How the Internet’s changing our lives

For a moment, imagine that the Internet and everything that comes with it doesn’t exist. Imagine not being able to Google the number of centimeters in an inch or to instantly map the fastest route to your friend’s house. Imagine a world where twitter didn’t constantly update us on things as big as national tragedies and political movements and as small as what is annoying our friends or what they had for breakfast.

The fact is that imagining a world like that is hard, if not impossible for us. We have been raised in a world in which we have been constantly connected, information literally right at our fingertips.

Because of this, we forget to stop and think how this is actually affecting us and how the Internet is changing the way people interact. My two readings this week focused in and tried to answer those two questions.

Just Google it

We’re all guilt of lazily telling someone to just Google it. These days, instead of learning and memorizing facts like the number of quarts in a gallon, we would rather just Google the answer when we need it.

In some ways, this might be a positive. Google allows us to not worry about remembering unimportant facts, but who determines what is and is not important?

In Nicholas Carr’s article entitled “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” in The Atlantic Monthly, he directly looks at what the Internet is doing to our brains.

Most interestingly, he called to my attention a correlation between the amount of time a person spends on the Internet with a person’s ability to focus, especially on reading. He discussed how online reading has made readers desirer shorter paragraphs that get to the information more quickly, and he talked about how online we tend to scan information for content rather than read to absorb information.

I admittedly was reading his article online and found myself scanning that very part. Also in agreement with what he said, I find myself finding it more difficult to sit down and read novels the more I use the Internet. SparkNotes is the perfect example of something that has come out of this problem. Overall, the Internet is decreasing our attention span and tolerance for superfluous information.

Also potentially triggered by the Internet and modern technology is this increasing need for efficiency.

Carr’s article cited a study by Fredrick Winslow Taylor where he used a stopwatch in a Midvale Steel plant in Philadelphia to improve the efficiency of the plant.

According to the article, “The goal, as Taylor defined it in his celebrated 1911 treatise, The Principle of Scientific Management, was to identify and adopt, for every job, the ‘one best method’ of work and thereby to effect ‘the gradual substitution of science for rule of thumb throughout the mechanic arts.’ Once his system was applied to all acts of manual labor, Taylor assured his followers, it would bring about a restructuring not only of industry but of society, creating a utopia of perfect efficiency.”

Personally, my daily life as a college student is focused on how I can be as efficient with my time as possible. I am task or goal-oriented and this article has made me reflect on whether that is a good or bad thing.

The Framework of the Internet

In the Introduction of Gregory Elmer’s digital textbook Networked: A Networked book about Networked Art, Elmer introduces us to the idea of “Electracy” which he defines as “an apparatus, or social machine, partly technological, partly institutional” which “is to digital media what literacy is to alphabetic writing.”

Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 12.09.24 PM

Chart from Gregory Elmer’s digital textbook Networked: A Networked book about Networked Art

He discusses the three apparatuses that exist: orality, literacy, and electracy. With orality, the focus is on religion and nature, faith and worship, right and wrong, and God and narrative. With literacy, the focus is on science and method, knowledge and school, true and false, and reason and argument. Finally with electracy, the focus is on entertainment and style, fantasy and the Internet, joy and sadness, and body and figure.

In electracy, Elmer says the strategy is “to adopt a public problem (a catastrophe in progress) as an image of one’s own situation.” In many ways, that is what we do everyday online as we tweet and join in on trending hashtags and post Facebook articles and blog posts voicing personal opinions on public problems.

With this idea of electracy established, Elmer discusses how our society has moved through and developed these apparatuses for communication. As we shift from literacy to electracy, the article asks what will happen as nature and human creativity mix.

This made me begin to wonder what this new era and method of thinking and interacting will begin. What will happen when the practical idea and moral ideas of orality and literacy respectively mix with the emotional ideals of electracy and how will that impact our culture? I am not sure after just reading the introduction I know the answer.

Looking at all of this, we must ask ourselves how the Internet is affecting us and changing us, as well as what is important to us. Carr asserts at the end of his article that we need quiet space and time apart from electracy and the Internet or “we will sacrifice something important not only in our selves but in our culture.”

I guess for a moment we must also imagine a world dominated by the Internet and technology. There is a reason for those apocalyptic movies of robots and technology taking over mankind after all. The big question for us then, is how will we be able to take advantage of the benefits of electracy and the Internet and still maintain both our self and our culture.

But that’s just what I think.

Featured Photo from CBCToday

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