Open thread for discussion of material from week 2…

43 thoughts on “Discussion

  1. Considering how I feel about the internet, I was skeptical about reading an article titled “Is Google Making us Stupid?”. To me, the answer is obvious, and I expected to spend the entire time laughing at this old fashioned man who finds it impossible to focus not that new technologies are around to provide a distraction. So when I started reading and found myself agreeing with some of his points, I was uncomfortable. It’s a lot more fun to feel completely superior over an opponent than to have to seriously consider his discussion about how the use of a typewriter alone changed Nietzsche’s writing style and the way the Google search engine itself is going to change the way we take in information.

    But Clay Shirky’s response in the article “Why Abundance is Good” helped me resolve some of my complicated feelings over Nick Carr’s article. Shirky establishes the validity of Carr’s concerns over the way the media is shaping our minds, but quickly moves onto addressing some of the underlying concerns of the piece. One particularly striking quote says, “The threat isn’t that people will stop reading War and Peace. That day is long since past. The threat is that people will stop genuflecting to the idea of reading War and Peace.” As a literature major who has done her best to avoid the vast majority of classic high literature because I often find it boring and irrelevant (and felt this way long before I ever owned a personal computer), this quote helped me locate one of the sources of the argument Carr is making, and settle my own position in the counter argument.

    This isn’t to say that reading long works has no value at all, and the idea of losing the ability to engage with any of these entirely is a bit tragic. But if I can sit down and read a 588,000 word fanfiction in a few days (for reference, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is 257, 045 words, and War and Peace is 561, 304 words), then clearly the issue is not my attention span. Instead, it must be the subject matter and its presentation. Rather than the internet destroying our ability to make deep connections, I see people around me constantly analyzing films and tv shows down to the most minute details and engaging in character analysis of the sort that would make an English teacher weep at its intense depth. Around me I constantly see people reading, thinking, writing, and creating in a way that leaves me far more aware of what I’m watching, and more engaged than I ever was reading Great Expectations.

    I know it is still early in the quarter, but as of right now I find myself firmly on Shirky’s side of the argument. The abundance I see all around me is good. I do feel like I’m getting smarter in ways that I can hardly begin to understand. And I can’t wait to see where we go with this.

  2. When reading Nick Carr’s article, I found myself agreeing with a few of his points in the same way that Shirky does. Like Lindsay, I too was disconcerted by the fact that I had agreed with many of Carr’s points, but found resolution in those feelings after turning to Shirky’s article. However, I do feel that, at least for me personally, the changes in my reading habits aren’t only related to content and structure.

    Recently, I attempted to read a book, it was the fifth book in a twelve book series that I had been reading rather quickly. At the time, I wasn’t sure sure what it was about this book, but I skipped almost half of it, or rather I skimmed it. After finishing the book, or at least getting to the last page, I reflected on what reason I may have had for skipping so much of it when the previous books in the series I had read so attentively. I realized that many of the chapters I skipped were chapters in which the three “main” characters of the series were not even mentioned at all. I realized that my motivations for reading the book (and many other stories that I had read recently) were different than they once were. I don’t read for the whole story anymore, I skim for the parts of the story I’m actually interested in and skip the rest. I find myself doing this with everything from news articles, to fanfictions, to books. The subplots of the story aren’t as interesting as the main plots.

    To attempt to bring this rather disjointed discussion response back to the articles that we were reading, I will say this: I agree with Carr’s statements about how the internet is changing the way in which we read and process information, and that may be a bad thing. However, the “depth” that has been lost in our ability to read has been replaced by enormous breadth in which people can find detailed and precise information about topics that they may not have even heard of before in the space of just a couple clicks. There is a lot of fine tuning to be done with the internet and possibly once that has been done, we will find different and better ways to engage with the content in a deeper and “more meaningful” way.

  3. Shirky and Carr both mention that people are reading more now than they did after the introduction of the television. This led me to question why people are so upset and what counts as valued reading. As we go through school, we are taught to value the importance of the “classics.” It’s never been clear what makes a book a classic, but it seems to follow a formula for the most part: it must be written in the 18th or 19th century and it must be written in some European country. It should not be a surprise that 21st century American teenagers are uninterested in the lifestyles of 19th century England or Russia. It is difficult for young readers to connect to these authors and characters when it feels as if they do not share a language or social structure.

    People are reading but the culture has shifted away from the “classics” like War and Peace. Shirky says, “the return of reading has not brought about the return of the cultural icons we’d been emptily praising all these years.” I question whether this is an actual problem. I have personally never read War and Peace and I doubt I ever will. I’m sure that Tolstoy is a masterful writer, but I doubt War and Peace would have lasted so long if it was not being forced down students’ throats. I know that I was always more interested in the modern books presented to me in my high school English classes than I was in most of the “classics.” Books such as Brave New World and The Bluest Eye held my attention where Milton and Dickens failed. Times change and the public ignores plenty of modern writers who can write just as well as their older counterparts because their works are not “classics.” It is okay for literary culture to change and adapt with its audience.

  4. “If we lose those quiet spaces, or fill them up with “content,” we will sacrifice something important not only in our selves but in our culture.”

    This line in Carr’s “Is Google Making Us Stupid” stood out to me for a few reasons. These “quiet places” are places where we throw ourselves in deep thought, and with the attention span of a fruit fly, I find it’s increasingly harder to simply immerse myself in deep thought, making me question if the Internet has made me this way. However, I don’t necessarily believe that our society is ‘dumbing’ down because of this. Carr references how technological advances such as the printing press and writing have caused uproar throughout history, and living in a world of constant flux, I believe any technological improvement will have its skeptics. Society does not move from point A to point B overnight, but rather changes fluidly. This has led me to be “skeptical of [Carr’s] skepticism” – while our minds are being rewired by flashing screens and monitors, there’s no going back. How can we sacrifice our culture when we don’t even have a clear-cut definition of what our culture is? It’s not something that we’ve misplaced or lost, but rather our way of life that continuously adapts.

    Shirky’s reply to Nick Carr points out that because of the Internet, humans now have the means to improve themselves. I believe we should appreciate the abundance the web has provided not only individuals, but also society in general. Education has improved, jobs are created, and little by little, society employs the Internet to its advantage. The Internet has provided a completely new form of medium that we are learning to utilize, from blogs, to video, to how we share our everyday lives. Instant communication outlets have connected people across the world in ways that no one could have imagined a century ago.

    Cascio share a similar viewpoint that there is no going back. We can undo what is so ingrained in our everyday lives. The only direction is forward, and to him, ‘intelligence augmentation’ might be the direction we’re taking. Cascio embraces the era of the cyborg and super-genius, a notion that seems like it belongs in bad science fiction movie. At the end of his article, Cascio states that the technological diversity brings together insight, creativity, and innovation, a positive future that has its roots in how we approach the Internet today.

