Thursday, 21 August 2008

Is the Internet making us Stupid?

At the beginning of the week, I said the word of the week was Mobilisation, but it looks like 'Google' is turning out to be the word of the week. In my previous post, I talked about Melbourne becoming the second UNESCO City of Literature, and the potential for the State Library's Centre of the Book, Writing, and Ideas to consider the changes brought on by the take up of eBooks and electronic text. Thinking about this further, I am reminded of the article by Nicholas Carr in the July/August 2008 edition of the Atlantic Magazine titled "Is Google Making us Stupid". In this article, Nicholas focuses on Google, but he is really talking about the Internet in general. In relying less and less on linear narratives, and more and more on bits of linked information, Nicholas wonders if the way he concentrates and thinks is also changing. I quote: "Immersing myself in a book or lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative.... That's rarely the case any more. Now my concentration often starts to drift...I get fidgety, lose the thread". He goes on to say: My mind now expects to take information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Nicholas is not alone. He documents the changes in reading and thinking, he considers the impact on intellectual discourse, and as a result, our brains. If the Internet is changing brains, will it affect our ideas? Some would say it already has. Is this a good thing, a bad thing, or it just is? It looks like the new Victorian Centre of the Book, Writing and Ideas has a lot to ponder. Will they ponder the past, present, and future as a linear narrative, or as a series of inter-connected ideas? Now there's something to think about.

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