Thursday, February 3, 2011

Technology-Induced ADD


As stated in this article "We face the same dilemma the Greeks faced 2,500 years ago. A new-fangled thing called writing was causing a problem for the Athenian philosopher Socrates. This technology-induced ADD is worse in the young, but all ages are affected by the ubiquitous digital medium, which is becoming the universal platform for all our communications.

In almost all the articles I reviewed on this subject all mentioned "The technology-induced ADD.

My co-workers and a few friends assisted me in a little experiment to see how long they and there children could go without being on the internet, emails, texting, Face book, twitter, etc. After work hours of course in place of all the digital media they were to read the paper, a book, look things up the old fashion way, call there friends and family, write letters, manual do math problems. It was quite interesting a couple of folks didn't even last 1 – day, a few others just couldn't take it any more after 2 – 3 days, as they stated they need there fix almost like a junkie, and a very few others lasted the whole week.

Of course I don't really know if any of the ones that last the week cheated or not, but I do believe

They didn't. The kids did not last even a day; they had no idea what to do with themselves or how to even look up a book at the library without the computer. Some were we need are internet and everything else, the ones that lasted the week, stated they did admit how much they missed just sitting down to read an article, book, or paper. They each found there self's reading the whole article vs. scanning like they do on the internet. Along with them each had a little harder time doing normal math problems by hand vs. a calculator.

Actually I'm on the fence the internet does give us great advantages of more knowledge and information, then you could possible get my reading, unless you did nothing but read. But on the other hand for school age kids they should be taught first on how to write a paper without spell check, do research at the library, and just think for there self without the internet, Don't get me wrong, the internet is a wonderful tool but there something's that you just need to learn the old-fashion way.

Google thinkers

Ah the first time I read the "Is google making us stupid" was for my English writing test to get into U of M Dearborn. In my opinion Google, if used correctly, can actually help make us smarter. I mean think about it, 20 years ago when you wanted to find something out you had to go to the library, look it up in the catalog, then find it using the dewy decimal system and then read the book or article. Now you just turn on you computer, open Firefox or whatever web browser you use, go to Google and type in what you need to know. This also allows you to work at your own pace and not have to worry if someone else is going to get the book you need to research on.

Now there is also a way the Google can be bad. Like with Spider-Man, Google is a great power and with great power comes great responsibility. If you use Google to help you with school work that's fine. But this same power that can help many also hurts. People who don't use it wisely could just copy and paste a paper. With that threat Universities and Schools have had to use programs, which cost money, to proofread the papers for academic dishonesty. This webpage has a good article about "Cybercheating." With it being so close at hand it's often hard not to try and push the limits on how much you can take from an site and put into your own paper. I've found a great site that could help you check percentage of "Outside Info" your paper has.

I've discussed how Google can be good and bad for users. I believe that Google is good as long as you know how to use it. Don't abuse this wonderful place that collects a lot of information about the world in one place, after all isn't it nice to get what you need in one place?

Word cloud for the course so far

Here's what we've been talking about so far.

Fourth blog post: On crowdsourcing and collaboration

To be sure, the web has introduced unprecedented ways to bring people together in collaborative forms.

Based on this week's readings, what do you think are the advantages and drawbacks of online collaboration and crowdsourcing? Do you agree with Howard Rheingold's assessment that cooperation and open source initiatives are ultimately about self-interest? Or Nicholas Carr's claim that we overly celebrate the amateur, instead of trusting the professional, online? Is crowdsourcing enabling new forms of knowledge or art or innovation to emerge, or is it just another tool for collaboration, as humans have always done?

You can, in particular, consider the recent events in Egypt - what role has collaboration through social media played in fueling the protests (or news reporting) there?

Respond to any or all of the above questions in this week's post. And remember - the best posts will reference specific examples in the readings, include an image, and include a title. Due Wednesday, February 9th.


The Internet is a mind-boggling place to put your mind into. It can be so beneficial and convenient in so many ways but it can also make us so extremely lazy. Like inmy wiki, I kept talking about GOOGLE and how I am a google-er. I search anything and everything that I may be unsure of on google and I get an answer. I love the convenience of that but many times, I get the answer I needand don’t bother reading further into something or reading a book or anything. So then I question (along with many others)…does the Internet make you dumber?

“When we’re constantly distracted and interrupted, as we tend to be online, our brains are unable to forge the strong and expansive neural connections that give depth and distinctiveness to our thinking. We become mere signal-processing units, quickly shepherding disjointed bits ofinformation into and then out of short-term memory.” – Nicholas Carr (

^^Basically what I do…google everything short term. No real significance to many ofthe things I search.

"In another experiment, recently conducted at Stanford University's Communication Between Humans and Interactive Media Lab, a team of researchers gave various cognitive tests to 49 people who do a lot of media multitasking and 52 people who multitask much less frequently. The heavy multitaskers performed poorly on all the tests. They were more easily distracted, had less control over their attention, and were much less able to distinguish important informationfrom trivia." – Nicholas Carr (

I don’t think it has so much to do with being DUMB, but more so the fact that we aredistracted...

