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Nicholas Carr’s “The Shallows”

June 2, 2010

Laura Miller in Salon:

Two years ago, Nicholas Carr, a technology writer, published an essay titled “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” in the Atlantic Monthly magazine. Despite being saddled with a grabby but not very accurate headline (the defendant was the Internet itself, not just its most popular search engine), the piece proved to be one of those rare texts that condense and articulate a fog of seemingly idiosyncratic worries into an urgently discussed issue in contemporary life.

It turned out that a whole lot of people were just then realizing that, like Carr, they had lost their ability to fully concentrate on long, thoughtful written works. “I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do,” Carr wrote. “I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.” At first assuming that his fractured mental state was the result of “middle-age mind rot,” Carr eventually concluded that his heavy Internet usage was to blame. His article about this realization instantly rose to the top of the “most-read” list on the Atlantic’s website and stayed there for months.

“The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains” is Carr’s new, book-length version of the Atlantic piece. It expands on the points he made in 2008, but it addresses some of the responses he got, as well. [More]

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