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Nicholas Carr Essay

1760 words - 7 pages

Atlantic journalist Nicholas Carr confesses that he feels something has been “tinkering with his brain.” The internet, he fears, may be messing with our minds. We have lost the ability to focus on a simple task, and memory retention is steadily declining. He is worried about the effect the internet has on the human brain, and where it may take us in the future. In response to this article, Jamais Cascio, also a journalist for the Atlantic, provides his stance on the issue. He argues that this different way of thinking is an adaptation derived from our environment. Ultimately, he thinks that this staccato way of thinking is simply a natural evolution, one that will help to advance the human race.
Carr is worried. He confesses that he now has difficulty with the simple task of sitting down and reading a book. Absorbing the text is now belaboring, and he finds that his mind drifts off into other realms. Moreover, this phenomenon is not only limited to himself. Bruce Friedman, a pathologist at the University of Michigan Medical School, admits that he “can’t read War and Peace anymore…even a blog post of three or four paragraphs is too much,” (Carr). In addition, Scott Karp, a devoted blogger on online media and literature major, relates that he was an avid reader in college. Sadly, he observes the same trend in his focus as Carr and Friedman. Karp speculates that the loss of focus isn’t so much a change in the way he reads, but in the way he thinks (Carr).
Carr concedes, saying that his internet theory cannot be based on anecdotes alone, but he is convinced Karp is on to something. According to the study done by College London, people spend most of their time skimming internet articles. Participants hopped from one site to another, reading no more than one or two pages of an article before moving to a new one. The researchers concluded that “users are not reading online in the traditional sense; indeed there are signs that new forms of ‘reading’ are emerging as users ‘power browse’ horizontally through titles,” (Carr). This evidence is concerning for Maryanne Wolf, a developmental psychologist at Tufts University and the author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain (Carr). She reports that “we are what we read,” and as our reading habits change, so do our thinking abilities. When we read online manuscripts, we become “mere decoders of information” and lose our ability to truly analyze the text, and decode its facets (Carr).
Historian and cultural critic Lewis Mumford lists the mechanical clock as an example of this phenomenon in his book, Technics and Civilization. This technological device “disassociated time from human events and helped create the belief in an independent world of mathematically measurable sequences.” The “abstract framework of divided time” became “the point of reference for both action and thought,” (Carr). Essentially, we began to ignore our original biological processes as the clock...

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