The Shallows -- Chapter 2

Continuing our discussion of the book - The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains Carr refers to the advent of the typewriter and how Friedrich Nietzsche and friends noticed “a change in the style of his writing … tighter … there was a new forcefulness to it, too” (18). Carr provides some lengthy discussion about neuroscience, psychology, and concepts of the nature of the brain. The brain is not entirely fixed but not entirely plastic (malleable) either. Our brains have the advantage of adaptability but once connections are made and utilized frequently, as in how multiple areas of the brain are stimulated and utilized during Internet use, it is difficult to revert to previous settings, so to speak. In summary Carr points out that as much as we would like to think otherwise, the brain is not just a monitor of experience but is significantly, perhaps permanently, changed by experience (38). It is probably obvious from the title but Carr seems to be setting the case that changes which occur to the brain may be irreversible and that the Internet active brain may not be able to create or reestablish the previous connections favored for books. Question: Has your reading of texts changed, e.g., do you feel that you can't read as much or dense of material as you did in the past? If so, is a matter of concentration or not enough time, i.e., too much time spent on the Internet?


If you had not seen it the discussion of chapter 1 of the book is here:

In the discussion of how the brain rewires itself in regards to the tools being used I think there would be a contrast between the use of cell phones with their very small screens and keyboards as compared to a full size PC. One reason for Twitter is that you are sending a message to phones and the message has to be smaller. Hence the 144 character limit. Of course Twitter is used on PCs but the people I know who use Twitter the most are using it in conjunction with a smart phone.

I noticed I force myself to continue reading and pay more attention. I just returned to grad school and journal reading, so years of surfing blogs has apparently affected my intelligence muscles. Luckily, I had grad school a few years back, so I know what I can expect of myself and haven't felt really daunted.

The Shallows has discussion about slow communication. I think this piece on NPR makes an interesting juxtaposition to this.

Current story on information overload as it relates to news - Media Black Hole: So Much News That We'll Implode? (Everything, especially the news, is moving faster and faster. At this increasingly accelerated pace, is it inevitable that noteworthy events will rush lickety-split into each other, overwhelming us? Or will we just tune it all out?)

Article in the NYT that discusses how reading has changed as books has become more commonplace. Article is about memory. Article:Secrets of a Mind-Gamer

I think this article is relevant to our discussion because one thing being discussed is how the brain is changing because of the technology we are using. Books are also a technology and we went from a world with very limited books to a world with a lot of books and we can see how that impacted us. The article discusses how when you are in a world where you may not have a chance to see a book again you approach it differently and read it differently.

The intensive and extensive reading mentioned in the essay "First Steps Toward a History of Reading" that is mentioned in the NYT article is also discussed in the book - The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age

Opinion piece by Maureen Dowd that mentions "The Shallows"

Excerpt: Nicholas Carr, author of “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains,” says technology amplifies everything, good instincts and base. While technology is amoral, he said, our brains may be rewired in disturbing ways.

Full piece:

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