Then, one might question where the Internet is leading education? I mean if EVERYTHING can be offered online, from classes to certificates, then why even have institutions/campuses? I don’t event know the answer to that. I’m split. But as my opinion, school and an actual learning environment is very much so needed for kids (and even adults) to learn to become social and explore the world physically. We have to make mistakes and learn from them. Instead of reading it up online or searching the answer to everything. And really, if things didn’t happen in real life, then how can information be posted online? HA! It’s funny because as i'm writing this, i'm also questioning what i'm writing and coming up with more questions…=/

The web DEFINETLY does change the way we think. We spend umpteen hours, either mindlessly or not, on our computers. Some get addicted to watching stocks online and others stare at a screen to watch a little red notification to pop up at the top of their social networking page. After we leave our computer, if we have nothing else to do, we go right back on and do the same thing over again. Its similar to gaming, you just do it sometimes even without thinking. We don’t consider being more active or for some just giving our eyes some rest. We would rather be online doing nothing.

Just like anything else, the Internet can be good and bad, depending on how you use it and how often you use it. Overall though, the internet, no matter how much you use it, you know it is at your disposal. You can run to it whenever you please without considering any other physical or extensive action such as getting up to go to the library to check a book out or do research elsewhere. It is just SO simple and SO convenient and we are fully aware of it. Why make things harder than they should be?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Information Overload

Today, the Internet provides most people with services and information.  It has changed the way humans learn, communicate, and conduct everyday life.  It has certainly caused an information overload, but is this overload good or bad?

Nicholas Carr's article "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" suggests that humans are not immersing themselves in reading and are becoming "stupid" because of Google.  He believes that it has changed our way of thinking.  I have to disagree with Mr. Carr because Google hasn't changed our way of thinking.  We use "keyword" searches to find our goal, but isn't this analogous to the way the mind works?  Certain patterns in our environment prime our memories to retrieve relevant data.  This is exactly the same technique Google uses when returning search results.  Granted Google's specific approach may be different than the mind's, but from a top-down perspective they are attempting to achieve the same process.

In my opinion, the Internet has led to a constructive information overload for the human mind.  The brain is a highly parallel and distributed system which manages every aspect of human behavior.  It requires information from the environment to learn and perform tasks.  Without this information, the brain could not perform basic or "intelligent" processes.  Logically, we can infer that with more information, the brain has more potential information to process.  With more information to process, the brain is destined to become more "intelligent."  Google has stated that its mission is "to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”  To make this information useful, it has to be returned quickly, so if you want to read, grab a book!  In summary, Google is providing our minds with more organized information.  By providing humans with quick, organized information, Google increases human intelligence.


The Web: Try Not To Get Distrac--

Internet distraction
The internet is a place full of information and entertainment. Social media, scholarly research, games, radio, and video productions are all on the web. For better or worse, with emerging smartphone technologies, we're nearly constantly connected to the internet in some form or another. An endless supply of knowledge and fun at your fingertips... anytime... anywhere; you can do almost anything. This allure is not only distracting, but potentially harmful.

When reading Is Google Making Us Stupid? (, I realized I'm having these same problems! In a nutshell, the article says that with so much information at our disposal that is only a click away, people are having a harder time doing more deep reading/learning. Many people complain of no longer being able to focus on a particular source of information for as long as they once could. I find myself a victim of this same phenomenon. For example, in our online class this week, I was originally interested in listening to the radio cast that was posted; it would have made for a nice change of pace from the usual learning. That was until I realized it was 30 minutes long; 30 minutes! It isn't that 30 minutes is an excessive amount of time, but in the fast paced world of the internet, 30 minutes is equivalent to days.

Of course, this shortened attention span that has been developing in people as a consequence of the internet is leading to a number of unwelcome phenomenon. First of all, many students in classrooms are finding it much more difficult to pay attention than in years past. You can tune in to the news from around the world, play a quick game, network with friends, etc. Many people cannot resist these temptations. Howard Rheingold, in an effort to develop a curriculum about attention and attention in the classroom, has been taking videos of his students and analyzing their behaviors. Here is one of his videos: . In this video, you can see how students look from the professor's perspective. As you can see, many students with methods of distracting themselves are indeed doing so. Now, maybe not every student whose head is buried in their laptops isn't paying attention, but even multitasking limits the amount you can learn and take in from any one source.

Now, what is it exactly that is so distracting to people on the web? Sure, everybody knows about email, Facebook, Twitter, etc. However, there are many other websites that have discovered the secret to increasing their web traffic: by exploiting our short attention spans. But what are some of the exceedingly dangerous websites that are taking advantage of their users' shortened attention spans? Here are a few for your own entertainment... should you choose to open Pandora's box.

***Warning: If You Are An Easily Distracted Person, Stop Reading Now!***

News of all kinds, from anywhere in the world, often before it is reported officially

Wikipedia... might I suggest the "random article" button!

StumbleUpon is an extremely addictive, self-proclaimed "discovery engine". It learns what types of things you enjoy on the web and recommends web pages for you to visit.

