Posted by: chrissypurcell | November 11, 2012

Is the Web What we Make of It?

When I was an undergrad, I subscribed to the church of Steven Johnson; I was fascinated by everything he wrote, particularly his book Everything Bad is Good for You. In a time when most critics were demonizing the effects of pop culture technologies like television and video games, Johnson was espousing their capacity to help us develop intelligence. So I was admittedly skeptical when I picked up The Shallows and got to work.

I’m curious what everyone thinks about the debate between Sarnoff and McLuhan mentioned on page 3. Are technologies essentially neutral until we ascribe specific uses and values, or are they inherently beyond our control insofar as they change the very functioning of our brains?

Anyone who’s seen an ad for Google Chrome knows that Google is using this debate to its advantage. The campaign for Chrome, titled “The Web is What You Make of It”, reminds us that the internet is a tool with tremendous capacity for rich human connection. If you haven’t seen the TV spot “Jess Time” already, check it out to see what Google is up to:

ImageSo I suppose my question is, is Carr’s trepidation towards the cognitive effects of increased internet use just a knee-jerk reaction to a new technological revolution like we’ve seen with other technologies before? Do the negative implications of these effects outweigh the capacity for good – connection to others, democratization of media, etc. –  that the internet can offer?

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