Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains

Carr, Nicholas. The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. New York: W. W. Norton, 2011. Print.

My Thoughts

This should be required reading for all of humanity! This book is not an easy, fast read, but it was a very interesting read! I kept finding myself agreeing with Carr in how my personal brain works (or sometimes doesn't), and now I have a better understanding of why.

The early chapters discuss the brain forming and the history of brain research. When I was reading these chapters, I was actually at a technology conference. I was amazed at how often something was mentioned there that I thought, "I just read about that!"

Chapter Four discusses writing. I didn't realize that in the early days of print, words ran together just like in speech (Carr 61). As more people learned to read, there was a need for more books. More books equals more literacy (Carr 70). "The reader becomes the book" proves that reading is not a passive activity (Carr 74).

I thought Chapter Five was interesting because it discusses the progression of the Internet. I found myself remembering my 8th grade computer literacy class. Chapter 7 discusses how the Internet and our constant scattered attention makes us have, as the title is so aptly named, a "Juggler's Brain." (Carr 115). "When our brain is overtaxed, we find 'distractions more distracting'" (Carr 125). We are not reading in a linear fashion, spending only about 19-27 seconds looking at a page on the Internet (Carr 136). Carr proclaims that our brains are engaged less directly and more shallowly and "skimming is our dominant mode of reading" (137).

Chapter Six was about books. When newspapers became mainstream, people warned that books would go away. As the Internet and ebooks/readers become more mainstream, there are those warnings coming out again.

Chapter 8 is entitled "The Church of Google." The entire chapter is devoted to Google's history & goals. Pretty interesting.

Chapter 9 made me realize why I have trouble remembering anything. I don't have to remember! I have an "external" memory (my computer) that will store information for me. No longer must I use my brain. However, when we store new memories, we strengthen our brains (Carr 192). So, I really should rely more upon my brain than my computer. It's hard. I had a recent example when my daughter asked me a multiplication question. I honestly didn't know the answer. I've come to rely upon a calculator to do my "ciphering" nowadays. Carr explains that the Net is "technology of forgetfulness" (193). I agree! Carr warns, though, that as we rely upon "outsourc[ing] memory [to a machine]" that "culture withers" (197). Yikes!

The final chapter of the book warns that as we become more involved with our computers, "we'll lose our humanness" (Carr 207). The more we use a keyboard, the less we will write in cursive.

Hmmm....all of these things make sense. Like I said, this is not a fast, easy read. In fact, I took notes as I read to help me stay focused. I think every person should read this book (soaking in a chapter at a time). After all, the Internet is changing our brains.

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