Posted by: Rachel Baker | December 4, 2014

A new era

Nicholas Carr, in The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, strongly discusses the weakening of humans through a learned reliance on technology.

Carr (2011) states, “People who write on a computer are often at a loss when they have to write by hand” (p. 209). He makes the point that when people are used to typing, over time, they lose some ability to write in cursive. Taking it a step further, students in Finland are no longer required to learn cursive in school.

Similarly, Carr (2011) also noted that we have “come to depend on computerized GPS devices to shepherd us around” (p. 212). I find it is true when I am going some place unfamiliar or outside of my routine routes that I instinctively grab for my phone GPS. Perhaps this is because I travel a lot these days. Or, perhaps the common person is going places that were not options prior to navigation systems.

Yet, even Carr’s own digression into “the writing of this book” (p. 198) shows how the mediated mind’s capability to concentrate is diminishing. Personally, I can stay relatively focused in the process of writing this blog post, but I have difficulty sitting down to write a research paper. Are computers shortening our attention spans?

Whatever the case, it is clear that we are entering a different era, where we value technology as an extension of ourselves. Is this a weakness, as Carr states? Or, is it just the grand beginning of a new era?


  1. The dilemma between whether to embrace or reject technology as an extension of myself is something I often struggle with. We’ve grown up in a world where the norm is to stay constantly connected—but I’m reaching this point where I’m almost suffocating from the incessant connections. As Carr states, “The Web is so essential to their work and social lives that even if they wanted to escape the network they could not” (p. 199).

    I don’t want to bash on technology. It’s brought us a lot of good. But when researchers begin studying if internet addiction is real ( and people rarely have conversations without tiny screens in their hands, I can’t help but worry that maybe we’ve taken this mantra of staying connected a little too far.

    However, we can be critical of technology and ask ourselves, “How is the way we think changing?” (p. 200) But, just like Carr, we will always backslide into our digital lives. It’s just a little less isolating that way.

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