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The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to…

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

by Nicholas Carr

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Showing 1-5 of 109 (next | show all)
There are a lot of compelling ideas in this book and some interesting illustrations, but the book felt uneven and sometimes disconnected. Maybe the result of the internet age?? What I found most engaging were the explanations of how our brains change as a result of the things we do and don't do with them - and how the ways we use our technology actually change the way we think. A little frightening when I think of the challenges my kids face in basic thinking skills and recognize how their media time impacts that. ( )
  tjsjohanna | Aug 15, 2014 |
Interesting topic but unfortunately this reader makes it dry and boring. Wish I'd waited for a print copy. ( )
  SharronA | Jun 8, 2014 |
Since Carr's thesis seemed self-evident to me, I underestimated how much I'd enjoy reading his book, and how much I'd learn from doing so. Blame it on the neuroscience, which Carr elucidates extensively, and on his historical recapitulation of the impact on the human brain and culture of earlier technologies. Since clocks, maps, alphabets, number systems & books have been givens for the entirety of my life, I've given little thought to life without them. Any consideration that I have given to such intellectual technologies has been in terms of how they affect me personally, for example, several years ago, I decided to stop wearing a wristwatch in an attempt to free myself from constantly attending to what time it is(mostly a failed attempt, since now I wear a pedometer with a clock function). Until reading The Shallows I hadn't considered how the advent of timekeeping mechanisms changed the physiology of the human brain itself. Flash forward some centuries to now and the new intellectual technology on the block, rewiring our brains and rewriting culture, is the Internet. I might quibble with Carr's unequivocally negative assessment of the effects of "distraction," "interruption," and "loss of closure" as well as with his perhaps overvaluation of "linear narrative" and "deep thinking." Linear exposition that allows one to follow a complex argument or presentation of information is ideal if one's need or desire is to learn "facts," but fiction and poetry often work quite differently. Non-linear narrative and openendedness as literary strategies are nothing new. For example, Denis Diderot's 18th century novel Jacques le fataliste et son maitre, itself a tribute to Sterne's Tristram Shandy, includes around 60 characters, 21 stories and 180 breaks in the narrative.That said, Carr's arguments are compelling. I particularly took note of his claim that we are distracted by hypertext links even if we don't click on them, because they prompt the brain to shift from reading mode to decision-making mode. The scariest chapter in The Shallows is undoubtedly the one entitled "The Church of Google." Carr notes that "Google's profits are tied directly to the velocity of people's information intake" and that "every click we make on the Web marks a break in our concentration, a bottom-up disruption of our attention--and it's in Google's economic interest to make sure we click as often as possible." For the engineers at Google, "ambiguity is not an opening for insight but a bug to be fixed." In the face of such engineers' desire "to create an amazingly cool machine that will be able to outthink its creators," perhaps we can take comfort in Carr's reminder that "biological memory is alive; computer memory is not" and his quoting of Torkel Klingberg's assertion that "the brain cannot be full."

( )
2 vote Paulagraph | May 25, 2014 |
This book is very timely and raises awareness of one of most important concerns for the 24x7 wired human race – the impact of internet on human cognition. As a leader, I am already observing the impact of the internet on critical thinking and problem solving capabilities at the workplace. The internet provides answers to so many of our daily problems that we end up not exercising critical thinking muscles of our brain. Anytime you have a problem, just search for it and then follow step-by-step instructions to solve it. In other words, no need to use your brain. The internet helps in many ways – you have access to information and information is power, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel or learn the hard way, you can spend your time and energy somewhere else. But what happens when you have to solve a novel problem? A problem that does not have a solution on the internet. When you cannot access internet? When you have to think on your feet? The book does not provide answers to the problem, but it raises very important questions that we (parents, leaders, influencers, policy makers) must answer. ( )
  JagRandhawa | Apr 2, 2014 |
Interesting book not for its thesis, but for the historical survey on past predictions of the demise of books (which in some cases smacked more of elitism than anything else)

Therefore, also if you don't agree with the author (and I do only partially- but I shared online my over a quarter of a century of experience in transmitting knowledge and how technologies impacted), worth reading

If anything... as a gateway to other material that is not quoted that often ( )
  aleph123 | Feb 22, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 109 (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.

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Nicholas Carrprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pietiläinen, AnttiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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"
to my mother

and in memory of my father
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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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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:33:51 -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)

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W.W. Norton

Two editions of this book were published by W.W. Norton.

Editions: 0393072223, 0393339750

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