Is the Internet Remaking Us? Part II

Does the Internet make us smarter or dumber?

@smalljones dug up the following news articles in response to a discussion on this topic that will be held in our department this Friday afternoon. It is pure coincidence that the topic of the discussion is whether or not the Internet is remaking us — a topic I blogged on earlier today and last week (re: the shortcomings of multitasking for most technology users). I wanted to share these gems for those of you who have the attention span to read two news articles and watch a video!

JUNE 4, 2010
Does the Internet Make You Smarter?
Amid the silly videos and spam are the roots of a new reading and writing culture, says Clay Shirky.

The present is, as noted, characterized by lots of throwaway cultural artifacts, but the nice thing about throwaway material is that it gets thrown away. This issue isn’t whether there’s lots of dumb stuff online—there is, just as there is lots of dumb stuff in bookstores. The issue is whether there are any ideas so good today that they will survive into the future. Several early uses of our cognitive surplus, like open source software, look like they will pass that test.

JUNE 5, 2010
Does the Internet Make You Dumber?
The cognitive effects are measurable: We’re turning into shallow thinkers, says Nicholas Carr.

What we seem to be sacrificing in all our surfing and searching is our capacity to engage in the quieter, attentive modes of thought that underpin contemplation, reflection and introspection. The Web never encourages us to slow down. It keeps us in a state of perpetual mental locomotion.

It is revealing, and distressing, to compare the cognitive effects of the Internet with those of an earlier information technology, the printed book. Whereas the Internet scatters our attention, the book focuses it. Unlike the screen, the page promotes contemplativeness.


Clay Shirky looks at “cognitive surplus” — the shared, online work we do with our spare brain cycles. While we’re busy editing Wikipedia, posting to Ushahidi (and yes, making LOLcats), we’re building a better, more cooperative world.

Thanks, B.W. for the video link.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you believe the Internet is making us smarter…or dumber?

Please let me know what you think....