Funny cat pictures and videos

Addicting games, as would be expected, from the following link

When I was your age...

It's ironic of Nicholas Carr, to spend 9 pages expounding on the theory that the Internet and Google has caused a dramatic shift in our intellectual society. According to his theory, over the course of a few years we have devolved from deep, analytical readers and thinkers into information Jesus bugs1 waiting on our prescription of Ritalin to be refilled.

Really, Mr. Carr? 9 pages? That's 4,222 words devoted to the idea that we can no longer actively read more than 2 paragraphs. According to your theory I should have stopped reading not long after Mr. Bowman began pulling HAL's memory circuits. How were you, yourself, able to proofread the article?

Like Socrates before him Carr is, in his own words, shortsighted in his assessment of Google and the ubiquity of information on the Internet. Sure, Bruce Friedman (the pathologist from the University of Michigan Medical School) may not have the patience to read War and Peace any longer but he can search the entire text for his favorite quote on Google books2.

In the two years since Carr's article was published we have seen this information and more importantly, the tools used to publish this information used in amazing ways. Iranians used Twitter to protest elections in July of 2009 giving us a commoner's view of Iranian politics3. Haitians tweeted their location to relief workers and their stories to the world after the earthquake in 20104. Recently, open government maven, Julian Assange, has shocked U.S. domestic and foreign policy with the online publication of tens of thousands of pages of classified diplomatic cables. And as I write this, the Egyptian government has shut down its main Internet connection in an attempt to prevent citizens from using Twitter and Facebook to organize massive protests.

Through his mourning of the "good 'ole days" Carr makes the same mistake of his elder skeptics in ignoring the possibilities created by ubiquitous, easily accessible information produced by an ever diverse group of thinkers.


1Jesus bugs, also known as Water Striders, are small insects that walk on top of (or skim) the surface of water.




Why can't we turn off?

It's no secret that technology is fast becoming an integral part of our lives. With devices such as cell phones, computers, and the like keeping us constantly updated on both our own state of affairs and that of the rest of the world, their presence is quickly becoming all too essential to our daily responsibilities and leisure activities. Whether looking up friends via FaceBook, typing up notes during your professor's lecture, or even just pulling out your iPhone for a quick game of Peggle between classes, it's rare that we don't have some form of tech running at any given moment during the day. What's more, every time the latest advance for one of these devices shows up, everyone scrambles to be among the first to get their hands on it, eager to be among the early adopters. However, with all our energies being put towards the pursuit and use of said technology, it begs the question: when do we get to the stopping point?

Indeed, as technology becomes more and more important to us, it becomes all too easy to let it completely consume us. People end up paying thousands upon thousands of dollars to grab the latest new tech, regardless of whether they have a use for it or not, just for the bragging rights. Even if their current set-up is perfectly fine, the desire to be among the first to get their hands on the latest product and the bragging rights that come with it is too great to resist.

Furthermore, the more plugged in we become, the less aware we are of the world around us. Social media sites like FaceBook and Twitter do a great job of helping us keep in touch with family and friends, but at the cost of genuine social interaction. The way two people converse online vastly differs from how they would interact in the outside world, and as a result, they're far less able to easily adapt and conform to the rest of society. If a person spends too much time conversing only online with others, they'll never develop the proper social skills to help them communicate in the real world.

Similarly, by having constant access to the internet, it gets harder and harder to police what individuals are doing when they should be doing other things. Many times during different classes, I've spotted individuals surfing the web or texting each other when they should be paying attention to a lecture. Distraction is easier than ever, and the risk of making a crucial mistake as a result is higher than ever. Not to mention that of you stay locked to your devices, you miss out on the opportunity to really experience all the world has to offer. Can you really say you've lived your life if you spent most of it in front of a screen?

In addition, internet culture is gradually affecting the rest of the world; members of the younger generation, for example, have begun to use shortened, "chat-speak" forms of words in offline writing. In fact, several movements have begun to pop up demanding that some words actually be stricken from the dictionary for being too difficult and underused, while others would be replaced with shortened or more phonetically-spelled versions to make them easier to type or learn. This idea that our very language should be watered down to appeal to the lowest common denominator is almost beyond comprehension, and yet some are all too eager to see it put to use.

Worst of all, though, it feels like I read a story every week or two about someone dying because they or their caretaker refused to stop playing video games or using the net long enough to attend to basic human needs; babies' cries going ignored for the sake of keeping a virtual farm running, waiting twenty hours to eat while trying to grind to level 73, dogs nudging their bowls towards their owners who are busy watching all of LOST's third season's completely ludicrous.

Technology has certainly helped to make our lives easier, but you can have too much of a good thing. So the next time your phone or laptop is up and running, why not shut it down for a while and see how well off you can be without it? You might just surprise yourself.

Human Evolution Out of the Internet Age

The internet has become daily life for included. I live, study, work, and interact with like-minded people online (though, I'm not too sold on social networking). I'm a net junkie and I'm apparently paying the consequences. We are becoming less focused and proficient in specialized tasks. Yet, humans are an evolutionary species, and we will find a way to master this ever-changing information environment. The problem is accessibility will play a role in this "survival of the fittest."