  5. Nick Carr’s “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” certainly raises a few valid and even uncomfortable points about how dependent we are on technology. Carr may come off as a strong advocate against the internet (and really, just technology overall), but I could not help but agree with him when he claims that we are changing the way we read and think, because on a personal level, I can relate. When I was younger, it was incredibly easy for me to become lost in a book or even an article. Nowadays, there are just so many distractions that I feel that I have become a bit “scatter-brained”. I find it extremely difficult to read past 7 pages of a novel without checking my phone or lifting my eyes from what I am reading to check if I have any new Facebook notifications. It is even worse with online articles as I am constantly switching between what I am reading and the latest Facebook update (or what-have-you).

    However, Shirky’s “Why Abundance is Good” offered the other side of the argument and even reassured me about how we use the internet today. We definitely do have a dependency on the net, yet at the same time, this may not be a bad thing. The internet offers many opportunities and information is now more easily accessible than ever. It can definitely be very distracting because of its seemingly infinite webpages of information, games, and entertainment, but it has certainly made our lives significantly easier.

    While I agree with Carr that technology and the internet has changed the way we read/think, I do not think that it has made us stupid. If anything, it has made information more readily accessible and has made our lives more convenient. We may have become more distracted by all the information that is now available to us resulting in the loss of becoming deeply engaged in the works we read, but this can be improved. The internet is still a relatively new medium and perhaps that is a reason why some (or perhaps many) of us still have a hard time accepting it, but we cannot deny that it has improved the way we live and acquire information.

  6. It was ironic and I literally laughed out loud as I had to search “Is Google Making Us Stupid” in the google search tab. However, that just comes to show how information is at our fingertips. After reading Nicholas Carr’s article, I would have to agree that there really are consequences with having information so easily accessible. Speaking from my own personal experience, I find myself easily distracted when trying to read. For example, no matter what I am reading (novel, article,email) I constantly find myself checking my phone, instagram, twitter, snapchat, etc. This allowed me to reflect on how my reading patterns have changed over time. When I was younger, I did not have a phone or a computer so it was easy to concentrate and immerse myself in deep reading. Now I find that harder to do. As a result, the internet really has affected my deep concentration and thought because I direct my focus elsewhere. Therefore, I would have to agree with what Clay Shirky mentions in her article. The internet is not bad but I understand how we as consumers grapple with the challenge of keeping these “distractions at bay”.

  7. One of the interesting points made by Nick Carr’s “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” is how the access to the Web has tuned the mind towards a more glancing method of information intake. Carr makes the argument that the web itself displays information “in a swiftly moving stream of particles.” He then speculates that since many of his other friends have noted similar effects, maybe the mind is not getting slower but rather changing its way of thinking. The need to always be plugged in is like an itch waiting to be scratched and it is hard to take in huge amounts of reading before the mind drifts off on its own. This really does make the average person appear slower and more distracted than before.

    This did seem plausible, but I still felt like Carr was a bit paranoid with forward movement and I found that his skepticism over the abundance of information was a bit unfounded. Shirky’s response to Carr covered many of the points I felt when going over Carr’s original article. The internet is a good source of information and many argue that it puts freedom at your fingertips. It is overwhelmingly helpful to the point that it can no longer be completely avoided. It also provides a means of improving efficiency that was impossible without it. Being a content creator myself, I feel especially strong about this point.

    The internet is indeed changing the way people’s minds work, but perhaps being wired into this new system is a far greater improvement than it is a detriment. It acts like a crutch that we can lean on, but with this crutch, it gives us access to growth and information at speeds that were previously unobtainable.

  8. First with Carr’s, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?,” I could relate very heavily to what he was saying. Carr says, “ 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…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.” That could not be further from the truth. When starting a book, doing as assignment, even doing this assignment, I see myself being distracted or unconsciously seeing my attention switched to another subject as Netflix or my phone nearby. I agree with the other notion that we are being dragged along with information instead doing the critical thinking ourselves. I mean, why wouldn’t we? We have Google now and I could not imagine a world without it but its clear how dependent we are on it and don’t want to think genuine thoughts for ourselves.

    Second, lets look at Shirky’s reply to Carr. Even though the points Carr makes is true so is Shirky’s. Is this cultural change a bad thing? Though Google might “make us stupid” it also does the opposite. It opens a world of information that has just never been available to us. If anything it can also enhance our complex thoughts and thinking. As Shirky mentions, “We are a long way from discovering and perfecting the net’s native forms, what Barthes called the ‘genius’ particular to a medium. To get there, we must find ways to focus amid new intellectual abundance, but this is not a new challenge.” Just like how we adapted to more books than people, we can transition to the Internet as a positive medium.

    Third, just by looking at James Cascio’s title description of “Get Smarter” I can see the direction this article was going. He makes great points; we don’t need to rely on prehistoric ways to help us survive, we have an abundance of unimaginable technology to save us. The point of how information has helped “simulation and visualization that are jump-starting new scientific disciplines, and in the development of drugs that some people (myself included) have discovered let them study harder, focus better, and stay awake longer with full clarity,” is a great point we cannot ignore.

    In the end information goes both ways. Having this richness of the Internet, Google, and technology in general can help this world grow to new proportions that were never thought imaginable. But at the same time going back to Carr’s point, it can also hinder our ability to grow and think. The best way would be what Shirky said, to grow and adapt for what the world is now. There is no point in trying to deny technology, it’s a resource that should be used to its full extent. It’s just a matter of using it the right and positive way in advancing mankind to new heights.

  9. In Carr’s “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”, his fear of the ability to deeply read is declining due to the internet maybe valid. I, too, find myself having more difficultly immersing myself in long pieces of literature compared to my younger self. Yet, I find myself not having the same fears as he does. Like Shirky states, “sacrifice is inevitable with serious change.” We will lose something as the internet continues to develop, and it maybe our capacity to sit still and read hundreds of pages of a single book. What’s more interesting is the unknown trait that we are gaining out of this exchange.

    In his article, he uses Maryanne Wolf, a developmental psychologist, to argue that we require “deep reading” to form “rich mental connections.” Yet, how do we know if she is right? Science, in all forms, has proven throughout history to be fallible as we are continuously finding new facts that nullifies what we once believed to be true. This same case could eventually be applied here as well. We may not be able to read as deeply as we once were able to, but it does not mean we are becoming “stupid”. If anything, there is always the possibility that our ability to “power browse” and absorb a host of variety of information at any given moment maybe having the opposite effect and is essentially making us smarter.

    This belief is akin to Cascio’s “Get Smarter” article. Not similar in a sense that in the next 50 years we will find ourselves living in a world where our brains have been replaced by a machines, but similar to his idea of human evolution. Where in his argument he states that humans have evolved due to outside environmental pressure. What we are experiencing today maybe the right application of said pressure that could potentially force us to utilize a few more percents of our brain to capture the abundance of information flitting by our screens.

    My argument may seem unrealistic, but it is no different than Carr worrying that we may someday become “pancake people”. The possibility for both our options are there, along with a host of other possibilities. We already know what it is like living in a world of “deep reading”. I think its time to welcome the world of “power browsing”.

