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The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to…
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The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains (2010)

by Nicholas Carr

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Uno de los más claros y patéticos ejemplos del mal uso de la ciencia. ( )
  praxilon | Jun 4, 2015 |
(119) ( )
  activelearning | May 24, 2015 |
While many of the historical and scientific details given were truly fascinating, the central argument within the book was generally weakly supported, relying too much on anecdotal accounts, which took away from the reading experience. Still, I would consider these elements to have made it well worth the read. It would have been a far better book geared in a different direction. Yet, it does provide the reader with a great deal to think about and consider. I learned a lot and also reassessed some aspects of my connected life after reading the book, which I suppose is a rather large point of success. Overall, I came away better for having read it, even as I felt much of it could have been left behind or better crafted. I would recommend it, as there is still a certain stroke of genius there. ( )
  TiffanyAK | May 14, 2015 |
In The Shallows, Nicholas Carr gives the obligatory brief history of technological advances, primarily the Gutenberg press, and delves into the vast realm of the Internet and its pervasive effect on culture (as evidenced by the fact that I am using it now to review this book - ironic or coincidental?). Specifically, he looks at the neurochemistry of our brains and how the Internet is affecting the way we think.

I read this immediately after reading Technopoly by Neil Postman and I'm glad I did - the two dovetail perfectly (Carr even cites Technopoly, as well as a previous book that I serendipitously read last year called The Library at Night). While Postman looks at the ideology of technology and focuses on computers in general rather than the Internet itself, Carr's work is more specific and rests more on science than reason. Where one falters, the other picks up the slack. Postman, for instance, argues against the growing trend of refusing logic in favor of statistics or quantifiable evidence, which he argues is often skewed. This is a valid point, but when fighting against those who are inculcated by that viewpoint, it's hard not to feel as if something is missing from his argument. Carr fills the spaces in with ample scientific evidence, studies, and statistics - fighting, as it were, fire with fire. Carr may rely too heavily on science and statistics however. According to scientists, we have been poised on the cusp of understanding human consciousness since the invention of the MRI, which I am leery of putting too much faith in, as interpretation seems to still be in its infancy. Postman's reason and logic steps in to bolster the argument.

On its own, Carr's work is an intriguing cautionary tale of the internet - far from ranting against it, he echoes Postman's argument that technology has drawbacks. Again, the drawback Postman focused on is the lack of a guiding ideology, but Carr takes on the physical changes and the loss of deep thinking as a result of the Internet's hyperactive, distractable environment.

I am in no way qualified to judge the science used, so I'll gracefully bow out and allow others to decide for themselves, but I will note that he did state definitively that "Silent reading was largely unknown in the ancient world", which is by no means definitive - as much of the premise of one of his chapters rested on this assumption, I was annoyed. That said, I will say his conclusions seem relatively sound from the evidence given - it's just a matter if his evidence was correct, as in the case of the silent reading (I say not that silent reading was definitely around or common, merely that there is some argument over it and coming down one way or the other is liable to cause a fistfight between classical scholars).

Carr's writing is mostly graceful, particularly within chapters, though his transitions and digressions can feel a little abrupt and clunky.

Beyond his thesis, however, Carr's main strength is in anticipating future arguments. For every possible argument, Carr seems to have a rebuttal ready. The Flynn effect is addressed and answered with SAT scores, which have shown a decline in reading comprehension. Calculators helped in school! Yes, because they alleviated the load for working memory, while studies have shown that the Internet is more taxing for working memory and hyperlinks actually contribute to a decline in reading comprehension.

It never feels as if he's preaching or standing too tall on a soapbox - he seems to be giving the reader the information and allowing them to do what they want with it, which is telling and fits with what technology does. ( )
  kittyjay | Apr 23, 2015 |
Must read book for 2015. How is our on-line addiction changing the way our brain chemistry works. Included is a fascinating but brief history of the written word. ( )
  alancaro | Apr 19, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 114 (next | show all)
Like the majority of contemporary books, then, The Shallows does not justify its length: its natural form was always that of a pithy provocation, so as an argument for the superiority of book-length prose it is rather self-defeating.
added by mikeg2 | editThe Guardian, Steven Poole (Sep 11, 2010)
 
Carr’s ability to crosscut between cognitive studies involving monkeys and eerily prescient prefigurations of the modern computer opens a line of inquiry into the relationship between human and technology. Hopefully, other writers will follow.
added by lorax | editA.V. Club, Ellen Wernecke (Jun 3, 2010)
 
His new book is an expanded survey of the science and history of human cognition. ... Mr Carr’s contribution is to offer the most readable overview of the science to date. It is clearly not intended as a jeremiad. Yet halfway through, he can’t quite help but blurt out that the impact of this browsing on our brains is “even more disturbing” than he thought.
added by tim.taylor | editThe Economist (pay site)
 
Carr is a beautiful writer. His word choice, his syntax, his sequencing... all great.
 