Currently, the human brain does not have the ability to multitask successfully. We are able to have our attention on different things at the same time but we do not focus on each particular task indiscriminately. As such, we are performing our tasks half-way...paying more attention to some more than others...not performing them all in their entirety. According to Carr, online users are developing ADD because our attention is split by the multitude of tasks we perform while online and by information being presented diluted...unfocused.

In my experience, I use the internet for a myriad of things. I do homework, work, search for news, and talk to people. I multitask on several things at once without focusing entirely on one. More over, I search countless, and sometimes useless, things online from how much the rents are in a given city to how you can open an overseas account (I know!). I waste time and the information, even the newscast , I obtain is incomplete. Given that the internet is so far reaching this is unlikely to change.

Nonetheless, I believe that humans, as an evolutionary species, can evolve to a point where they can sustain their attention at more than one task and they can master all the information being bombarded at them. I disagree with Cascio in that prescription medication can be a good alternative to tapping into this potential. Pharmaceuticals have far too many side effects to be worth the "advantages." His futuristic vision that techie devices may allow us to use machine-like potential is far-fetched for the timeline he gives of 2030. I can't rule it out to occur within the next 100 years, though. It is doable and I'm certain humans will take advantage of technology in this way. Yet, this will make us dependent upon this technologies and in the event that we don't have them we "lose the abilities" unless we are able to change the world by then. Another issue I propose with this route is that this will only be accessible to those that can have the financial means and accessibility to do so...thus, leaving behind the financially disadvantaged groups. Sort of a survival of the fittest, but more like survival for the accessible!

Humanity has made use of technology to adapt to diverse array of environments. We have used the wheel, we have used crop rotation...we have also built machines to take us almost anywhere faster. In short, we have built adaptable niches to sustain our lifestyle using technology until today. The world is changing faster and more complicated so we must adapt in order to keep the species and our civilizations in this world. The question now is...what is the best course of action to be able to cope with all this information and to develop the mind focus needed for the multiplicity of our online lives? And, the bigger it fair that accessibility to this new online niche will give us an advantage in the long term over other societies with less accessibility?

Radio in Cyberspace

There are moments in time where you realized that perhaps you chose the wrong profession and with most people it is because of technology. I graduated from Specs Howard School of Broadcasting Arts in July of 2007. I got a job in Grand Rapids a week after I graduated doing radio for WGRD and WNWZ a Tex-Mex station. I also did promotions for the 3 other stations that at the time it was called Regent Broadcasting. I did it for a year working weekends on-air and doing promotions whenever possible. But there was a problem.

Radio was and still is in a decline. We were playing the same music all the time. My program director told me " We dont play requests if we did we all be out of jobs". So the question I raised to myself was " What are people listen to ?" I was not so sure if it was us anymore.

The following year, I moved back to Detroit and got hired working for Greater Media and worked for Riff2 on air and found out that Regent Broadcasting went bankrupt. The reason being? Online radio stations like and were becoming places that listeners could customize their radio experience. People were not spending their ad dollars on the radio stations like FM or AM. There were going in mediums that people are using. My time at Greater Media prove this even greater. I was in a major radio market and yet lay-offs were happening all the time. If ratings were not there you were gone. No chances to prove yourself at all because people chose to listen to their mp3 device on their way to work.

The internet has changed many things but the most has been the music business and radio. You can promote bands via sites like Myspace and Facebook without getting into a radio station. Internet sensations are created. Look at Justin Bieber. Yes we all might hate him but thanks to Youtube, he found radio play via the net. Most bands have created their sound based off a audience created on here. They hear a band and download the song on their mp3 device.

The weekly Internet Radio audience has increased 50% over the past year according to Arbitron. No one wants to hear the same songs over and over again. The internet has created a chance for bands who might never got their chance otherwise through conventional and other methods to be on a radio station.

I run the campus radio station and we play all kinds from local to world music. We want people to have a awareness of what else is out there. The internet is a world-wide forum and we have people that listen all the way from England to listen to music. That is powerful stuff. Local radio stations serve a purpose to the community but the internet has allowed to push the envelope on increasing the music diversity and for others to hear a song.

efficiency and inefficacy

“In Plato’s Phaedrus, Socrates bemoaned the development of writing. He feared that, as people came to rely on the written word as a substitute for the knowledge they used to carry inside their heads, they would, in the words of one of the dialogue’s characters, ‘cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful.’” - Nicholas Carr

This quote struck me the most from Nicholas Carr's article. In truth, it perfectly applies to the internet. It reminds me of the classic question of where one's mind resides, is it in our brain, as a physical manifestation, or somewhere else? Part of it, at least, now resides in the internet. We use the internet almost as an extension of our brains in which to store information. Why learn facts and keep them in your head when you could just look them up instantly?

The process of finding information is important in learning, though. This process is hastened on the internet to such an extreme that the process is almost nonexistence. For example, when I'm reading a book on my Kindle and don't recognize a word, I can instantly have my Kindle define it. There have been times where I get the definition of a word, only to see that word again a couple dozen pages later, then I have to have my Kindle define it…again.