  10. Reading Nicholas Carr’s article, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” was an interesting experience. Being a big fan of Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” and being emotionally moved by the dismantling scene that Carr brings up in his article, I was expecting his article to be more or less a throwback to the proverbial “Good ole’ days.” This was mostly how I felt about the article all though he had some interesting points, especially about artificial intelligence, although I do not agree with him that in the world online there is little place for “contemplation.”
    I found myself a lot more intrigued by the Jamais Cascio article “Get Smarter” in which the author describes a more positive future, although I found his idea of a pharmaceutically-enhanced human consciousness more then a little disturbing. I did however like his idea of a more cognitive enhanced human mind, one in which “We’ll have developed a better capacity to manage both partial attention and laser-like focus, and be able to slip between the two with ease.” Overall I liked all three of the articles that we read for today, even though they have not changed my belief that the internet provides simultaneous avenues for both distraction as well as boundless opportunities for learning, however it depends up to the individual to harness her/his own mental capacities to navigate this web.

  11. Reading Nick Carr’s article, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”, has opened my eyes to the adverse effects of the Internet on cognition and memory in human beings. Carr makes various points on why this type of information access is detrimental to the brain, including, “As the media theorist Marshall McLuhan pointed out in the 1960s, media are not just passive channels of information. They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought. And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation.” (P. 1) With the rush of unlimited information with access to the Internet, I’ve realized that I have picked up some of the bad habits of scanning information from various webpages, instead of reading the information thoroughly and learning every lesson. I agree that the human mind is changing to be able to read and learn from various information it sees on different webpages, whether they be social media, articles, mail, etc. The human mind must evolve to absorb as much useful information it can to be able to recall and use the useful lessons for the future. Carr points out that this method of learning is shallow and not as enriching. He states, “And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. ” (p. 1) Carr seems troubled by this new wave of information overload because he is unable to focus and concentrate on specific information without being distracted and hindered by all the other information in the way. He is deeply affected by the negative side of what the Internet and Google brings, but overlooks the limitless amount of information with instantaneous access, whether it is useful or not. Individuals who utilize the Internet to do research and enhance their knowledge have a greater impact and usefulness, than those who use the Internet for entertainment and distraction. Both uses are seen and the Internet can be seen as both positive and negative. I myself disagree with Carr and say that the Internet is a revolutionary tool for human development both socially, industrially, cognitively, and technologically. I believe that the human mind has evolved to absorb vast amounts of information by just scanning and reading information from the Internet that is useful or interesting.

  12. We live in a world where technology and how we use it is the end all be all. This is a broad claim that anyone can argue against. The question of whether or not Google is making us stupid is also a broad claim that anyone can argue against.

    There are pros and cons to every situation. As a Film and Media Studies major, I tend to use the internet a lot. However, are you using it the right way? Are we using the internet to consume information? Or are we using it to watch videos about cats getting themselves stuck or easily entertained by mundane objects?

    In the article, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” I agree that I am becoming easily distracted and I am finding it difficult to read through any lengthy article. However, I must ask myself whether I’m becoming distracted because the world is at my fingertips or is it because the author of the article simply didn’t grasp my attention or if article is written poorly. I have found that I read articles fairly quickly, but it’s because the structure of the material is equally as interesting as the subject matter. I don’t think Google is making us stupid and our reluctance to read anything has nothing to do with whether or not we are capable of consuming information. It’s just that it’s not the information we want. We consume information on a daily basis with the rise of social media. We find ourselves learning new information about our “friends” when they update their whereabouts or share their statuses and pictures. We live in a world where technology and information is in our faces. So is Google making us stupid? I don’t think so. I think that Google is making us smarter. But the idea of what field or subject you are getting smarter in is a question that needs to be addressed. There are different types of “smart.” There is the book smart where a person can have an intellectual conversation with you about “War and Peace.” There is the street smart where a person can help you with being social. There is the tech smart where someone can help you with anything and everything that has to do with computers or circuit boards. There is the fashion/beauty smart where a person can talk to you about the latest beauty trends. There are so many different classifications of smart today than there were years ago. Google and the internet is simply supplying a platform for people to apply their expertise. Have our brains changed? I would say that they have, but not necessarily in a bad way. We are simply adapting to world we live in today and are preparing for tomorrow.

  13. Carr’s argument is soaked in fear of change, and insists that change is bad. Reading his article did instill some fear into me, but overall I was unimpressed. Different is different, why try to qualify it? Shrike’s article was saying everything I was feeling, and as I was reading Cascio’s article I started thinking about different ways of focusing. My mind wandered back to the NY Times article and how the main student chronicled in that piece didn’t have trouble concentrating, but he had trouble concentrating on certain things.

    I don’t think this discussion has to do with technology. I think it has a lot more to do with society and its shifting values. Kids today are taught that they can do or be anything. They’re praised for participation instead of effort. This isn’t to say that kids shouldn’t be instilled with a healthy dose of confidence, even if they aren’t necessarily the best at what they’re doing. But there’s a difference between rewarding good habits, effort, dedication, etc., and just blind praise. There’s a difference between confidence and narcissism.

    When kids are praised for nearly anything, they become narcissistic. When kids are narcissistic, it becomes very hard to tell them what to do. People can still concentrate, but they’re focusing on what they deem important. Again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but we all live in a society where certain things are important. There are certain pieces of literature constantly referenced in pop culture, and kids have to read those literary pieces in order to understand them. Any independent adult needs to have a solid understanding of basic math just to keep their finances in order. People cannot pick and choose what important pieces of information they will choose to focus on. There needs to be a common base between people.

    It’s good that the literary canon is being challenged. We don’t all have to read War and Peace. And technology is not making us stupid. Technology is making it easier for narcissistic people to decide for themselves what matters. As for the shift in focus, it’s not a bad thing and it’s not a good thing. It just is. Our brains are changing to accommodate the world around us. We are becoming a different kind of smart.

  14. Henri Bergson said that those who are inelastic and rigid in their though are targets of ridicule and comedy. Humans are naturally inclined to adaptability; our cognitive approach to reading is not different. In his article “Is Google Making Us Stupid” Nicholas Carr writes on the changing relationship to reading. However, adaptability in regards to media and literature is not a new topic. If the transmission of information out into society is changing then the way in which we receive the information should evolve with it. The anecdote about Nietzsche slowly going blind is a perfect example of how humans are forced to evolve to their surroundings. Intelligence does not rise and fall from generation-to-generation, the only thing that changes is our definition of intelligence. Focus may not be at its height but productivity is greater than it has ever been, which theoretically will be detrimental to reading which is by its nature a slow activity. Reading will never die, it will continue to adapt.