Born in 1959, Carr straddles the book-dominated and web-dominated worlds and is at home in both. Members of his generation, he believes, have lived their lives as a “two-act play,” consisting of an analogue youth and a digital adulthood. You could conclude that when the people educated after, say, 1990 die, there will be, in the strictest sense, no literary culture left to speak of. Mild-mannered, never polemical, with nothing of the Luddite about him, Carr makes his points with a lot of apt citations and wide-ranging erudition. Either he is very well read or he is a hell of a Googler.
 

» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Nicholas Carrprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pietiläinen, AnttiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
And in the midst of this wide quietness

A rosy sanctuary will I dress

With the wreath'd trellis of a working brain...

- JOHN KEATS, "Ode to Psyche"
Dedication
to my mother

and in memory of my father
First words
In 1964, just as the Beatles were launching their invasion of America's airwaves, Marshall McLuhan published Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man and transformed himself from an obscure academic into a star.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393072223, Hardcover)

Finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction: “Nicholas Carr has written a Silent Spring for the literary mind.”—Michael Agger, Slate

Finalist for the 2011 PEN Center USA Literary Award

“Is Google making us stupid?” When Nicholas Carr posed that question, in a celebrated Atlantic Monthly cover story, he tapped into a well of anxiety about how the Internet is changing us. He also crystallized one of the most important debates of our time: As we enjoy the Net’s bounties, are we sacrificing our ability to read and think deeply?

Now, Carr expands his argument into the most compelling exploration of the Internet’s intellectual and cultural consequences yet published. As he describes how human thought has been shaped through the centuries by “tools of the mind”—from the alphabet to maps, to the printing press, the clock, and the computer—Carr interweaves a fascinating account of recent discoveries in neuroscience by such pioneers as Michael Merzenich and Eric Kandel. Our brains, the historical and scientific evidence reveals, change in response to our experiences. The technologies we use to find, store, and share information can literally reroute our neural pathways.

Building on the insights of thinkers from Plato to McLuhan, Carr makes a convincing case that every information technology carries an intellectual ethic—a set of assumptions about the nature of knowledge and intelligence. He explains how the printed book served to focus our attention, promoting deep and creative thought. In stark contrast, the Internet encourages the rapid, distracted sampling of small bits of information from many sources. Its ethic is that of the industrialist, an ethic of speed and efficiency, of optimized production and consumption—and now the Net is remaking us in its own image. We are becoming ever more adept at scanning and skimming, but what we are losing is our capacity for concentration, contemplation, and reflection.

Part intellectual history, part popular science, and part cultural criticism, The Shallows sparkles with memorable vignettes—Friedrich Nietzsche wrestling with a typewriter, Sigmund Freud dissecting the brains of sea creatures, Nathaniel Hawthorne contemplating the thunderous approach of a steam locomotive—even as it plumbs profound questions about the state of our modern psyche. This is a book that will forever alter the way we think about media and our minds.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:59 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

As we enjoy the Internet's bounties, are we sacrificing our ability to read and think deeply? Carr describes how human thought has been shaped through the centuries by "tools of the mind"--from the alphabet to maps, to the printing press, the clock, and the computer--and interweaves recent discoveries in neuroscience. Now, he expands his argument into a compelling exploration of the Internet's intellectual and cultural consequences. Our brains, scientific evidence reveals, change in response to our experiences. Building on insights of thinkers from Plato to McLuhan, Carr makes a case that every information technology carries a set of assumptions about the nature of knowledge and intelligence. The printed book served to focus our attention, promoting deep and creative thought. In contrast, the Internet encourages rapid, distracted sampling of small bits of information. As we become ever more adept at scanning and skimming, are we losing our capacity for concentration, contemplation, and reflection?--From publisher description.… (more)

» see all 6 descriptions

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