Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Internet and Society - Swept into Superficiality

Smallwood reviews Carr's recent book "The Shallows - What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains"
As was the case for books, the development of the Internet has had a powerful influence on the way we think...In today's world of Google and Wikipedia, one hardly needs to be able to remember anything at all...Sites such as Facebook allow us to maintain social groups that far exceed the size of those in pre-Internet society...Carr's radical message is that the volume of content that we can access is increasing with a trajectory that outstrips even the most optimistic rates of evolutionary change for the physical matter of our brains. Carr argues that faced with this blizzard of content, we can no longer engage in detailed and thoughtful analysis. Rather, the rapid expansion in information has been accompanied by an increasingly superficial level of analysis.

Carr also proposes that the Internet's influence on our cognition is amplified by its design. One of Google's stated aims is to make knowledge as accessible as possible. In sharp contrast to authors such as Tolstoy or Steinbeck who demanded studious attention from their readers, the Internet aims to deliver an information fix with minimal effort...Search engines are not only experts in providing content, they are also experts in what we want...unlike books, which yielded cultural change that emphasized concentration and disciplined thought, the Internet (either by design or accident) is creating a society that specializes in the superficial.

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