  15. Many of Nick Carr’s comments resonated with my reading style and attention span. But I have always felt this way. One of my worst habits is that I have trouble finishing things and it has always been this way. I love to start a paper, then start my laundry, then start a meal and I will often end up with a half written paper, soggy and wet clothes, and burnt toast. Although this bad habit is annoying it has never hindered my success. I consistently receive good marks and move through my life in a healthy way. Recently, I have pushed myself to focus and finish my tasks better and I feel like I have made progress, found new strength and am growing as a person. But isn’t that what life is about, overcoming change and challenges. Maybe, my attention span has been affected by the new technological environment, but I feel it has been more conducive to things such the search for truth, knowledge, and self-improvement than it has been destructive to my abilities to focus. I think that the change can be scary, simply because change is always unpredicted. I think a good response to this change is too keep integrating reading and real text into life and keep critical thinking as a valued skill, but we should also learn from the technology and be open to the innovations of the younger generations to come.

  16. Seeing all of your responses to this has made me realize that my experiences are more abnormal than I would have thought. I find it very easy to get wrapped up in a book, even though I do it less often than I would have in the past. When I watch a movie or read a book I tend to forget everything else and become fully immersed, even though I spend most of my time flipping between articles on reddit. And while I had thought that my experiences showed that its not that difficult to do, maybe I’m just an exception personality-wise. Maybe for me it is just easier and I should feel lucky that I don’t have to struggle with it.

    That being said, I still wish I could read more. Personally I just wish that instead of writing articles about how people don’t read anymore, these writers would talk about what books we should be reading now. Most of the books I read I find out about because they become TV shows or movies, not because I see anybody talking about the actual merit of the book. If there are places talking about that, I sure don’t know where to find them.

  17. The way that I read Carr was a voice of fear in how society is changing it’s culture from a humanities, arts and literature, generation to a more technology based era and for Carr, someone who (I assume) studies Literature, that can be alarming. I understand where he’s coming from as an English major, but I’m not opposed to adapting to technology and seeing how much more that can advance our society as a whole. There is so much more we can do simply because the Internet exists. We are able to look up authors and books and reference many other sources at the palm of our hands and yes, that kind of power is frightening but it isn’t necessarily negative. Asking the question of “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” implies that Carr believes it is, but I disagree because now I have the answers to the questions I was seeking. So how does that imply stupidity when I am receiving an answer to an educational question? I am now more informed than I was 5 minutes ago simply because the Internet exists, so no I don’t believe that Google is making us stupid but rather expanding and advancing our knowledge. And side note, the fact that I am able to read his article online, via the internet, is ironic in my opinion because of his viewpoints of the Internet…

    And going along with him being unable to read War and Peace, maybe he skims it now and can no longer read it the way he used to simply because he has already read it, not because of the distractions of the Internet. He’s blaming the Internet for being unable to read War and Peace when he’s already read it. Personally, when I’ve read something multiple times, I don’t read it as in depth as the first time because I already know the context, I just read it again to see if I missed any important information — or if somehow reading it again will change my perspective on the book as a whole because I know how it ends.
    Being unable to read War and Peace, as thoroughly as he used to, shouldn’t be in any way correlated to the Internet because he already knows whats going to happen and there are no surprises, so it’s natural for the mind to wander elsewhere and be distracted.

    Coming back to my initial argument, instead of being afraid of progress with the Internet, we should learn to embrace and somehow adapt accordingly so that literature doesn’t fade completely. Things are supposed to change, that’s kind of how life works but we shouldn’t be stuck in the past. We should be open-minded, and excited to what’s in store for literature and the art of reading.

  18. The readings from Clay Shirky and Jamais Cascio provide very unique and interesting perspectives on our internal changes–biological and behavioral, but I think they failed to consider another important factor that contributes to this “distracting phenomenon”—the environment.

    A concept that stood out to me when reading Carr’s “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” is the effect of using “intellectual technologies.” He introduced the idea that we adopt the characteristics of newly developed technologies into our culture. According to Carr, these tools extend our mental capacity by taking on qualities of technology. This sounds very similar to Shirky and Cascio’s internal perspective. However, he then explains how the effects extend further to our culture, shaping the workplace and media as well, which he supported with examples of the mechanical clock and the adaptation of traditional media to cater to the audience’s new expectations. I found this idea very intriguing as the technological effects he addresses change the environment we live in. Technology has gone as far as affecting our concept of work and time, and even our vernacular. The environment, I believe, is an overlooked influence that is contributing to our inattentiveness that deserves more attention.

    This brought a new idea to the surface for me, in that we as human beings may have ignited the notion that our minds or more inattentive through our change in behavior; however, it is our environment that is keeping the fire going. Both internal and environmental changes play a significant part in technology’s influence. Both roles are very influential because this influence leads to a snowball effect in which our minds are changing by exhibiting behaviors such as “skimming activity,” and our environment adapts in order to supplement our behavioral change, such as providing abstracts and summaries, reinforcing our behavior even further–which is a crucial role of the environment.

  19. I’d just like to point something out – I usually have a Chrome extension active that blocks all comments sections on sites I visit. I had to turn it off in order to post this. I think that says a lot about my usual internet diet, and my expectations for user comments in general.

    You really do get a sense of who you’re reading when he uses the phrase “The Net” to describe what those of us under 50 call the internet. I’m more inclined simply to accept this undeniable new mode of information consumption as a progression of earlier mediums.

    I feel like we have to be careful to avoid bashing technology for the sake of the bashing. We have to be careful not to subjectively/arrogantly call some forms of thinking “deeper” than others. Again, I want to know what Carr means by that. Are we saying that human creations can fundamentally alter human consciousness? Can we, as liberal arts majors, even begin to demonstrate that beyond personal experience? As it turns out, it’s hard to prove anything about human psychology — even as a psychologist. Where are the STEM majors in this class?

    I found his invocation of Nietzsche’s typewriter particularly interesting, if not problematic. On the one hand, I definitely understand how an object like a typewriter might, in 1882, fundamentally alter the way an aging, blind philosopher perceives his writing process and engages in it. On the other hand, I think we may be able to attribute any discernible difference in writing style to the aging process itself, or the fact that Nietzsche was, you know, going blind at the time. I could buy a bullet blender, cut out red meat, and start drinking kale smoothies all the time; that’s a big change in lifestyle that you could attribute to my acquisition of a new technology. But could you really make the argument that my blender changed the way I think? Does it worsen the way in which I consume? Or does the technology just represent a fascinating new mode of consumption in itself? It’s not a perfect analogy, but I think it’s funny.

  20. Again, I would like to reiterate my point of the necessity of defining “stupid” in Carr’s article. Gathering feelings and thoughts in the other responses, it’s clear that while most people notice a change in their attentiveness and study habits, it’s not clear whether they can be viewed as negative or damaging.

    To sum up my argument, –As I presume, according to Carr’s article, that most people won’t make it past the first few paragraphs–, I have mixed feelings about the use of technology and the internet, and it’s relationship with reading. Yes, I believe that technology and digital media is a profound tool that can reinvent and innovate literature and change, in a positive way, how information is consumed; But its current state, without reinvention, poses dangerous risks for consumers.

