Reading Blog 5 – September 21, 2015

“Is Google Making Us Stupid?” (p. 63-76) by Nicholas Carr from “The Digital Divide: Arguments for and Against Facebook, Google, Texting, and the Age of Social Networking.”

Today’s reading assignment elaborated on the idea of the neuroplasticity and malleability of our brains. Nicholas Carr, the author of this week’s essay, talks about how peoples’ brains are different since the increase in popularity of search engines such as Google. He proposes the idea that our brains have been rewired, which makes skills such as reading and critical thinking look different in this day and age. He argues that people these days are no longer attracted to the idea of reading pages upon pages of writing. Instead, since the establishment of the internet, people are more interested in learning about the main idea of things. When people read things on the internet, they jump around, clicking on different links. People would rather have reading be quick, short, and to the point. Reading is no longer a continuous process which requires your full attention, because peoples’ concentration seems to flitter with every paragraph. According to Carr, traditional reading has become a thing of the past, and people actually go online just to avoid it. This essay relates a lot to Mark Prensky’s essay about digital natives and digital immigrants. Except, Carr’s essay seems to be looking at the malleability of our brains in a negative sense, rather than Prensky’s positive one. Carr has concerns about the “digital native” lifestyle, and how they value “maximum speed, maximum efficiency, and maximum output” (Carr 71). He believes that this state of mind makes digital natives seem like machines because of their reliance on computers. Overall, Carr is concerned with the way that people in this day and age acquire and interpret information, and whether this information turns into our own genuine intelligence or artificial intelligence.

Links

  1. “How the Internet Is Changing Your Brain” http://academicearth.org/electives/internet-changing-your-brain/ – This article talks about how searching things on Google isn’t as beneficial as people think it is. Searching information on a search engine actually affects the way your brain retains information, which is kind of what Carr was talking about in his essay.
  2. “Google Is Making Us Stupid and Smart At The Same Time” http://www.thewire.com/technology/2011/07/google-making-us-stupid-and-smart-same-time/40007/ – Most of the brain activity talked about in this article concerns memory. Like the previous article, this one says that Google can be harmful to your memory because it is rewiring the way we remember things. Also, multitasking on Google doesn’t exactly help us to retain information well. However, the article also argues that using Google positively affects the parts of our brain that deal with decision-making and complex reasoning.
  3. “Google does a brain good” http://www.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/10/14/google.brain/ – This article describes a study that was done on elderly people, which tested whether their brain had more activity when reading a book or using the internet. The study shows that these elderly people had more brain activity when using the internet. Though both activities use the same parts of the brain, the internet stimulates more activity in the decision-making and complex reasoning part of the brain, which was mentioned in the article above as well.

Discussion Questions:

  1. If we looked at Google through Carr’s lens, then wouldn’t it be detrimental to employ educational programs based on the internet and new technology?
  2. How does non-linear reading due to online search engines affect the way children and teenagers are learning in school? Does it benefit them, because they can read large amounts of texts and get the point quickly? Or does it harm them, because they don’t retain anything long term?
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