The picture that emerges is troubling, at least to anyone who values the subtlety, rather than just the speed, of human thought. People who read text studded with links, the studies show, comprehend less than those who read words printed on pages. People who watch busy multimedia presentations remember less than those who take in information in a more sedate and focused manner. People who are continually distracted by emails, updates and other messages understand less than those who are able to concentrate. And people who juggle many tasks are often less creative and less productive than those who do one thing at a time.
Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows: How the Internet is Changing the Way We Think, suggests that the internet is rerouting our neural pathways, making us shallow and unimaginative thinkers. “Our brains” he contends, “turn into simple signal-processing units.” (via christopherbieg)
Oh here we go again, stab me with a toothpick! I met Carr a couple of years ago and one thing surprised me: he was every bit the self conceited ignoramus in person as he sounded in his books. Which is a rare trait as most people reserve their most bitter persona for their written work but are quite capable of being nice when interacting with other people. Here’s the problem (and it’s not a small one, let me assure you), I have with Carr: his social analysis provides a well polished theoretical framework for the worst kind of capitalist elitism.
He is a staunch critic of any collectivist approach to information management and instead, defends a “top down” model of information distribution (it should come as a surprise to no one that he hates Wikipedia). If I was to analyze his discourse from a purely Marxist perspective (which I usually don’t, as I am heavily influenced and prefer anarcho syndicalism as an alternative organizational model), I would say he is a mouth piece for corporativism. His disdain for “the wisdom of the commoners” is quite telling and permeates his entire ideological stances.
Now, of course, he is saying the internet is making us dumb. “People who watch busy multimedia presentations remember less than those who take in information in a more sedate and focused manner”. That’s not because people are dumb, that’s because the vast majority of “busy multimedia presentations” are fluff. Corporate garbage that I am convinced we are developing a defense mechanism against. It’s not that we remember less or our brain is less capable of processing information. I contend that, instead, our brains are developing an immune system against useless trivia passed as valuable information. Networks brought us the concept of virus and memes in terms of information dissemination. Is it a surprise that we would develop the anti bodies to filter this stuff out?
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