This is a book worth reading if you want to learn the how the internet affects our thinking: Nicholas Carr, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. I’m not quite finished with it, so I’ll reserve all my comments for later. Here’s a helpful quote to give you an idea of the contents.
“…In the long run a medium’s content matters less than the medium itself in influencing how we think and act. As our window onto the world, and onto ourselves, a popular medium molds what we see and how we see it – and eventually, if we use it enough, it changes who we are, as individuals and as a society. ‘The effects of technology do not occur at the level of opinions or concepts,’ wrote [Marshall] McLuhan. Rather, they alter ‘patterns of perception steadily and without any resistance.’ [McLuhan] exaggerates to make his point, but the point stands. Media work their magic, or their mischief, on the nervous system itself.”
“Our focus on a medium’s content can blind us to these deep effects. We’re too busy being dazzled or disturbed by the programming to notice what’s going on inside our heads. In the end, we come to pretend that the technology itself doesn’t matter. It’s not how we use it that matters, we tell ourselves. The implication, comforting in its hubris, is that we’re in control. The technology is just a tool, inert until we pick it up and inert again once we set it aside.”
“…The computer screen bulldozes our doubts with its bounties and conveniences. It is so much our servant than it would seem churlish to notice that it is also our master” (p. 3-4).
When it comes to Christian ethics and technology, this is a good book to put on your list (even though it’s not written from a Christian perspective). I’ve mentioned it here before, but by way of reminder, Quentin Schultze’s Habits of the High-Tech Heart is also a must-have in the area of technology and Christian ethics. (FYI, Schultze’s book is written from a Christian perspective.) I believe all Christians need to think through the goods and bads of technology; these are two books to help in this area.
2 Replies to “The Internet and Our Brains”
Nice – I’m glad you got this! I noticed it a few months back (when I was reading through some stuff by Neil Postman) and right away wish-listed it. I’ll definitely have to pick it up when this exam is over!
This reminds me so pointedly of Postman’s Technopoly where he makes some real similar observations. (In the pre-internet days, but still very on point nonetheless!)
It is an excellent book. Also recommend a book, “Virtually You”; Ken Myers interviewed the author, a Stanford doctor, a little while ago on Mars Hill Audio. The author has run across some pretty disturbing trends dealing with patients with internet addictions. Alos, Shirley Turkle, “Alone Together” is worth a read.
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