    As it’s with most societal pivots, we can expect knee-jerk reactions from traditionalists, and we can also expect the younger generation embracing, and subsequently defending change. But while we can access and absorb information quicker and in ways unimaginable a century ago, the way we use digital media threatens to subvert technology’s potential. What I can attribute to an anxiety among people, the access and pervasive nature of digital media, turns into a siren song for constant connectivity, that undermines real focus, replacing it with a constant state of distraction. While we can multi-task and be on Facebook, stream music, and still read our assignments, are we really reaching our most efficient state? Yes, we can Sparknotes “War and Peace” and find outside analysis on “Hamlet”, but are we as students benefiting? Reading, deep reading, requires focus and teaches subtlety. And citing a previous article, it leads to reflection. I won’t make the general statement and say these attributes are lost in a digital age, but technology is not necessarily conducive to these qualities. Data and hard-science reinforces the negative aspects that technology induces on the way and capability that are minds think, but drawing on anecdotal observations reinforces my point. While we can spur off onto different branches of discovery and enlightenment via the internet, is not much more comfortable to stream a live Coachella broadcast, or spend 20 minutes trying to phrase a funny tweet in just the right way? And while you may skim an article or book, and can argue that you gather a plethora of information, is this only surface level information? I once had a TA tell me that you can quickly “get the jist” of a reading by going over the first and last sentence of every paragraph, and she was right; and many people do this. But do we want to be a society that gathers information quickly and easy, but albeit only at a surface/introductory level? Or do we want to go deeper and truly analyze, and go into a text.

    While I presume most of us are English majors, we can surely understand the inherent quality of writing, especially good writing. And if you were to read any essays, or were forced to edit and review your friends’ paper from other non-Literature focused majors, you’ll probably notice that their writing is usually worse than what’s typically written by an English major. I attribute this observation to the amount of reading we’re assigned to undertake. In order to write well, it’s unavoidable that you’re going have to read a hell of a lot first. And when we skim and don’t fully go in depth and absorb how writers tell a narrative, we can’t expect to create quality content ourselves. Writing well and producing something of worth (and I know “something of worth” is subjective, so no one cop out this statement by saying that everything has value in it and no one can judge what’s deemed to be more worthy than something else. We all know when something is crap.) requires focus and deep attention, and in an age of distraction, quality content becomes increasingly harder to produce.

    What I’m arguing is that we need balance. Yes, technology is beautiful and can change humanity for the better in ways that few can even fathom, but it’s teaching us really bad habits. If we can utilize having a wealth of information at our fingertips, while developing the discipline to not be coerced into distraction, we have the possibility to steer society in a direction that integrates technology and efficiency towards a goal of enlightenment and knowledge that benefits humanity, and truly create the next step in human advancement and evolution.

  21. Response to Shirky’s TED Talk:
    I’m an English and Global Studies double major and I find that the two always mix when discussing the notion of human generosity. In Global Studies we often try to figure out what makes people care about social issues and what makes them act on said issues. Related to this, Shirky’s concept of cognitive surplus is definitely intriguing, albeit not inherently new. Technology as a whole has been used for many acts of human generosity, whether it’s in cancer treatments, social media campaigns, or access to education. People continue to participate in global projects that promote compassion as technology develops and becomes more widespread.
    To expand on one form of cognitive surplus, social media campaigning arguably contains what Shirky calls ‘civic value’ in that it attempts to benefit society as a whole rather than just benefiting the participants involved. When I think of social media campaigning, my mind immediately goes to the Kony video that circulated Facebook in 2012. ‘Kony 2012’ is a short film produced by the organization Invisible Children and sits at over 100 million views on Youtube. The campaign could be seen as an example of Shirky’s cognitive surplus in that it combines the notion of human generosity and compassion (attempting to spread awareness about a dictator’s crimes against humanity) and digital technology. At the same time, social media participants’ action was largely passive in that it consisted of clicking the share button and not much else. I remember sharing the video on my Facebook page and thinking I was doing the ‘right thing’ in spreading awareness about an important social issue. But what was I really doing? Was my share going to do anything for the cause? I think there’s an important differentiation that needs to be made in Shirky’s idea of ‘civic value’ between passive and active cognitive surplus. Contrary to what he believes, I think there is a difference between mediocre and serious cognitive surplus and that serious work actually affects change and promotes social issues.
    Lastly, Shirky argues that we do things because we like to do them rather than because we are told to or are paid to do so. That being said, do people like to participate in civic value or communal value more? Are there as many examples of global tech projects as there are ‘lol cats’?

  22. This video was interesting because it took into account such a wide range of media creations and linked them together in a way I had never considered. Shirky points out that much of what exists on the web that is considered useless trash is actually an impressive demonstration of the potential of human creation. It is very true that there is so much information available to us that it is necessary to funnel it into a more manageable form so as to be more easily accessed.
    This is only possible through a combination of the technology required to create such a form, as well as human generosity to share with others.
    Human generosity plays a huge role in our day-to-day lives, as proved by the daycare fines study Shirky mentions. Guilt is a stronger inhibitor than money penalties, because guilt is a result of a lack of human generosity.
    As Shirky explains, there is a spectrum of information compilation, from mediocre to sophisticated. However, when it comes down to it, even “the stupidest creative act is still a creative act”, so it deserves respect. This is why LOLcats are actually worth analyzing. People spent their time creating them, then chose to share them with the public. Just the same, people expended their time, energy and knowledge into creating Ushahidi, the interactive mapping website. Although I would have said the main differentiating factor is relevance and intellect, Shirky explains that the distinguishing factor is actually value: LOLcats are created for communal value, while Ushahidi and related sites are created for civic value. LOLcats bring pleasure to participants who create, find and share them, while Ushahidi benefits not only participants, but society as a whole through its spread of knowledge.
    It was refreshing to listen to an appreciative perspective on technological advancement rather than another scholar bashing the diminishing old ways. Times are changing and not all the changes are bad–human generosity exists, and when applied to innovation, the whole world can benefit from it.

  23. While Carr’s argument has some valid points, namely, that quick searching and scanning on the internet is causing humans to loose our ability for deep reading, his fears are overwhelmed by the indisputable advantages the web gives us.

    True we may not be able to read as long or as deeply without interruption with a traditional book, however, I disagree that quick scanning for information on the internet is stopping us from contemplation and deep thought. I know when I read a Wiki page, I am only getting the tip of the iceberg of that information. Just a summary. But using this summary as a blueprint, I can use the Internet to quickly get a better understanding of a topic with ‘deep’ study.

    For example if I want to learn about ancient Rome I might first go to wikipedia, then after reading that, I will Facebook a History major friend for a specific question or simply google it and lastly watch a documentary on Netflix. With all these sources of information I can begin deep contemplation just as well as if I read a book on Ancient Rome.

    I agree with the “Get Smarter” article. The internet and the increasingly powerful devices we use to access it, is just the next stage of human tool making. Augmenting our intelligence for the betterment of the species.

  24. Clay Shirky concludes that the degree we can change a society for the better is through celebrating, supporting, and rewarding the people who create cognitive surplus and in turn civic value. I agree that celebrating and supporting the creator would be of import, but rewarding them specifically for their material and media value would bias the works outputted.

