The Shallows: How the Internet is Changing the Way We Think, Read and Remember
by Nicholas Carr. RRP: £16.99, Publisher: ATLANTIC BOOKS
Publication Date : September 1, 2010
Excerpts the Guardian article on Carr’s thesis from guardian.co.uk home
The internet: is it changing the way we think? Are our minds being altered due to our increasing reliance on search engines, social networking sites and other digital technologies?
American writer Nicholas Carr’s claim that the internet is not only shaping our lives but physically altering our brains has sparked a lively and ongoing debate, says John Naughton. Below, a selection of writers and experts offer their opinion
“Over the past few years,” Carr wrote, “I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going – so far as I can tell – but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.”
The title of the essay is misleading, because Carr’s target was not really the world’s leading search engine, but the impact that ubiquitous, always-on networking is having on our cognitive processes. His argument was that our deepening dependence on networking technology is indeed changing not only the way we think, but also the structure of our brains.
Carr’s article touched a nerve and has provoked a lively, ongoing debate on the net and in print (he has now expanded it into a book, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains). This is partly because he’s an engaging writer who has vividly articulated the unease that many adults feel about the way their modi operandi have changed in response to ubiquitous networking. Who bothers to write down or memorise detailed information any more, for example, when they know that Google will always retrieve it if it’s needed again? The web has become, in a way, a global prosthesis for our collective memory.
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