Media is changing the way we think. This is the main argument introduced by N. Katherine Hayles in her essay Hyper and Deep Attention: The Generation Divide in Cognitive Modes (Profession 2007) and Nicholas Carr's article Is Google Making us Stupid? (Atlantic July/August 2008). Both Hayles and Carr explore the challenges that modern technology has imposed on critical thinking. Although they seem to agree on the problem at hand, Hayles and Carr have contrasting approaches to the situation.
The central idea behind Hayles and Carr's articles is the belief that the exposure to the all these mediums are affecting our cognition, the mental action of acquiring knowledge. Hayles introduces the problem with the hypothesis that “we are in the midst of a generation shift in cognitive styles that poses challenges to education at all levels. The shift in cognitive styles can be seen in the contrast between deep attention and hyper attention” (Hayles 187). Hayles goes on further to define deep attention as “the cognitive style…characterized by concentrating on a single object for long periods, ignoring outside stimuli…and having high tolerance for long focus times” (Hayles 187). On the other hand, hyper attention is “characterized by switching focus rapidly among different tasks” better known as multitasking, while “seeking a high level of stimulation and having a low tolerance for boredom” (Hayles 187). Carr's main argument is that the Internet is rewiring our brains, “scattering our attention and diffusing our concentration” (Carr 5). These two different ways of explaining the predicament, complement one another and work together to clarify the results of media exposure. Just like Media theorist Marshall McLuhan stated, “Media are not just passive channels of information. They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought” (Carr 2).
All throughout their articles, Carr and Hayles, capture their audience by sharing their own experiences; the results of media exposure in themselves. Carr writes, "Over the past few years I've had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain… My mind isn't going--so far as I can tell--but it's changing. I'm not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I'm reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy…Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages” (Carr 1). Carr feels as if the use of the internet is increasing his lack for concentration that he used to have, before the expose to this medium. Although, Hayles does not suggest that she has felt the cognitive shift within herself, she goes on to explain that while she was a Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar, she spoke to faculty members and the reoccurring responses were that they can't get students to read long works of literature, so they have turned to short stories (Hayles 188). Even in her own classroom, Hayles has seen this shift from deep attention to hyper attention and has decided to “try enhancing the capacity for deep attention by starting with hyper attention and moving toward more traditional objects of study.” For example, she is using The Education of Henry Adams, which is a difficult text to read, hand in hand with Facebook (Hayles 196). Through the author's presentation of their occurrences and encounters, the articles take on a personal …????
While Hayles' approach to her essay is scientific, Carr's take on it is a historical one. Hayles' article contains a lot of raw data, which she utilizes to prove the hypothesis presented in the introduction. Through the information gained from the Kaiser Family foundation study, Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8-18 Year-Olds, Hayles is able show evidence of the shift to hyper attention. “The results indicate that the average time young people spend with media per day is a whopping 6.5 hours- every day of the week” (Hayles 189). The average even “rises to 8.5 hours” when it is taken into consideration that “some of this time is pent consuming more than one form of media” (Hayles 189). The data goes in further detail on what kind of media time is spent and in what environment homework is performed in. “These studies also indicate that efficiency declines so significantly with multitasking” (Hayles 189). Here it is when one begins to wonder if this need to seek stimulation is what leads to hypertension and hence multitasking. In contrast, Carr supports his argument with historical context. The author begins with the history if technology with his prime example involving Friedrich Nietzsche's usage of a typewriter in the 1880s. The typewriter allowed Nietzsche to be able to work without difficulties with his eyesight, but the machine also affected his work. The German media scholar Friedrich A. Kittler wrote that Nietzsche's prose “changed from arguments to aphorisms, from thoughts to puns, from rhetoric to telegram style” (Carr 3-4). Furthermore,
Even though the subject area from which they use their information they use different methods to back up their commentary,
Although Hayles and Carr concur on the problem, they do not to see eye to eye on the way to tackle the issue. While Hayles does not necessarily side with embracing one end of the spectrum or the other, Carr makes his position very clear. Hayles remains unbiased throughout most the article as she explains both sides of the situation; its pros and its cons and provides data to back both of these sides up. Hayles rather than choosing sides, provides an article that is informative and allows the audience to absorb all the information and make their own decision. Although she doesn't directly state her view on the matter, she ends her essay emphasizing that “Whether inclined toward deep or hyper attention…we cannot afford to ignore the frustrating, zesty and intriguing ways in which the two cognitive modes interact. Our responsibility as educators, not to mention our position as practitioners of the literacy arts, requires nothing less” (Hayles 198). Hayles' call to action encourages the audience, regardless what side they favor, to take action, because something must be done. On the other hand, Carr takes a very one sided position in his article, in which “as we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence” (Carr 8). Carr does not provide a solution to the problem, but rather the article serves as a cautionary tale, where people need to be aware of what technology is doing to their brains and remain as detached from it as possible.
While Hayles believes that “To prepare, we need to become aware of the shift, understand its causes, and think creatively and innovatively about new educational strategies appropriate to the coming changes” (Hayles 187), Carr disagrees saying that….???
Now, the question to ponder is what does the future hold for society?
As the title indicates, the article specifically targets Google, although it also generalizes about the cognitive impact of the whole Internet and World Wide Web
Although Carr's article target Google, it also generalizes about the impact of the whole internet.
Hayles focuses more on education and other mediums of media, but at the core of the topic, it is all about reading and the loss of that effect of diminishing the capacity for concentration and contemplation. sociologist Daniel Bell coined the term "intellectual technologies" to describe those technologies that extend the brain's cognitive faculties, and Carr states that he believes that the human brain adopts the qualities of these intellectual technologies.
In discussing the mechanical clock, Carr deliberates upon the benefits and losses that are characteristic of new technologies.
Carr ventures that the cognitive impact of the Internet may be far more encompassing than any other previous intellectual technology because of the fact that the Internet is gradually performing the services of most intellectual technologies, thus replacing them.
In comparing the Internet with Frederick Winslow Taylor's management system for industrial efficiency, Carr makes the point that back then some workers complained that they felt they were becoming mere automatons due to the systemic application of Taylorism — a theory of management that analyzes and synthesizes workflow processes, improving labor productivity. Carr selects Google as a prime example of a company in which computer engineers and software designers have applied Taylorism to the knowledge industry, delivering increasingly robust information that may have the effect of minimizing opportunities to ponder ambiguities. Additionally, he argues that the Internet's dominant business model is one that thrives as companies either collect information on users or deliver them advertisements, therefore companies capitalize on users who move from link to link rather than those who engage in sustained thought.
Finally, Carr places his skepticism in a historical context, reflecting upon how previous detractors of technological advances have fared. While often correct, Carr points out that skepticisms such as Socrates' concerns about written language and the 15th century Venetian editor Hieronimo Squarciafico's concerns about printed works failed to anticipate the benefits that these technologies might hold for human knowledge. As an afterthought, a 2005 essay by playwright Richard Foreman is excerpted for its lament of the waning of the "highly educated and articulate personality".