    In the example Shirky gave, of the parents picking up their children late, it was evident that social consequences were dropped when economic consequences were employed as an experiment. Parents chose to pick up their children late when only a small part of their finances would be affected rather than their social image. Likewise, I believe that if creators of social platforms were rewarded by money rather than motivated by their own passions and goals, then more data produced would be biased and possibly falsified to produce quantity rather than truth and quality.

    Interactive and visual platforms such as Ushahidi are very much prevalent on the Web now and they receive their own means of finance. I do not believe that there needs to be a system which rewards these creators, but rather they should be already feel the rewards of their efforts and possibly find a means of gaining finance from it.

  25. Analyzing my information log, the conclusions I’ve drawn do not come as a surprise, but reaffirms my concern over my habits. While my time spent watching television is not particularly concerning to me, since I am usually resting or eating meanwhile; the time spent on the internet is particularly alarming. While specifically reading books is relegated to its own section, usually my time on the internet is a combined mix of working on assignments and trivial internet surfing. This is most concerning, because this is the period I need the most focus, and I am oftentimes distracting myself with arguably useless queries and online meandering, spoiling my own efforts.

    To keep it concise, I’d like to realign my focus and keep my attention on important assignments and objectives, rather than apply 50% of my focus on other matters, and still yet expect my grade to reflect 100% effort. I would like to cite a study I read a few years backed that analyzed the effect of the internet and study habits (I can’t specifically remember who published it), and found that when peoples stopped and checked Facebook, or went on an internet tangent, it took approximately 20 minutes to get back into the same frame of focus they were previously in. This does not bode well for someone who may have multiple tabs and is frequently distracting him/herself, creating a perpetual state of distraction. So yes, my own data, as well as my own observations, confirms the concerns posed by our class, as well as the UCSD and NEA studies.

  26. Reflecting upon Clay Shirky’s Ted talk on “How Cognitive Surplus will Change the World”, I felt optimistic about the human capability to produce collaborative work. Using “Ushadi” as an example Shirky shows how possible it is to work together to produce a useful and mutually beneficial product. He explains how we can take all our brains and put them together, a concept I have always been fascinated by. The internet gets a lot of criticism for wasting time and ruining our brains, but this TED talk showed many of the good aspects as well.

    Shirky’s usage of “Lol cats” as a stupid, yet collaborative expression was highly accurate. It is still fascinating and unifying when internet communities form with the purpose of producing some sort of product for consumption. Shirky claims that the two aspects to “cognitive surplus” are free time and motivation. This is incredibly true, as I often feel awful about how unmotivated I am to do things, despite the skill and time to do them. If we as a society can come together to pursue the things that we are passionate and use our knowledge for good, it is very possible to change the world, as Shirky claims. The “collective civic value” of the Ushadi site is a model that can be followed for many other types of projects. People do not need to know each other in order to work together, which is one of the most magnificent features of the Internet.

    In Shirky’s example of the parents picking up their children, it was clear that they were more motivated by social and cultural punishment than financial repercussions. This phenomenon shows that we as a society are capable of encouraging each other to do our best and be our best. We are not pushed necessarily by financial success or failure, but by the opinions of and monitoring by others.

  27. The Rescue Me website was exceptionally useful in cataloguing my time but it also produced my first dilemma when trying to divide my information log: what is productive electronic use and what it unproductive. The website asks you to divide up your different medias and assign then as either productive or unproductive, and then asks you to set yourself goals. I was amazed at the end of the week that my productive time was far greater than my unproductive time. The obvious unproductive websites were social media and entertainment websites (Facebook, Netflix etc. etc.), and the obvious productive platforms were Microsoft Office applications and news websites, or so I thought.
    News websites (The Guardian, BBC, New York Times) took up a large portion of my productivity time. At first glance I thought “fantastic!” Cleary I was using my technology time to better myself by learning about current events. However, that really wasn’t the case. Sure, I would glance over the important stuff, scan some articles that I thought were important and felt good about myself for knowing what is going on. Then I would spend 70 percent of my time on the sports articles, the entertainment articles, and the pointless quizzes that seem to pop up. Was any of that actually productive time?
    As far as my phone use I was not surprised. I was texting a lot and calling a lot. I would use social media on my phone every day, and randomly checking my phone constantly. It was my computer that caused the most difficulty as far as dividing up categories. Furthermore, how do I discern if something appears productive or is genuinely productive? This assignment pointed out that I am far less productive on my computer than Rescue Me told me I am. However, I have become so reliant on my technology that I wonder if I will ever make changes to my technological behavior.

  28. I watched Clay Shirky’s Ted Talk on “How Cognitive Surplus will Change the World”, and found myself intrigued by the idea of cognitive surplus. Shirky identifies cognitive surplus as the interaction between the voluntary actions of individuals with the abilities technology presents said individuals. Cognitive surplus, by Shirky’s reasoning, is essentially technology letting us put our free time to good use – potentially on a global scale, as he showed with his “Ushahidi” example.

    I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, it is a tantalizingly optimistic view – an image of hands reaching up to a sky filled with pixels springs to mind – one that makes sense in many ways. I do believe the fostering of creativity is a fortunate side effect of this “cognitive surplus”. As Shirky says, even the LOLcat is a form of expression (albeit a simple one). I think technology has done some wonderful things, and the power social media has is significant.

    What I struggle with in Shirky’s talk is his assertion that this cognitive surplus is always a good thing. There’s no doubt: the examples he uses are strong ones, but Shirky fails to explore some of the downfalls of cognitive surplus.

    Take, for example, the twitter community. What about people that lose their job over a politically incorrect tweet? A thought they probably shouldn’t have expressed, but the crime hasn’t always seemed to fit the punishment. It isn’t just losing your job; it’s being hounded by strangers, shamed and slandered, and shoved out of trusted circles of friends – all for a tongue-and-cheek comment that snowballed out of control.

    A bad thing to say, sure. But there are worse things, aren’t there? I know I say some pretty awful things sometimes – I’m sure we all do.

    This was a very specific example, but I thought it important to highlight a way the “generosity” of cognitive surplus can turn nasty: the real crime being that the majority of people shaming a fallen CEO feel morally justifiable in doing so. I think Shirky’s idea of cognitive surplus is generally accurate, but the bandwagon mentality associated with global involvement is one that continues to worry me.

