Is Google making us stupid? How the Internet is changing us….

February 14, 2011 at 2:30 am 1 comment

Pic: Students playing video games at NCSU Library [CM]

There is a lot of information on the benefits of adopting new technologies. It is no surprise that the computer helps us manage cognitive loads or limitations that we have as humans. Computers could be considered cognitive artifacts, Norman says: “those artificial devices that maintain, display, or operate upon information in order to serve a representational function and that affect human cognitive performance.” [Norman 1991, p.17] But, today, are computing technologies really contributing to our cognitive skills? In his new book “The Shallows: What Internet is doing to our Brains” , Nicolas Carr places upfront the facts behind an early adoption of Internet. How Internet shapes human thought becomes evident. Are we losing our ability to read and think deeply because of the Internet?

we are becoming ever more adept at scanning and skimming, but what we are losing is our capacity for concentration, contemplation, and reflection

Pic: Apple Store NYC [CM]
In May 2004, Wired Magazine published an article talking about how Internet rewired our brains. Experiments to monitor brain activity with an MRI, done by Gary Small [UCLA] p showed that Brain activity of the experienced surfers was far more extensive than that of the newbies, particularly in areas of the prefrontal cortex associated with problem-solving and decision-making. “Five hours on the Internet and the naive subjects had already rewired their brains,” Small wrote.

The consultancy nGenera, on 2008, carried out six thousand interviews with kids from the “generation web” [kids born in the Internet era]. The results yielded suggest that this generation has modified the ways to retain information coming from books. They do not necessarily read a page from left to right, and from up to bottom. They skim the texts, engaging in very focused reading [source]. The evidence shows that our cognitive skills and neuronal wiring, is being affected by our experiences with technology. Internet is just one of them, video gaming is another activity that shows similar effects in cognition. The trade offs are strengthening some cognitive skills but giving up others. We could say that we are adapting to a new medium, but do we really want to leave out our other capabilities of deep thought, contemplation and reflection? Are we going to be able to make sense of whatever literary pieces we had created centuries ago? Do we really want to trade our capacity for searching and chunking large amounts of information instead of slowly analyzing small but deep versions of it?Nicolas Carr puts these issues into question.

Wired Magazine [link]
Nicholas Carr’s “The Shallows” Website [link]
Gary Small’s Website [link]
El Mercurio, Revista del Sábado [link]
Norman: “Things that Make us Smart” [link]


Entry filed under: Digital Humanities, Interaction, Internet, Media.

What is interaction? I mean, what is designing interactions? Strategies for writing a positional paper in design [and other disciplines]

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contact + citing (CC license)

Constanza Miranda PhD(c) design.anthro
* Currently @ DILAB
* Ex.VR @ Stanford's Center for Design Research [DesignXLab]
* Ex.Instructor @ PUC Chile [Design+Engineering]
Use citations ¡Citar es ético!
Creative Commons License
Design for Social Innovation initiative by Constanza Miranda is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at

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