Information Overload

Regardless of the subject being discussed, there are many noticeable differences between writing platforms. Many of these differences center around the idea that the Net/modern technology can change not only our thoughts but the way we think, process information, and the speed at which we receive this material. Carr gives a metaphor using water, a bath tub, a thimble, and faucets to symbolize how we tend to retain the information we are fed. His belief is that filling a bathtub with a thimble is equivalent to transferring our working memory into our long-term memory. He follows this example with, “when we read a book, the information faucet provides a steady drip, which we can control by the pace of our reading” (124). He follows by saying that when on the internet, “with the Net, we face many information faucets, all going full blast” (125). Although this is true, a book provides only what is permanently stained with ink while the Net contains a plethora of options, does that mean that we are actually trying to process every single bit of information at once?

It is possible to read an article or even multiple articles online at a pace that we choose. It is even possible to revisit online articles, posts, etc. multiple times just as we would with a tangible book. For example, when I do research on a topic I still narrow my search. Regardless of if I receive my data from a book or the internet I am still specifying what I am looking for and specifying even further by choosing which of those links I read and/or use. I don’t try to click on every single link that might have to do with what I’m looking for, I only choose the ones that seem the most relevant. In that sense, I have multiple faucets running but I still choose which faucets to fill my thimble and later bathtub. When I look up a specific topic and I find the same fact in a book and on a webpage, it’s the fact that matters not the platform in which I got it. I am not saying that there is no difference between the different mediums of written works, I am simply saying that it is possible to limit what faucets are running when searching on the Net. I don’t feel as if my ability to learn about a subject is suffering because it came from online, just coming from a different platform than a written text.


This image I found interesting because it portrays the opposite of what Carr is saying, that ebooks and Net learning are better pathways than resources made with ink and paper. But if the information is the same, could it just be a personal preference on which style of learning suits the individual best?


Author: Sara Reuschling

I am an English major with a minor in Sociology at the University of Delaware. The aim of this account is to learn as much as possible about the ever-growing changes in the world with an open mind and connect the information to my life experiences, especially regarding technology and digital rhetoric.

5 thoughts on “Information Overload”

  1. I really enjoyed how you played with Carr’s metaphor of the faucets in this piece. It was a relief to see that I’m not the only one to disagree with some of Carr’s viewpoints in such a way and I couldn’t agree more with your ideas. The final paragraph that accompanies your picture is especially interesting to me as it reminds me of in High school how we are taught to recognize which process of learning works best for us as an individual, whether it be visual, oral or a more hands on approach.


  2. I really like your response and I also find it very relatable. I also find the photo that you chose very relevant. When I am learning in a classroom I have a sense of stress because I have to retain and copy down a ton of information all at once. Getting information online allows me to go at my own pace, and also have unlimited access to it. An article won’t disappear like a lecture that a teacher gives will. Even with books I feel like I have to retain a lot more information than if I were gathering information online.


  3. Surely the medium of learning matters. It is a different experience to learn math with physical objects or beads than with a calculator or computer program. While personal preference undoubtedly has value, it seems likely that the results of learning vary based on medium to some extent. Disagreement with Carr’s ideas are welcomed: I personally cannot stand his broad sweeping statements and claims “We as people ALL Experience x or y or blah blah blah”. Would like if he wrote from a more personal perspective.


    1. Graham, Like you, I think that Carr is at his best when he writes from a personal perspective—which I think he actually does pretty often. The problem arises when he tries to generalize from his experience—that is, when he seems to assume that everyone else feels/thinks/acts as he does. ~Joe


  4. Sara, I appreciate your raising the issue of learning styles. But I’d push what you have to say a little, to argue that Carr is writing at a different point on the cultural learning curve of figuring out how to use the internet productively (which you illustrate nicely in your response). ~Joe


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