It’s an interesting debate: Is our experience online a cognitive process that is sub par to traditional processes such as reading or speaking?
Nicholas Carr in The Atlantic also addressed the debate, asking the question: “Is Google making us Stoopid?“
For me, as for others, the Net is becoming a universal medium, the conduit for most of the information that flows through my eyes and ears and into my mind. The advantages of having immediate access to such an incredibly rich store of information are many, and they’ve been widely described and duly applauded. “The perfect recall of silicon memory,” Wired’s Clive Thompson has written, “can be an enormous boon to thinking.” But that boon comes at a price. As the media theorist Marshall McLuhan pointed out in the 1960s, media are not just passive channels of information. They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought. And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.
What’s important to remember is that media formats are only tools. The internet is only a tool. And, like all new media- written word, printed word, radio, TV- at first there is a predisposition to overly trust all the information conveyed by that media as truthful. It’s on the internet, it must be true, right? And, to be sure, there are those who really do believe this to be the case. The lack of critical literacy is the central issue at hand. It’s no great skill to surf the wave of information that is available to us. The great skill is to know whether that information is true.
If the internet is, as Carr describes “chipping away” at our “capacity for concentration and contemplation” then it becomes necessary to find new ways and manner of regaining that capacity.
Social networking provides a certain amount of this, but not nearly enough IMHO. So much of the “interaction” of online communities is really just restating preset opinions and agendas. Very little
actual discussion of ideas and exploration of concepts and debate occurs.
Many would say that is the exact problem with society in general. Look at the current election process. How much real discussion is going on amongst the rumors and attack ads? Not very much.
So, what’s at work here? Are we simply incapable of being serious about our own cognitive abilities to find solutions via real debate? Are we overly enamored of the junk information like gossip?
What does it mean when a society shuns reality based informatin for fantasy? Is it possible to turn the tide?
Are we too Stoopid to change?
I don’t think so.