Before, you would have had to try to figure it out the word’s meaning using context, like we were taught so many years ago, then make note of the word, and ultimately look it up in a dictionary. If I had actually, god forbid, picked up a dictionary and thumbed through the pages and read the definition I would have never forgotten it.

I’m sure many have written papers for class including citations for books and articles you never really read, stuff you just pulled minute amounts of information from or read a synopsis of, information you could never recall now. Imagine if the internet didn’t exist and you actually had to go to a library, get the material and read all that information? You would’ve learned a helluva lot more and you'd remember it for longer. These are, of course, examples on a tremendously small scale, but they are telling of the direction we’re moving towards.

I think having all the information of the world at our fingertips in an instant is unhealthy for us. We don’t have to work for our information anymore. We don’t have to consume large amounts of text and draw conclusions from it and analyze it, because those things are already done for us. The internet is far too efficient of a tool. As a result, we keep less in our mind, and rely on the internet to keep more for us.

I don't believe the Internet is making us stupid, but like all technology it does change the way we think. For example, before cars or trains traveling across the country was an expedition, not a trip. Now, however, going from Michigan to Florida isn't a decision about what supplies to bring so you don't die, it's whether to go fast by flying or to save some money and take the scenic route by driving.

I think that people believe the Internet is making us stupid because, like all media, the loudest and most entertaining things are usually the ones that jump out at us. These are usually things that a lot of people might consider "stupid," such as a reality TV shows. People use the Internet like television: to get away from the world. We work, go to school, be responsible, and when we get some time to ourselves we like to get away. I believe it's this getting away that makes people think we're becoming more stupid. They don't consider the time we spend not doing these things, although that time does seem to be getting smaller and smaller so maybe there's something to that line of thought.

IDK--Google it!

“I don’t know…Google it!” These words have become a very big part of our everyday lives it seems. Every time I have a question that I do not know the answer too, I always find myself ‘Google-ing it’. Goggle and other websites have had such a significant impact on our lives that we may not even realize it. Google, E-mail, Instant Messages, Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, Yahoo and many more websites have seem to be a new source of databanks for numerous types of information. Here we can ask friends questions, look up site pages for information, chat with people, and even our professors for information. These websites have made life easier in a sense but have they made us ‘stupid?’

Although we may not realize, of course the Internet changes the way we think. It affects us in many ways. It affects are abilities to the way we think, write, process information and much more. The Internet plays an important factor in our present day lives, but even up to 50 years ago these things did not exist, and somehow we still made it.

The article, “Is Google Making Us Stupid”, had a lot of great points and made me think a lot about how the Internet affects me personally and others as well. But, as to answer the question if it is really making us stupid, I believe that it is not. Google and other websites are only changing the process in the way we do things in life, and in fact can make us smarter. These resources can make life easier or more difficult, depending on the situation. Of course there are positive and negative benefits to the reliance of Internet information and for own personal time, such as browsing. People have such a significant reliance of the Internet for information that they are losing skills of having to seek other resources to achieve their objective, but also have gained more skills that are needed in the world today. To say that it is making us stupid, is quite bold.

Our minds hardwired to create and process information in an elaborate way. Everything we do all links together by our brains. Because of our brains, we have the ability to adapt to new ways of doing things and create new ideas on how to improve our current situations. For example, the Internet has had such a significant effect, that, according to the article, “our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts.” This means because our thoughts are changing by the way we use technologies; we express it though the way we write, but does not make us stupid.

I don’t believe that it has made us stupid but just enhanced a new way of life that people back before us would only dream about. It’s an easy, efficient and time shortening way of life that accompanies our busy lives. Although many people spend significant amounts of time on the Internet, there is reason to believe that it can help us become smarter because of the wide variety of resources that are available to us.

So, I guess what the question is "Is Google really the enemy here or are we just victims of our own Internet world that we have essentially created?"

Google does NOT make us stupid.

Can we Multitask?

It seems that everyone now is trying to get as much then as they can it as little time as possible. Unlike computers though our brains can only do one thing at a time and just switches tasks back and forth quickly to simulate multitasking. Its all about saving time to the point that people do emails while they are driving and this leads us to having laws passed in certain areas that make it illegal to do anything but drive. No more eating, no more talking on the phone, no more anything but your two hands on the wheel and your eyes glued to the road.

People are convinced that you can do everything at once without it complicating more important things. College students are always trying to be on Facebook and with laptops and smart phones it has become so easy to do this while sitting in class. I have caught myself doing it all the time. I plan just to check a quick thing on the internet and that leads to something else which leads to something else. When I look up to see what is going on in the lecture I am completely lost and not sure what all I missed.

While humans can't multitask like a computer can, we have our ways to simulate it and work on multiple things at a time save time in our day and fit as much in as possible.

