Playing the Blame Game

I could not stop myself from being annoyed when I read Nicholas Carr’s article regarding Google making us stupid. The idea that the Internet is “making” us unable to read longer or think deeply seems like a personal problem more than one shared by society at large. Carr points to a study conducted by the University College London where they found the subjects “bounced” from site to site and “skimmed” the material instead of reading it at length, but I could not disagree more with their interpretation of what this may mean. His (and their) take from this is that people are losing the ability to interpret text, but what I think is that our ability to interpret anything has not diminished, but rather requires much more sifting to get to what actually is worth interpreting.

This may sound harsh, but I think it is more of an issue with humans who like to try and find things other than themselves to blame for possible shortcomings. These may be intelligent people who are saying media is influencing our thinking process, but I think there has to be a willingness to take ownership when you know you should be doing something else (i.e. read an entire book!). Do not get me wrong, reading long books/papers is not in my top five favorite things to do with my time, but if/when I have to I find some way to read it because I know I need to read these words to extract what I want to learn from them.

So, there is the side where we can just disconnect ourselves, but on the same side of this coin is what Jason Farman’s article discussed, which was that just assuming our new connections are not contributing to meaningful and engaging interactions themselves and/or offering a lot of opportunities for collaborative, thought-provoking discussions is doing the Internet a disservice and is just straight up incorrect. We have plenty of examples of our modern media dependency being a negative impact on our daily lives, but I think (and Jason would as well) there are way more positive benefits from our connections that we can use and will have to use because this is not changing anytime soon.

9 thoughts on “Playing the Blame Game”

  1. So yes, as you describe it is our mindset and choice to blame others or other things. We are not getting dumber, we just realize all of the things we don’t know instead of remaining ignorant. In way that is actually really important. Having context for your knowledge and its limits makes you a more responsible academic.

    Therefore, Being able to find where information we don’t know is, becomes the new skill. I like to think of it as though I am now a cyborg. Google is my mind in the computer, helping me to find and learn more. I am the filter for all of this information and have the ability to synthesize new information from it. Google is an aid, but not the determiner of my understanding.

  2. I totally agree with you that there are way more positive benefits from our internet connections, and the side effects are just some personal problems. Just like the invention and prevailing use of transportation technology. Some people might be unlucky enough to be killed while using this technology, but are we to say that we need to abandon this form of transportation??

  3. I agree I found the Nicholas Carr’s article to be annoying, because it made too many assumptions and generalization about the Internet for me to agree with it. I think Carr assumes that individuals used to sit down and read a book word for word and it was wonderful and no one ever skimmed a book. It’s this revisionism of how everything used to be better, but how do we know for certain? Yes, when individuals only had a handful books they read, then yes, they probably read them cover to cover. However, the study he mentioned doesn’t in fact show that in the past we were any better. It only addresses what the individuals are doing now on the Internet and what individuals today are doing. I do wonder what are they defining as a short attention span. For example, the pathologist saying he couldn’t read War and Peace anymore. What did he mean? (That’s one of the longest novels and it’s Russian literature and it’s considered to be one of the greatest novels in literature. What is he expecting to be able to read all 1,000 pages in one sitting?) To me, it doesn’t make sense. You can’t compare reading an online article to reading Tolstoy. “Skimming material” isn’t a new concept. If anything, I think the Internet has made us more impatient, especially when it comes to ourselves.

  4. Globalization and internet connection are related. I don’t agree with the arguments posed in the “Google is Making Us Stupid”. If it weren’t for Google Scholar, I’m not sure how I’d proceed with my graduate research given the strict time lot I have to complete my literature review. I agree with you saying. It is individually important that people make what they can from the technology provided. Of course, the concept of globalization extends much further than internet connection, but its absolutely necessary that we have technology to make it easier to connect to people around the globe and to speed up practically every form of discipline in the world (e.g., designing a building, carrying out a video conference, etc.).

  5. Thank you for your honest post! I agree that there are two sides of the coin here. I also agree with this statement: “This may sound harsh, but I think it is more of an issue with humans who like to try and find things other than themselves to blame for possible shortcomings.” I do think that it is important to self-evaluate the real cause for a lack of focus. Regardless of the cause, we cannot take away technology from the world but we can practice self-control (so might as well focus on the latter then)!

  6. It is refreshing to read that you guys have similar perspectives. I have seen studies that quantify the amount mental decisions that are made when we surf the web. It is really impressive how we are making millions of decisions by reading, understanding, moving a cursor, listening, locating and observing differences in images (e.g., web browser controls). Such mental decisions are way different from the ones we experience by reading a paper book or a news paper… So, is our brain going “numb” by using digital technology or we are just using other parts of it for similar proposes?

  7. I see your point and I agree somewhat but I don’t think the blame is fully on humans and I’ll explain. Most of us grew up without the plethora of technology that we have today and therefore we can make a choice not to get plugged in to this ‘crazy’ world of hi-tech but people born into this new system almost have no hope (i use the word hope lightly) since that’s all they know. I don’t think they are to blame for having short attention spans etc.

  8. I agree with you. I think that the internet (or Google) is a tool, just like anything other technology, that depending on our usage to it will result in negative or positive impact on our life. The internet made valuable information available to us and made connections and interactions to other people easier and much more efficient. What we do with our time and our interaction is up to us and only us.

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