The article deals with the influence of the Internet on our cognitive processes. The author notices that, with the development of the World Wide Web, his reading skills are not what they used to be. Carr points out that immersing himself in a book is more complicated than before, with concentration drifting after two or three pages. The author’s main position is that technological advance since the creation of the alphabet has been influencing the human mind for the worse and that further technological development will make people robot-like.
One of the critical points of the article is that the Internet has changed the way people think. Carr says that the media “shape the process of thought” (90). The Internet shapes its user’s mind to be more like its form of work, a stream of particles as a type of media. This comes as a price for the accessibility of information, and Carr’s acquaintances mention having the same problems. For example, they struggle to stay focused on the text, referring to their changed thinking as a possible reason. Therefore, Carr is not alone in his opinion that the human mind changes under technological influence.
Carr then turns to scientific literature, an analysis of which assures him that skimming is the processing method of choice for Internet users. Scholars from London, as he attests, examined computer logs operated by U.K. educational institutions and found out that users hopped between sources, only stopping by longer articles when they could download them. Another researcher, Maryanne Wolf, claims that the main reason for the change is that the Net promotes reading as an efficient and fast way of obtaining information, limiting deep reading and interpretation. Thus, the studies prove that users do not read online traditionally, with newer principles reshaping reading to suit its modern function better.
In Carr’s opinion, the Net scatters attention and concentration while using other media. The Web has connections with other media both in and out of itself. Namely, it provides the functionality of clocks, newspapers, TV, and other devices, rebuilding it in its image, and creating hyperlinks and notifications all over said functionality. On the other hand, the Internet is now so widespread that people get used to its format of providing information. Other media, such as TV and newspapers, have to adapt, mimicking the Internet with its pop-ups and summaries. Therefore, the influence of the Web is deeply rooted within other media as well.
Admitting that he might be overreacting, Carr turns to similar skepticism of the past. He mentions how in Plato’s works, Socrates criticized writing for decreasing people’s memory, while Hieronimo Squarciafico had his worries about Gutenberg’s printing press. Carr himself is mainly troubled by the opinion that changing the main principles of reading makes people lose the thinking process that takes place along the thoughtful, slow, and undistracted reading. Carr says that all of these worries were based on a valid foundation, but the skepticism overlooked the many advantages the novelties brought. Thus, as Carr admits, readers should question his doubt, as it might be subjective.
Nicholas Carr’s position that technological advance influences the human mind is based on his personal experience, his acquaintances’ experience, and studies of the human mind, both modern and ancient. The Internet changes how we think and read, overtaking other media’s roles by absorbing them and making their remaining traditional forms copycat it by utilizing its functions. While Carr admits that his conservatism has its flaws, his points still stand.
Carr, Nicholas. “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education, vol. 107, no. 2, 2008, pp. 89–94. Crossref, Web.