  29. Clay Shirky’s Ted Talk on Cognitive Surplus presented some interesting new ideas about his defense of the constructive potential of the digital age. I had not heard about Ushahidi before watching the presentation, but I was certainly aware of the positive outputs made possible through internet collaboration. However, I had not really thought about the sharing of digital information as involving a component of generosity. I still think this may be too strong of a word, because the “sharing” is typically done with some degree of self-interest, but regardless, it is interesting to consider the implications of the internet being a forum for people to present something of themselves. This wouldn’t be interesting if it were just professional artists advertising and selling work, for they were doing this long before the internet, albeit less efficiently. But the fact that countless people who otherwise might never attempt to publicize anything of their own are posting widely popular feline images – that is indeed of interest. It signals a progression of humanity, not because the “lol cats” themselves are doing anything for us, but as Shirky mentions, because there is a substantial distinction between contributing nothing and contributing something. If these digital users gain a heightened sense of efficacy through the positive feedback on their cat pics, they just might be inspired enough to then share something of “civic value”. This line of reasoning could be extrapolated to the point of humans, up to the highest tier of intelligence, producing and contributing works of unprecedented significance to civilization. Sure, moments of unprecedented significance have happened at fairly regular intervals throughout history, but this moment could have it’s root cause in a “lol cat”.

    I was also intrigued by his conclusion that our common perception that humans are “rational, self-maxmizing actors” was simply inherited from the culture of the twentieth century. It is a thought that I have often considered – the idea that we carry out anything of self-interest to the point that we can safely get away with it, and the problems that have unfolded in situations where in there are little to no formalized punishments (or if they are they are outweighed by the formal or informal incentives). So I’m not fully convinced that situations without punishment or incentive systems in place will yield greater responses of “social generosity” than situations that do. However, I will subscribe to his claim that people will gravitate more towards acts that are celebrated by the community, even if this generalized celebration is the only incentive for taking part in such acts. A tacit sense of approval by strangers can be enough to drive people in all kinds of social scenarios.

  30. Although our discussion so far has generally pitted them against each other, I think Clay Shirky’s article does more to reconcile Nick Carr’s weariness about “The Internet” than it does to altogether denounce it. Granted, Shirky’s tone towards Carr doesn’t exactly carry with it a reconciliatory feel, but the upshot he reaches about the genuflection, perhaps idolization, of highbrow literature really struck a chord with me on how we ought to regard the shifting literary landscape… That exhaustively long canonical works of literature are slowly fading from our personal and academic reading lists is something not for society to bemoan, but to accept.

    Carr frets that round-the-clock digital consumption has fundamentally changed us in such a way that we can no longer read, nor therefore learn from, lengthy works of literature. Shirky, with refreshing confidence, simply upends Carr’s worry and questions whether or not these works of literature even offer anything for us to learn from in the first place. They do (if not Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”, then surely others), but the insight remains: Perhaps what we consider to be our literary, intellectual, and even cultural values are becoming out of step with a life so intimately bound up with the Internet?

    Where Carr sees our attention span and capacity for deep thought dwindling away, Shirky sees them adapting to the reality of our now-digital daily lives. Indeed, the article reads: “Making the net’s intellectual ethic as valuable as it can be will mean, among other things, securing for ourselves an ability to concentrate amidst our garden of ethereal delights”. In other words, the flood of digital media actually has the potential to sharpen our attention by conditioning us to focus only on what we deem worthwhile. Shirky then goes on to prescribe the silver lining of his idea: “Getting networked society right will mean producing the work whose themes best resonate on the net”. Literature’s saving grace will be those works that are not only born out of a reality defined by The Internet, but also echo that reality in and of themselves… Old and overwhelmingly long texts meet neither of these qualities — they aren’t being neglected because we can’t read them, they’re being neglected because we don’t have good reason to want to read them.

  31. I was watching the Clay Shirky TEDtalk, and his discussion on Cognitive Surplus.
    I thought it was interesting to compare memes (like lolcats) to Ushahidi, as a global collaboration and crossing the gap from doing nothing to providing something to the global network. He was talking about their shared source of “Design for Generosity” and how important our intrinsic motivations are. He digressed into talking about social/contractual agreements and how “generosity” applies to when economic motivations and intrinsic motivations become incompatible and create a new culture: a daycare charged for late pickup, so the economic contract made the parents less guilty for picking up their children late as now the debt to the daycare is payed with money versus a social constraint where people pick their children on time without having a fine/alternate method of reimbursement in place.
    He returns to Ushahidi and lolcats as civic value where participants create the value and enjoyed by society as a whole to make life better for everyone in the society. It is a side effect of making participatory value.

    I like the idea of free culture getting what they celebrate, and celebrate/support/reward for civic value and that being strong enough to change the way society operates.

  32. After watching Clay Shirky’s TED Talk on Cognitive Surplus, I found myself agreeing with his argument in regards to the individual’s participation in the production and distribution of information in the digital landscape. As a double major in English and Film, the concept of utilizing free time for creative production is not new to me. I am always trying to learn how to create something new every day. In order to take part in a creative process, along with gaining and building upon new skills, much of the time spent in the midst of that is more than likely going to be in front of some sort screen. Shirky makes a valid point that the digital world is always making advancements that individual’s can use in order to make something, be it LOLcats or using Codecademy to learn how to build a website. When it comes to the merit of creative work, I also do agree that it is better to do anything than to do nothing because the utilization of free time will be in a more productive manner.

    1. As someone who spends an ungodly amount of time in front of a screen for art related purposes, I can relate. I mean, for one, paying one time for a version of Photoshop is radically cheaper than paying for physical media material, and cleaner. Digital media like digital painting really opens up a whole new realm of possibilities with the features, but takes away certain elements like physical depth and texture from brush strokes. There will always be a sacrifice for a certain gain (unless everyone has a 3D printer I suppose) when it comes to picking one medium over another. I think a point that Shirky was trying to get at, but may have not explicitly stated, is that the consumption of internet culture is just as important as the creation of internet culture (someone has to read and relate to them lolcats for it to have value. your meme needs cultural value so you can get enough dogecoin to feed yo family). With lolcats (just scratching the surface of the memeconomy. Gotta go deep for the rare pepe) comes the creation of an internet culture that people can reference and relate to and it allows for other people to share their own cultural information with others from around the world who share memeculture.

  33. Coinciding well with Clay Shirky’s argument: Google has created a person finder after the Nepal Earthquake. Fairly simple, Google’s production of this project highlights the humanitarian benefits that arise from cognitive surplus mixed with social activism. (Also Google’s quick response with its production is quite extraordinary)


  34. After reading some of the excerpts of The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, I reflected on many of the interesting concepts that had been covered. I found the section on neuroplasticity to be especially fascinating. I have been a psychology major myself until very recently when I switched to English. However, I continually find psychology to be very intriguing, so reading these excerpts from Nicholas Carr was very interesting to me.
    I have heard of neuroplasticity prior to reading this selection written by Carr. However I always find it fascinating to hear someone else’s take on a concept that has to do with psychology. I like the way that Carr described certain mental health issues. He stated that people essentially train themselves to be sick, and I could not agree more with this statement. Mental health disorders are very real and they are continuously being diagnosed all over America. With this being said, I too believe, that many psychological disorders or ailments, can be made worse or better, depending on the sufferers active actions, choices, and cognitive thinking patterns. For example, someone who suffering from depression may be constantly thinking to himself or herself, “I am depressed and I don’t feel like doing anything.” the problem with this is that they are actually engraining the depression and inactivity more by reminding themselves that they are depressed and that they lack motivation. Therefore, in order to get mentally healthy again, one must weaken the undesirable thought patterns, while strengthening the desired ones. (pp.35)
    I find it exciting to know that the brain is plastic. Due to the fact that the brain is malleable or plastic means that humans are highly adaptable and always have a chance to grow or change. Whether one is trying to break an addictive tendency, get to a healthier state of mind, or simply learn a new and novel skill, the human brain is ready to create stronger pathways to help us do this.

