As you read Nicolas Carr’s article “Is Google Making Us Stupid?,” consider how he describes the impact of new media technologies on the human mind. He notes that these technologies are not just simply external tools that we use, but that they also change the nature of human consciousness and how we comprehend the world. You might not have considered the mechanical clock a technology that radically changed the way we perceive the world and the human mind, but sure enough you’ve heard the phrase “her mind worked like clockwork!” What similar metaphors can we consider for the way the computer might make us (as Apple advertisements put it) “think different?” In particular, Carr gives some surprising anecdotal examples about his own growing difficulty with reading longer texts:
My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. 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. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. 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. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.
As “digital natives,” do you agree or disagree that you have grown up reading and thinking differently? Are you overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information online? Do you think this has negatively impacted your critical thinking skills, and do you experience something akin to Carr’s inability to concentrate on complex texts or arguments? Are you surprised, then, when he notes historically similar anxieties about the printing press weakening students’ minds because they could so easily access books and didn’t need scholastic authority to provide their education? Analyze Carr’s position on the impact of new media, which is a fairly negative one, but also address why he points out the limits of his critique and suggests that readers should be “skeptical of his skepticism.”