Fearing Change

Our first reading assignment for this class was to read two articles: “Is Google making us stupid?” by Nicholas Carr and “Introduction: Electracy” by Gregory Ulmer.

Is Google making us stupid?

I did find myself relating to some of Carr’s observations in the first article.  He claims that the Internet is changing the way we think, as it has caused our brains to rewire in order to accommodate a more efficient society.  Carr believes that the Internet has greatly shortened our attention spans, leading us to skim everything that we read.  He warns that we are not getting as deep of a understanding as we used to.

I think my attention span has definitely changed.  I can’t stand in any line longer than two people without my phone to entertain me.  I think since our generation has grown up in the height of this technology age, we expect instant gratification for everything.  This is because that is exactly what the Internet gives us.

Carr specifically worries about what this has done to our reading abilities.  He finds himself unable to delve into the lengthy readings that he used to enjoy.  I used to read all the time, but I can’t remember the last time I read a book outside of a class.  I used to become so engulfed in the books that I would spend my breaks from school reading all day.

In high school, I read the entire Hunger Games series in three days: one day for each book.  Once I started, I could never put the book down.  I remember reading the second book until 9 in the morning.  I don’t know if I have stopped reading books for leisure simply because I don’t have enough time anymore as a college student, or if I don’t have the attention span to do so.

As Carr says, we naturally skim instead of actually reading.  I know I have to force myself not to skim, as it’s what I’m trained to do.  Even when I’m extremely interested in what I’m reading, I will reach the end of the page and realize that I haven’t retained any information.

I am still skeptical of some of Carr’s claims because I am left with a few questions.  Are we reading less because we don’t have the attention span, or because we feel that we don’t have the time?  I know that I can get through a lengthy reading if I know that it’s required for class.

He recognizes that his theory does take a negative approach.  Carr lists some of the world’s greatest inventions and recognizes that skeptics have always expected the worst to follow.  I think the Internet, like the radio and TV before it, is a move in the natural progression of society.  People will always be skeptical of new technologies as they come, but the benefits always outweigh the costs.

Maybe our attention spans have changed, and maybe we have become a bit too reliant on Google.  However, I don’t think that it has worsened the quality of our thinking.  Our thoughts are still creative – we still wander and dream.  Change can be scary, but technological change is almost always for the better.  We just have to decide how we’re going to use the Internet as a positive influence.

Electracy

The second reading was a bit unorthodox, as we were warned before reading.  However, it also highlighted the role of the skepticism towards new technologies.  Both writers even cited the time when scholars shifted from orating to writing down their thoughts.  However, Ulmer’s theory does differ from that of Carr.

He believes that this new way of thinking, is expansion on the existing modes of orality and literacy.  This is what he refers to as electracy: the tool for digital media.  This tool includes both the skills and the physical or technological materials that we need to maximize digital communication in the world today.

Unlike Carr, Ulmer does not fear change – he invites it.  He encourages us to find a balance between literacy and electracy by incorporating electracy into our education system.  In order to do this, he believes that we must understand how to use entertainment in an academic way.

The basis for Ulmer’s theory lies in Heidegger’s interpretation of Aristotle’s observations as an invitation to focus on entirely different aspects of the world.  He specifically wanted to focus on the arts and the emotional reactions associated with them.  Kant’s belief that judging beauty is just as important as judging morality also coincides well with the theory of electracy, because it focuses on digital and visual media. All of these theorists helped facilitate the invention of electracy.

Ulmer once again contrasts the first reading, as he believes that this shift from literacy to electracy fosters our creativity instead of inhibiting it.  This is because we move from thinking only about concrete knowledge to letting our imaginations wonder, which will allow for more creation.

Ulmer emphasizes the importance of an education in aesthetics, but not simply as another art class.  Instead, he believes that it should be another way of thinking and reasoning. He wants us to use electracy to allow digital imaging to flourish and reach its full potential.  In order to illustrate his point, he compared this to literacy and the written word.

Without literacy, what use would the written word be?  This is why we must be educated in electracy in a formal setting, the same way we learned to read and write in school at a young age.  Without a formal education, we will never know how to expand upon entertainment because we won’t know how to contribute to it.

I agree with the proposition that electracy and the Internet are just as vital to society as new inventions of the past.  Although it is for entertainment purposes, I don’t think this should diminish its importance.  I’ve always thought the arts should be focused on more in school, but this approach of teaching it more as a method of thinking could be the key to this gaining traction.

There’s no need to fear the Internet – it comes with both good and bad, as does any change. It is up to us to use it as a tool for the better.

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One thought on “Fearing Change

  1. Pingback: The Evolution of the Blog | digitalgirl

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