    1. This is an interesting response to Carr’s piece, and one that I find particularly interesting because I didn’t remember it at all until I read it in your blog post just now.

      I find the concept of brain plasticity equally fascinating, but in this particular case I struggle with the example of depression used. I’ve never suffered from depression, and I’m definitely not an expert on the subject, but surely part of the problem with depression is that it renders you incapable of thinking about anything else? I agree that repeating to yourself “I’m depressed and don’t feel like doing anything” won’t help your mental health, but surely part of depression’s power is the complete hold it has over your mind?

      Like I said, I’m not an expert by any means; I just think it’s interesting to consider what would have to be done to weaken undesirable thought patterns. Is forcing yourself to mentally repeat “I’m going to get better” enough? Or does it not work quite as easily?

      To relate it back to reading, I wonder if practicing deep reading will be enough for future generations. As we became accustomed to reading in childhood, the elements of deep reading came easily enough to us later on; if the next generation is not as exposed to these functions, will they ever be able to achieve what we consider now to be deep reading as adults?

  35. Storytelling is nothing new; as stories have continued to evolve, how we consume them has evolved as well.

    As I thought about how I was going to frame my argument regarding the future of reading, I couldn’t help but admire the remarkable journey of our relationship with writing. From the Dispilio Tablet to the Old Testament, to the Declaration of Independence, literature continues to ground and shape our culture (I use “our” in terms of both western culture and global). As our culture developed, brilliant writers, such as Shakespeare and Arthur Miller) brought reading to life through performance, and continued to captivate audiences with dialogue. In the 20th and 21st Century, we continued to move onto visual storytelling through film, television and the internet. While the medium changed over the centuries, we have nonetheless continued to “read”. We’ve interpreted messages, absorbed ideas, questioned ourselves and society; all notions and actions associated with reading. When we discuss changes in our reading habits, we cannot forget the long journey that we have collectively embarked on.

    We’ve come a long way; we’ll continue to come a long way. Those that argue that the ‘age of reading’ is gone and has faded into the past, I disagree. I believe the future of reading is incredibly bright. Do I believe we still need to develop our deep and close reading skills? Absolutely. But to fear that we’ll stop reading altogether is short-sighted and irrevocably cynical.

    When we create, we write. When we consume, we read. The expansion of the internet and visual media has created a playground for readers. We can jump from graphic novels to Bukowski; from To Kill a Mockingbird to Selma: all from a click of a mouse. I love reading. I love absorbing writing: code, scripts, texts, tweets. My love for reading is an infatuation, an addiction: I’ll take it anyway I can.

    When we wonder about reading, we shouldn’t be haunted by nightmares of times past, but dream of the bright future ahead.

  36. In response to I Read Where I Am.

    Full disclosure: I don’t think the rise of e-readers and various other forms of electronic text signals the end of reading. I don’t think the effect on our brain is disastrous, and I don’t think our new methods of consuming information are proof of a society gone wrong.

    I don’t even think reading on a screen is necessarily bad. It may hurt my eyes occasionally

    (a fuzzy ache that originates behind my eyes and slowly leaks inward, entirely different from the outside pull on my eyelids I experience after working my way through layers of ink)

    and it may be harder for me to ingest large chunks information

    (a result of the scrolling/skimming/fear-of-ennui effect)

    but all in all, I don’t think the new modes of reading are all that bad. We can find something in the blinks we take between pieces, like a blue link is a portal to a whirling vortex of information and definitions, opinions and analysis.

    There’s a lot of shit in this vortex, though. That might be one of my complaints: the ease with which we form opinions based off of nothing. Righteous assumptions drawn from perfectly programmed lines of text.

    (I say that’s a complaint – in truth, I’m not sure if we can blame our new modes of reading. It’s entirely possible “insufferable” is just a trait we’ve perfected over time.)

    I enjoy writing on a screen much more than I enjoy reading. Do you know how many times I restarted that simple sentence? Probably 4. I lost count. Quick backpedals spanning the space of a few seconds, allowing me the ability to say what I really mean. Writing – typing, I should say, forces you to think on your feet. You can spew a thought and retract it a moment later, a tool I believe to be invaluable. It’s like brainstorming on crack, like your fingers know more about your thoughts than you do. Some could argue this allows us to be thoughtless. I’m sure that is the case for some. In my experience, the ability to modify adds pressure. Things must be better; things must have value.

    So, all in all, I have little to say on the evils of modernity because I can’t see them as evil. I see them as new

    (and sometimes a little scary)

    but aren’t we a race born to evolve? This is just the next step. Admittedly, I think it could be beneficial for us to form educated predictions on how exactly this all is changing us, for the benefit of learning, education, and understanding, but I don’t think

    (There is one thing, if I’m being honest, one complaint: books. We’re losing books. We’re losing our ink, our pages, our stacks, our world of books. Maybe not losing, maybe it’s just slipping – maybe we can grab it back. I have this fear that people don’t want to touch paper anymore, that people don’t want the thick joy of environmental irresponsibility weighing down their bags. I’m scared sometimes that my children won’t understand book magic, old magic, magic in the smell and feel and experience of reading a book, magic from detangling spools of ink with eyes and thumbs and magic that breathes worlds instead of vortexes, magic that leaks all over your book shelf and magic that lingers, magic that stays)

    our changes are all that severe. I don’t think we need to be worried.

    I just think we need to be prepared.

  37. Response to I read where I am.

    The word is changing. Out whole conception of what reading is as pertains to the page is always changing, from Guttenberg’s press to Xerox’s Parc Labratory which helped create the digital page, to our current mobile-friendly multi-platform world, the whole idea of the page is always in flux. I think this one reason why I really enjoyed Henk Blanken’s “Better Stories” article.

    The notion that we have to change with the page is something that Blanken talks about in his article. At first I wasn’t sure if I was in fact going to like it, and I was hoping that it wouldn’t be another “The Sky is Falling” chicken little, death of the word article. And although “Better Words” demonstrate some aspects of this kind of a viewpoint, with Blanken writing that after the end of the last century “things went downhill with the word,” he has more of a hopeful get-to-work attitude.

    What I really enjoyed was Blanken’s assertion about the nature of the story, as something that propels humanity forward. Blanken says that “what saves journalists is the story,” and this is something that I completely agree with. Stories are always changing, and because of the Internet’s capabilities to allow more people to become writers, we are living in a time where there are a lot of stories. The idea that we need better stories and as a result better journalists to tell the stories is a positive message that can allow us to advance the word on par with technology.

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