Fast-Paced Information, Fast-Paced Evolution

"We swim in an ocean of data, accessible from nearly anywhere, generated by billions of devices." -Jamais Cascio

What a profound statement. This quote (posted in the July/August 2009 edition of the Atlantic) most certainly reflects our fast paced, information streaming, social media-based society. With everyone constantly connected to their laptops and smartphones, we are able to go on Youtube and see videos of protestors in Egypt, click over to to read the latest on-site report by Brian Williams, put up a link to the article on Twitter, and post our thoughts on the matter on Facebook within a span of 15 minutes. 20 years ago that last sentence would have been pure gibberish. Today it's what we do while we drink our morning coffee.

Of course the web is changing how we think. The internet provides users with a never-ending stream of information which we consume at an ever faster pace. In that same article by Cascio, he states, "The trouble isn’t that we have too much information at our fingertips, but that our tools for managing it are still in their infancy." In the days where the morning paper and nightly world news shows were the main sources of world information, managing the data was simple. People read the paper, watched the news, and continued about their lives. Today, Katie Couric reports that Walmart will not be building a store near a Civil War battleground, and we immediately look up the history of Walmart on Wikipedia and if any famous people were involved in the Battle of the Wilderness.

Take a look at this article posted on Engadget and see if you're one of the 86% of people who access the internet while watching TV. Are you? I know I am.

Is this a bad thing? Is the fact that our attention spans are getting shorter because of the information overload an issue? If you watch a Microsoft Bing commercial, they'd like you to think it is. The problem is not that we're overloaded with information or that we can't focus. It is human nature to strive to know more and to learn. The real issue is, just as Cascio felt, that we don't yet have the means to organize the information because the medium through which we access it is so new. Ultimately, technology is evolving and it is up to us to evolve with it.

Power Browsing: The New Reading Strategy

       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. 
                                                -Nicholas Carr, Is Google Making Us Stupid?

       Carr opens his article by talking about how his mind has 'changed' - from being able to sit down and read through hours of prose, to being able to barely finish 4 paragraphs in a blog. I can completely understand where he's coming from. While personally I can still sit down to read a novel (when school isn't in session and there isn't homework to get done), I find it very difficult to sit down and read, especially for class. I have to break up textbooks and long articles online into smaller parts, and I start to skim or "power browse" as Carr puts it.
       In a way, it's very disheartening. I feel like I could be missing out on the point of what I'm reading. Unfortunately though, with this 'new' technology, I feel like we are expected to do so much more - or we are lead to believe that we can fit so much more in to our day. In all honesty, if I were to read every assigned reading word for word, page by page, I would never have time to do anything else for myself. With the internet at my fingertips I can easily hop online, search a key word and browse, going from page to page just like Carr mentions. I learn the material in short bits - skimming the hard copy textbooks, reading headlines and bold words, and using the internet to find miniature descriptions that will give me what I need to know.

       There are simply too many distractions out there that it's hard to stay focused on just one thing at a time. Psychology tells us that the older you are the more your selective attention (ability to focus on one thing) increase. While your self control may increase, I think the internet (and "power browsing") definitely hinder that ability. I'm not sure yet where I stand on this... it could be a good thing - you can learn more information in a shorter amount of time - but it can also be a bad thing: are you really learning all you can learn, or are you just scratching the surface?

Cell Studies Critically Flawed

Whether or not it is safe to perform certain tasks together has been the subject of countless studies and surveys in recent years, from constant appearances on Local news outlets to an appearance on Mythbusters. The common perception, for the benefit of ‘shock and awe’ in public perception, have been consistently compared to the effect of driving intoxicated. These studies, although truthful in context of the study, miss a huge concept.

There is a lot of information available on the effects of different conditions that these studies ignore. In the NPR radio segment, Daniel Weissman talked about this concept. Some of the factors include: Easier to switch between different stimulators, It depends on how demanding the tasks are, and ultimately strategies are critical to the success of multi-tasking.

The key to driving comes down to a concept called continuous partial attention. When driving and talking, I notice that whenever something happens on the road that requires my attention, I end up having to ask “What was that again?” My brain switched to driving as my primary attention. Studies force subjects to never let this happen, they make the subject keep driving as secondary no matter what, that negates the ability to switch. Think of the cocktail analogy given by the other NPR audio story. If you are listening to one person, you are constantly scanning the background noise. Just wait for someone to break a glass or say your name and see how quickly your attention will turn.

I do believe that driving and talking, especially pulling your eyes off the road, is dangerous. I am simply making a call for a change in the way studies are completed. For the piano experiment, I would suggest moving the piano slightly and watching them compensate in different situations, and see where their focus goes, to the piano or the phone conversation.

Pay Attention!

"The brain is a lot like a computer. You may have several screens open on your desktop, but you're able to think about only one at a time" -William Stixrud, Ph.D, Neuropsychologist-

I believe that the Web can be used both as a great tool - and also, sometimes as a great distraction. In Howard Rheingold's article "Attention Literacy", he discusses how his students tend to drift off into space during class, especially when in the presence of their laptops and cell phones. I think it is safe to say that everyone has been guilty of this at one point or another. Rheingold states that "attention is a skill that must be learned, shaped, practiced". I strongly agree with this statement. In high school, my teachers did not allow any cell phones or laptops in class. When I first came to college, I realized how easy it was to become distracted with a laptop or cell phone on my desk. According to the NPR segment about multitasking, the brain can truly focus on one thing at a time - although many people fool themselves into thinking they are much better at performing multiple tasks at once than they really are. Some even argue that multitasking is dangerous to your health.

