Google On My Mind

What duty does Google have to protect the public good and where is the line on censorship drawn? Do data mining and Google AdWords infringe on our right to privacy? Are second chances still viable in this digital age where everything and anyone can be googled?

Any student studying digital communications faces these questions while investigating the search-engine conglomeration, Google. But Nicholas Carr, writing for The Atlantic, argues that Google is actually changing the way we think in his article “Is Google Making Us Stupid?

Not only has our society grown dependent on the Internet, but we are witnessing the deterioration of our mental capacity to concentrate and contemplate. Carr digresses, “Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.” In college, students pride themselves on (and are rewarded by) their efficiency and alacrity in reading a plethora of articles, anthologies and stories. We are a generation that skims. We want our news delivered in an informative, pithy email. We want summaries of assigned novels so as to avoid actually immersing ourselves in the process of deep reading. We want articles that are short and full of visual stimuli.

This infographic element was used in a market survey by AT&T AdWorks, NYC. Image graphically altered.
This infographic element was used in a market survey by AT&T AdWorks, NYC. Image graphically altered.

Carr further argues that our “ability to interpret text, to make the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely disengaged.” I couldn’t agree more. And it is deeply frustrating.

Full literary immersion is now harder to ascertain. Why? Because Google has shown us the power of immediacy. Direct and instant involvement. A question will remain unanswered only for as long as it takes you to type it out. We have grown accustomed to the amazing technology and algorithms behind search engines to the point that we forget to be amazed by the brilliance of it all.

Gregory Ulmer discusses this sentiment further in his post titled “Introduction: Electracy.”  He states that the history and theory of writing shows “that the invention of literacy included also a new experience of thought.” He goes into detail about the skills needed in order to take advantage of the full potential of emerging multimedia. He argues that we must learn how to use the figural as a mode of image reason, supplementing the pillars of argumentation and analysis in institutions.

Ulmer's Apparatus Table.
Ulmer’s Apparatus Table.

During the Industrial Revolution, Frederick Taylor introduced his idea of scientific management. He believed that systems could be applied to manual labor to maximize efficiency. Carr suggests that Taylor’s guiding principle has now started to “govern the realm of the mind” as well as the manufacturing industry. Google wants to systemize everything. And students are now taking this facet of mass media to mean that the faster we can garner needed information, the more efficient thinker we are. But is this really a better way of thinking?

“We are to the Internet what students of Plato and Aristotle were to the Academy and Lyceum.” [Gregory Ulmer]

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