“Jet Ski research” – Is Google Making Us Stoopid?

Our alumnus Matt Asay has a post on The Open Road about a must-read cover story in the latest issue of The Atlantic, “Is Google Making Us Stupid,” by Nicholas Carr.

From The Atlantic article:

. . .

My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.
 . . .
 . . . a recently published study of online research habits, conducted by scholars from University College London, suggests that we may well be in the midst of a sea change in the way we read and think. As part of the five-year research program, the scholars examined computer logs documenting the behavior of visitors to two popular research sites, one operated by the British Library and one by a U.K. educational consortium, that provide access to journal articles, e-books, and other sources of written information. They found that people using the sites exhibited “a form of skimming activity,” hopping from one source to another and rarely returning to any source they’d already visited. They typically read no more than one or two pages of an article or book before they would “bounce” out to another site. Sometimes they’d save a long article, but there’s no evidence that they ever went back and actually read it.

The authors of the study report:

It is clear that users are not reading online in the traditional sense; indeed there are signs that new forms of “reading” are emerging as users “power browse” horizontally through titles, contents pages and abstracts going for quick wins. It almost seems that they go online to avoid reading in the traditional sense.
. . .

 The article has worried and inspired Matt thusly:

Which is why I’m returning to my books. I read a fair amount–the classics, mostly–but generally only when I’m traveling. As Carr points out, I, too, have difficulty reading when my computer beckons with instant gratification. I read each night to my kids before they go to bed, but Carr’s article has me thinking that I need to return to doing the same.

Over the weekend, the Asays determined that we’re going to have “reading time” each night for an hour before bed. Everyone (except my 5- and 3-year-old) will read for an hour. My kids were already doing this. The change is for me and for my wife. I need to exercise my brain to think again, and not merely process.

After you’ve finished the article, you might want to add Carr’s recent book to your summer reading list:


Author: Carr, Nicholas G., 1959-
Title: The big switch : rewiring the world, from Edison to Google / Nicholas Carr.
      Portion of title: Rewiring the world, from Edison to Google
               Edition: 1st ed.
               Imprint: New York : W. W. Norton & Co., c2008.
  Physical Description: vii, 278 p. ; 25 cm.
                 Notes: Includes bibliographical references (p. 235-260) and
Contents: Burden’s wheel — The inventor and his clerk — Digital millwork — Goodbye, Mr. Gates — The White City — World Wide Computer — From the many to the few — The great unbundling — Fighting the net — A spider’s web — iGod — Flame and filament.
          Subject (LC): Computers and civilization.
          Subject (LC): Information technology–Social aspects.
          Subject (LC): Technological innovations.
          Subject (LC): Internet.
                  ISBN: 9780393062281 (hardcover) : $25.95
                  ISBN: 0393062287 (hardcover) : $25.95

4 thoughts on ““Jet Ski research” – Is Google Making Us Stoopid?

  1. Pingback: Buying books? « Legal Research Plus

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