Adapting to the Internet Age

Today, I looked over two separate articles regarding digital communication’s impact on its users. See my responses below.
Is Google Making Us Stupid? by Nicholas Carr

I have wondered this question quite a few times, but Carr enhances it to include not only Google, but the Internet itself. This was fascinating to me, as I had just stated that I am concerned with the direction the Internet is taking us; Carr’s main purpose is to share his skepticism about our Internet-centered future and its potentially dangerous repercussions.

Reading. He first suggests our comprehension and contemplation skills are decreasing. He says that finding reading daunting is common of himself and colleagues which only concerned me. If devoted scholars struggle to read academic material, what does that mean for middle school students? I appreciated that Carr’s work was eight pages instead of a bulleted list or shorter article. He didn’t condense his content to fit our flitting minds, but instead offered a challenge to readers. By discussing reading first, Carr called my attention to my reading habits, so I did my best to read for comprehension instead of skimming. I hope it had the same effect on other readers.

Internet. We move in “staccato” motions like never before, due to creations like browser tabs. I fall prey to tabbed browsing every time I open the Internet. At any given time (including now), I have email, social sites, music and academic work in tabs across my screen. This is related to the idea that “we may well be reading more today than we did in the 1970s or 1980s;” with five tabs open, I am exposed to many different things at once: a benefit. However, these tabs create distractions, decreasing the quality of my attention to any one site or activity.

“The human brain is infinitely malleable.”

Brain “Damage”? Then Carr took his ideas to the next level. Some think that since our generation grew up reading books and playing outside we are somehow protected from potential damage. Carr states, and supports with scientific findings, that that is simply not a safe bet. Our brains, even as adults, constantly change. So, concerns should arise about the effect of spending too much time skimming texts and paying half-attention in the face of constant distractions.

Old Media. These have evolved to include the same wild distractions seen on the Internet. This reminds me of Anchorman 2, a film that recently hit theaters. While the humor is raunchy and the script is far from academic, it outlines the shift from nightly to 24-hour news. One scene features Ron Burgandy (news anchor) asking for “more graphics” during the newscast to better entertain his audience. He ends up boxed in, with moving tickers on all four sides of the screen.

For me, that may summarize the Internet. We cry for more and we get it. Perhaps we’re excited about the multitude of information available, but we slowly lose the ability to focus on even the most important portion. New problems arise and others fall. What Carr ultimately decides is that the Internet provides both positive and negative tools. I think that education and awareness may help diminish the negative over time, however Carr suggests that our own intelligence may “flatten into artificial intelligence.”

Introduction: Electracy by Ulmer

This one was a bit more dense, as it introduces a term that many of us have never heard of. I think I can do it justice best by defining the term. Its counterparts are “literacy” and “orality” and the term serves to supplement those with a “third dimension of thought and identity” because the two do not accommodate new, digital technology. This skill is becoming necessary in our growing technological environment and focuses on satisfaction and pleasure/pain and recorded images.

Ulmer suggests a disconnect between first and second nature, nature and culture, which made me question if the Internet will one day become closer to first nature. It also reminded me of Carr’s article, as he explained that reading is not natural, but a skill that is learned over time due to societal expectations. Ulmer also states that “this formal construction must be taught in school” which also relates to my conclusion about the Internet after reading Carr’s article. Education is important in solving potential problems in the future, or avoiding them altogether.

The article suggests that it is important to “imagine what it might be two millennia into the future.” This is necessary, and important in planning educational programs that include electracy.

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