Reading is Power

Throughout the majority of The Shallows, Carr provides great explanations as to how technology has impacted our brain  as well as our lifestyle. He has mentioned how our thought processes have been impacted, as well as the different ways technology causes us to go about our daily routines. In the second half of the book he continues to explain what will happen to our brains as a result of choosing the internet over a paper back book. We would rather click from one link to the next to keep briefly learning short snippets of information in a timely manner. Up until this point in the book, I had never pondered the thought that us readers have just as much power as a writer does. We are able to look deeper into the fact that using hypertext to do extensive research has helped us students improve our critical thinking skills by quickly maneuvering through different sources to look at various different viewpoints. Carr states that “the academic enthusiasm for hypertext was further kindled by the belief, in line with the fashionable postmodern theories of the day, that hypertext would overthrow that patriarchal authority of the author and shift power to the reader (Carr 126). Before reading this passage, I had never considered this perspective. It had never occurred to me that the reader can have more power while reading a text than the person who actually wrote the text.

After reading so many passages and responses regarding the negative impacts that reading from the internet has on our brain compared to reading a book, this new viewpoint is quite refreshing. I love the idea that the ball is in now in my court when it comes to reading text online. By taking advantage of my ability to hop from one link to the next, I am a powerful reader with the capability to learn so much more than the author may have intended when he or she originally wrote that particular piece.

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Although this may seem like a cheesy Dr. Seuss quote that we have all grown up with, I think it happens to be very fitting for the situation. Not only does it encourage reading, but it shows that reading empowers us just like Carr had mentioned in the second half of the book. We as readers need to take advance of the power we are given when we take on the task of reading, and then jumping to further texts to increase our own knowledge.

 

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We Aren’t the Problem, Technology is

The title of this blog post is a thought that was subconsciously going through my mind while reading The Shallows. The loss of our concentration, our focus, and our ability to hold face to face interactions all stem from an increased use of technology, as Carr intricately laid out for us throughout the book. Nothing was ever made to seem like it was our fault. We just fell victim to the technological revolution. However, chapter seven made me deeply question the reality of the situation. The chapter goes into more depth about our need for instant gratification, how social media can lead to self-consciousness, and how people can barely resist the urge to use technology.

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A free photo taken from Wikipedia Commons to demonstrate the importance of choosing what to pay attention to and how that affects what we think about.  

As I read through the chapter, I began to question whether or not technology is really the cause of all of these problems or whether it is just the fuel to the fire. I think people have always been self-conscious, craving gratification, and feeling a desire to be constantly connected. The difference is that now through technology we have a way to reveal those issues without judgment, because it is apparent that others feel this way too, while in the past we did not. I am starting to believe that technology is not the problem, but the way we choose to use it is. It is within our own personal power to resist the pull of technology, to set our phones down at the dinner table, to be comfortable enough in our own bodies that we don’t define ourselves by how many likes our Instagram pictures get. 

I feel that maybe Carr does not touch on that outlook very often until the further chapters. In chapter eight he includes a quote by novelist, David Foster Wallace: “Learning how to think’ really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience.” So maybe technology is not the problem, but the way that we think is. It can be concluded from Wallace’s quote that if we consciously think about how technology is affecting us, we can choose to let it have less control over us. Since our education, careers, and social lives are wrapped up in technology this may be difficult to do; however, just exercising the slightest bit of resistance to technology can help us find the technological relief we are looking for. I think this would have been an important quote for Carr to include at the beginning of the book rather than the end, so that readers can keep an open mind on the subject, but I also think it would have been damaging to the argument he presented in the first half of it as well.

With Great Power…

High School had a LOT of assignments that I perceived as busy work. What was my solution to busy work? Google! Another worksheet with information I have to fill in from the textbook? Google! In Calculus, I would ask the almighty Google for answers and it delivered. This is great! Homework is a breeze, a nice stroll in the park, no worries here! AP Euro had a lot of reading to do. Why would I read through all that when I can just take a quick detour down convenience lane and save the rest of my evening? But although classes seemed sunny, carefree, and easy, I didn’t realize I was living a LIE. Dark clouds were on the horizon.

Exam time. Having some slight difficulties…Where is your Google GOD now? Your savior has forsaken you! I had made a mistake that I am sure everyone has made at some point in their academic career. Filling in homework worksheets with Google is not learning. I was not learning how to find the derivative of a line when I googled every equation in my math homework. I was not learning the intricacies of European History when I googled brief definitions of names and terms to fill in on my homework packet.screen-shot-2017-02-21-at-5-28-54-pm

Learning the Process>Google the Answer…but it takes longer:(

Learning is a process. Most people need time to let information stew in their brains. Time to reflect on information and process is just as important as the contact time with material in class: homework helps achieve this reflection and processing. But the main point here: from my experience, it is human nature to seek the path of least resistance. The ‘easiest’ path is usually the path taken, even if it is a path that leads to inevitable problems (problems we may not foresee). I looked up answers to homework to save time in the present, even though I would need to understand the material to do well on exams in the future. My thoughts on this matter stem from Carr’s discussion on the Van Nimwegen study on page 214. The lack of a hand-holder for the barebones group was actually beneficial: sure, it was less taxing on the screen assisted group. They had less mental gymnastics to do. But the bare-bones group was the winner in the end, using “‘more focus, more direct an economical solutions, better strategies, and better imprinting of knowledge’” (Carr 215).

The point I want to make is that Google is a wonderful tool to aid in learning. If I wanted to learn anything at all right now, I’m sure I could Google it and be on my way. But like most tools, it can be seriously misused. In spoon feeding so much information at such a rapid pace, the process of learning is at risk. I must be vigilant in observing how my use of Google and other technology impacts my learning. Google should be used as an asset to learning, not as a crutch for homework. With great power… comes great responsibility!