Sunday, June 15, 2008

Nicholas Carr "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" and Sven Birkerts

In a recent article in the Atlantic, with the title "Is Google Making Us Stupid?", Nicholas Carr explores the idea that new technology and especially web technology is "destroying" peoples ability to read longer and more dense texts. The exploration starts with his reflection on his own reading ability and how it has changed. This is an idea that has been around over time which is something that Carr also notes, even Plato was worried about the impact that the technology of "writing" would have on peoples ability to think for themselves.

Carr makes a good job bringing together some of the thinkers that has addressed the issue over time. But he does not mention the book that in my mind makes the strongest argument for Carr's observation, and that is Sven Birkerts "The Gutenburg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age". The book was first published in 1997 and was heavily criticized for being too anti-technology and not based on a deep understanding of the potential of technology. I really liked the book at the time even though I was not fully convinced by his arguments, but I found it difficult to argue against his main message. Maybe now is the time to re-read his book.


Kevin Arthur said...

Definitely worth a reread, I think. In fact there was a new edition of it published in 2006 with a new introduction. It's more of a personal polemic than any kind of scientific argument, though.

Erik Stolterman said...

Hi Kevin

Thanks for the comment and tip!