Posted by: kararc | November 19, 2012

Ask and You Shall Receive

Carr’s Nabokovian title for chapter 9 of The Shallows (“Search, Memory”) is quite apt. The pages of Vladimir Nabokov’s autobiography (Speak, Memory) are flooded with details as soon as he gives his memory an opening to speak. Carr’s choice of title echoes this; when we access the internet, webpages are flooded with information and ideas.

In other words, the internet version of memory is something we can call upon at any time, just by asking for it through a Google search or clicking a link. For Nabokov, asking memory to speak was about unlocking the lessons of his life. For the internet, it’s about unlocking the lessons of the whole world.

Carr’s choice of title is also telling. He could, instead, have referenced another novelist who wrote about memory: Marcel Proust. But for Proust the triggering of memory is a sensual experience (a certain taste or sound or texture) that brings back a long-ago experience. Sensual experiences don’t happen whenever we want them to — they are serendipitous, emotionally-driven and disconnected from the Nabokovian or Google-ian sense of asking and receiving.

The internet as memory is exciting because it offers the ability to call forth anything at any time. Well, almost anything. We can’t call forth our personal experiences or deep-seated emotional responses and the internet leaves us little mental time and space to evaluate what we find by also asking the memories stored in our brain to speak.

Does the internet silence the emotions and personal experiences that make us human?

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