“Networked thought” or stupidity?

I recently read Nicholas Carr’s fantastic article, “Is Google Making us Stupid?”, which argues that the internet is to blame for attention problems that are afflicting many an internet user. He says, “My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.” He later compares it to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: Space Odyssey, saying, “As we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence.”

While it horrified me, this article was strangely comforting in that it quieted my fears of being the only one feeling this way. I’d never before blamed the internet, but thought my increasing difficulty in concentrating on large chunks of text on screen was simply a part of growing older – and being only 28, I was (and still am) very concerned!

In his article “The Evolution from Linear Thought to Networked Thought”, Scott Karp doesn’t see anything wrong with consuming information online in a fluid way. He admits hopping from one link to another without finishing reading a text – and sees nothing wrong with web consumption being “kinetic, scattered, all over the place.” He then compares this “networked thought” to the information processing of Google, in an attempt to validate it. He even muses about whether or not this new thinking process might be a positive thing.

The way I see it, euphemistically renaming it “networked thought” simply sugar-coats this unsettling change in cognition. I mean, what’s next? Is the next generation of internet users going to completely lose their ability to read the old-fashioned book? newspaper article? anything longer than a tweet? And if a novel can’t be stomached, how do can we expect new literature to be written when it can’t even be read?

Furthermore, in the blogosphere, it seems to me like bad taste to admit skimming or link-hopping away from posts. I got a laugh from  one comment’s irony: “I think you’re on to something there, Scott — but I’m not sure what, because I never made it to the end of your post.”

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2 responses to ““Networked thought” or stupidity?

  1. Bianca Villarosa

    Hey!
    I am totally with you and a tad frightened as to what the Internet has done! It is such a useful tool but so very bad and jeopardising when it comes to people doing even the most basic if things – like reading a book. I am shocking at skimming – I actually started doing that halfway through your post just because I wanted to see what was at the end and thought – what the hell am I doing? – I need to read this properly. Me and reading off computer screens do not walk hand in hand but as the rest of the world has gotten used to it so have I. Back in the days of primary school, if I ever had a question for an assignment it would be – first ask the parents – if they do not know then consult an encyclopaedia and search around and learn some things along the way until I finally find what I was looking for in the first place. Now-a-days – who needs a book when I can just go to google, plug in two words and voila – I have my answer – even if it is looking up an address in the whitepages – I was that lazy yesterday I needed an address and I did not even bother walking over to where the phonebook was because well naturally I just clicked Alt + Tab and plugged in whitepages…I had the added bonus of not having to sort through the billion people with the same surname as I just searched for them on the net via initial. Really it is a matter of convenience. It is very scary that literature will be the forgotten gospel but times are changing and will continue to change – Who knows what will be next – tweets being fed into our brain while we sleep:)

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