The Web is not only changing the way we think, but it is also changing the way we relate to one another. Take for example, Facebook. This site changes the way you interact with your friends. Let's say today is your birthday. You will most likely receive wall posts from your Facebook friends who drop a quick line to wish you a happy birthday. Ten years ago, your friends would most likely send a card in the mail, call you on the phone, or stop by your house for a visit on your birthday. In my opinion, Facebook removes the personal element of relationships. It is much easier to write a quick birthday wish on a Facebook wall - and much more convenient, but I don't think it carries the same value as a more thought-out interaction.

Do you think the Web has changed the way you interact with others? Do you think this has had a more positive or negative impact on your relationships?

Facebook, Synergy and Revolution.

If there were two words I didn’t think would ever go together they would certainly be Facebook and revolution; particularly, revolution in the violent, social upheaval definition of the word. Facebook isn’t supposed to be an agent for social change; it’s where I post pictures of family, my SUV, my vacations, and all the wonderful things it means to be me. It’s supposed to be my official brag to the world page, isn’t it?

Well, in Egypt the internet was shut down for several days to prevent the coordination of massive antigovernment rallies, which were being coordinated via Facebook and other sites. How did this happen? Is it the technology that’s causing this revolution, or was the revolution going to happen anyway, and the technology is just helping to facilitate it?

I’d have to say that the answer is a little of both. While a 30 year long dictatorship will certainly sow seeds of dissent within a population, unless there is some sort of organizing agent to focus and direct these voices of dissent, not much will happen. What’s fascinating to me, in this case we have several seemingly unrelated issues, that when added together, cause the whole to be greater than the sum of their parts – a truly unique synergistic combination of events.

If we look at the two pieces of the puzzle as discrete technologies, we can see an amazing transformation has taken place. The internet – a mass of interconnected computer networks, and Facebook – a website that allows users customize their own little corner of cyber space. Nothing about either technology screams revolution; on the contrary, both seem equally innocuous. The Egyptians are taking both of these technologies and are using them in conjunction with each other to change their own destiny. Now, as I write this, I hear that more countries in the Middle East are experiencing some unrest as well and they are using the internet, Facebook, and even Twitter to help rally others to their cause.

I’m very interested in seeing if the balance of power in the Middle East is going to shift as people now have more access to technologies to inform themselves and organize themselves.

“At our computer club, we talked about it being a revolution. Computers were going to belong to everyone, and give us power, and free us from the people who owned computers and all that stuff.” – Steve Wozniak –

Evil Will Always Triumph, Because Good Is Dumb!

     Is Google making us stupid?  It’s not that specific.  They are part of the problem, but one cannot blame them entirely.  We should hold technology as a whole accountable for our stupidity. 

      The search engine is just one consideration for societies increasing stupidity.  I equate the internet search engine to this; handing one an already finished Rubik’s Cube. 

Salesman: Say, you look like you could use an activity book with half the activities done.
Peter: Wow, that would save me half the time.
Salesman: Connect the dots? Ha! More like set the book down and have a beer.
Peter: You got yourself a deal. –FAMILY GUY

     Research is an equal part of the assignment.  One must use the brain to search, narrow, and process the information needed.  Research, causes the brain to think!  With the internet it seems this has gone completely out the widow.  Does anyone remember Encyclopedia Britannica, card catalogs, The Dewey Decimal System, and microfiche A time when one actually had to think about research to find the information needed.  Now, with search engines a few keywords here, a few clicks there, and you have a chocolate factory filled with goodies.  I use the internet for research, so this may seem hypocritical, but there is a void of satisfaction.  Search engines are like the Cliff’s Notes of modern times, the lazy way out.
     Research that once required days in the stacks of periodical rooms of libraries can now be done in minutes.  A few GOOGLE searches, some quick clicks on hyperlinks, and I've got the telltale fact or pithy quote I was after. -Nicholas Carr

     It can be said even the common high school book report is dead.  Not necessarily the assignment, but the student attempting to actually read the book.  Why?  Here’s an example.  A teacher wants a two page report on The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde.  Why on earth would you take a day to read this literary classic, when there are so many other options?  You could do the following to make life far easier:

·         Download the audio book
·         Purchase the audio book
·         GOOGLE an abstract
·         Rent the movie (Dorian Gray 2009) (The Picture Of Dorian Gray 1945)
·         Wikipedia or any other online source that would provide a summary
   This does not pertain to just academics.  I loved to read (note the past tense); from comic books, to Stephen King novels, even Harry Potter.  Why curl up in a blanket next to the fire, when I can just get the audio books and lay in bed?  Why sacrifice my precious time when I can load the entire novel on my IPOD and cut the grass?  Simple, because I am lazy. 
     The more technology advances (to make our lives easier) the dumber we become.  Spell check, grammar check, voice recognition, the list goes on.  Skynet will soon run the world, and society will be filled with characters from Idiocracy.

