average quality of written material falls, as a side-effect of volume.” Taking Shirky’s statement into account, and coupling that with the ease of which anyone can at a few clicks of a mouse upload, and publish pieces that are available to the whole world. Which as Shirky described can easily account for the drop in quality. But this isn’t really an issue that should be taken into account. As Carr’s idea is a rather trivial argument due to the fact that if one wants to avoid such works then merely avoid clicking the link or actively refuse to read such pieces.

Next Carr states that the ability to concentrate, absorb and regurgitate information has diminished as a by-product of cyber-skimming.

As part of a five-year research program, scholars studied computer logs documenting the behaviour of visitors to two popular research sites. One was operated by the British Library and one that provided access to journal articles, e-books, and other sources of written information. It was found that people using the sites exhibited “a form of skimming activity,” bouncing from one source to another and rarely returning to any source they’d already visited. They typically read no more than one or two pages of an article or book before they would “bounce” out to another site.

Who here believes that skimming is a negative trait?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yOkHjcKDlm8

Carr debates upon the negative impact this is having on our youth. Although this may be true, we can view this form of cyber skimming as just a new and a more efficient way of studying. This new form of studying/reading is definitely relevant towards technological progression. As when vast steps forward in technology take place it is only natural that new forms of behaviour relating to studying surface. As Shirky (2009) states “Carr is correct that there is cultural sacrifice in the transformation of the media landscape, but this is hardly the first time that has happened.” To which Shirky goes onto discuss similar effects associated with Gutenberg’s printing press. The issue of is Google making us stupid isn’t the real question here. As the notion of technological advances creating a drop in intelligence cannot be related back to a system that in its own right has no ability to directly affect human action or persuade our thinking. As it isn’t the fault of search engines that people prefer less then academic information. It is more so the fact that people are utilising technology to pander to their wants and needs. As it would be fairly obvious that most of us would prefer to read an entertainment magazine then delve into a 1200 page novel. It’s not this overabundance of information that is making people stupid. But more it is a progression and realisation that society prefers to indulge in escapism as the stress of day to day life has never been as high as it is now.

Google is the perfect search engine; doesn’t it give you exactly what you want? Its information is a kind of product, and the more pieces of information we can “access” and the faster we can extract the substance, the more productive we become as thinkers.

However just as there’s a tendency to praise technological progress, there’s a countertendency to expect the worst of every new tool or machine. Throughout Carr’s article, he reaches out to various historical examples in which technology changed human behavior. These examples range from the clock helping us decide “when to eat, to work, to sleep, and then when to get up.” the stopwatch increasing factory productivity and even the printing press. These examples only weaken Carr’s argument as they each assisted human beings perform more tasks, further demonstrating the flexibility of the human mind.

The Internet, an immeasurably powerful computing system, is incorporating most of our other intellectual technologies. It’s becoming our map and our clock, our printing press and our typewriter, our calculator and our telephone, and our radio and TV.

Carr himself called the Web a “godsend”. It saved him a considerable amount of time whilst conducting his own research and writing. This is exactly the point: Google makes information much more accessible to us, as we determine what information we consume and what information to ignore.

Is Google Making Us Smarter?

To continue along this video stipulates how Google makes us smarter. Comparing brain scans with people who have never or rarely used the internet, compared to people who are well adverse with the internet and search engines. The findings indicate that people who were proficient with the internet and in particular using Google displayed far greater levels of learning in the parts of the brain that take care of information reattainment. The participants who were not adverse with the internet or search engines were told to spend an hour each day for a week practising the craft of probing on search engines. They discovered that the area of the brain responsible for learning had increased significantly after the 7 days of practising on the search engines.

Although Carr makes some good points specifically about how the level of writing has dropped since the widespread commercial use of the internet has taken place, and also the use of cyber-skimming to learn. They ultimately fall on deaf ears. Firstly his criticism of the degradation of writing is valid but as mentioned before is trivial. As we have the option to ignore such pieces. Secondly his remarks about our cyber-skimming seemed to indicate that it will, and has affected our ability to take in information. To which I would counter is incorrect as it allows for us to take in far greater amounts of various pieces. This means our personal library of information contains opinions and views from far more sources, this allows for a greater and more articulated assessment on various topics.

Do you believe that with the explosion of search engines that our ability to analyse, critique, argue and write pieces has been compromised? Or has this ability increased due to the substantial amount of numerous views and opinions that we can use to derive our answers from?

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