Brain Decomposition

The most alarming thing to me when reading and thinking over these articles about how the web is changing the way we think and our abilities to multitask was that I came to the realization that it is exactly how I am now. Undoubtedly, my constant internet usage over the past 7 years has warped my brain to process and seek information, to scan paragraphs for what I want and ignore everything else. It's alarming because I never considered this was affecting me in the way it is, and now that I'm conscious of it I want to do everything I can to fight it and revert back to how I used to be.

While my supposed increased ability to scan for information does come in handy for facebook, plundering wikipedia, or scanning message boards, the weakening of my brain's ability to absorb knowledge from what I'm reading is obviously detrimental and scary to me. Philosopher Henryk Skolimowski wrote an essay that addresses the differences between wisdom, knowledge, and information, and how information at its essence is something that not only alienates us, but does not represent knowledge in any way which is exactly where I see our world at today. We are in the "Information Age", which while promising because of unprecedented access to information, the technology and methods of dissecting and examining our information keeps it on the information level. I would venture to say that most people possess no "real" knowledge, nor do they access it- they merely get the information they desire, use it, and forget it (unless of course they use it frequently).

Multitasking Never Worked For Me

As I listened to the NPR talk about multitasking, I found myself once again failing to do so.  I was trying to take notes, listen, text, and read tweets.  I found myself continuously having to rewind the recording to catch things that I missed.  I always try to do more things at once, but I lack in efficiency when I do.  I envy those who can watch TV while holding a conversation with me, and still remember the things I’ve said.  I fit the norm.  According to John Hamilton, “the human brain is designed to do one thing at a time.”  However, Daniel Wiseman said that the best multitaskers are in the college age group.  Looks like I don’t make the cut.

This makes me want this sort of intelligence augmentation mentioned in the article “Get Smarter.”  Why wouldn’t I want to improve my ability to do more when time is usually not on our side?  Even with time management, it seems like we completely run out of time.  That’s why drugs like Adderall are so prevalent with college students.  We need to feel more efficient.  We need to focus.

“When you check your information or get a ring or buzz, you get a dopamine squirt.  You get a little rush of adrenaline.  In its absence, you feel bored.”
-Matt Richtel, “Price of Putting ‘Your Brain on Computers’”

How will we ever focus with so many distractions?  I sort of think we won’t ever evolve to all of our distractions even though technology is so much a part of our lives.  So we will continue to miss some things when we text while holding a conversation while eating while doing homework.  I know I do.  That blinking light on my phone right now is a distraction as a type.  I’m pressured to finish this sentence before the text takes over my thought process.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Too Many Tasks, So Little Time

"I feel like I don't have enough time in the day to do everything" (3)
Whether we like it or not technology keeps evolving and with it, so does our propensity to evolve our techniques for handling the ever increasing demands of our daily lives.  But is technology really making multitasking easier? Does this ease of multitasking decrease our cognitive ability, or need, to pay attention to singular items or tasks? Does our need to be "constantly plugged in" (4) to our tech devices create an "induced form of ADD" (2) from which we cannot escape? Is Google really making us stupid? (1)  Our readings and podcasts for this week discuss these very questions and it was quite interesting to see that not everyone agrees with the answers. 

As the discussion on NPR's Talk of the Nation podcast Bad at Multitasking?: Blame Your Brain noted, most scientific research seems to agree that our brains our really "wired" to focus on and complete one task at a time and that most people "fool themselves" into thinking that they can actually multitask.  According to these scientists, our brains are really switching rapidly from one task to another; we aren't able to focus all of our attention on more than one thing at a time.  What I found particularly interesting was the idea that Nicholas Carr in his article Is Google Making Us Stupid? and Jamais Cascio in his Get Smarter essay, eluded to.  They seemed to suggest that we (our brains in particular) might, someday, evolve to become able to divide our attention equally among many different tasks at the same time, effectively allowing ourselves to become "true multitaskers."  They illustrate that the ubiquitous nature of tech devices from cell phones, iPods, e-readers, computers, GPS devices, etc. to our compelling need to constantly "surf" the web for information, will all play a pivotal role in this evolutionary process.  Carr mentions that, "the human brain is infinitely malleable" and Cascio discusses that throughout history, as technology advances, so too have we "significantly increased our functional memory."  I am inclined to agree with Carr and Cascio, that perhaps, one day, our brains will evolve to incorporate our necessity to complete multiple tasks at the same time.  Just looking at the history of mankind, I think that it is safe to say that we have evolved right alongside technology, although technology does seem to advance light years faster that we do.  Like it or not, technology is a part of lives and so is our need to multitask.  It only seems logical that we will naturally select those cognitive traits that allow us to become actual multitaskers in the future.

Referenced Works
(1) Nicholas Carr: "Is Google Making us Stupid?
(2) Jamais Cascio: "Get Smarter"
(3) NPR's Talk of the Nation: Bad at Multitasking?: Blame Your Brain 2008
(4) NPR's Fresh Air: The Price of Putting Your Brain on Computers 2010