28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars `Everywhere you look, you see signs of the Net's hegemony over the packaging and flow of information.'
Is our constant exposure to electronic stimuli good for us? Can we transform the data we receive into the knowledge we need? Are we swapping deep understanding for shallow distractions?
In this book, Nicholas Carr argues that our constant exposure to multiple and faster data streams is changing the way our brains are wired. This change, which is due to the...
Published on 2 Sep 2010 by Jennifer Cameron-Smith
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Scary!
The Shallows, by Nicholas Carr puts forward the argument that the internet is changing us in ways we may not have realised before. Nicholas Carr is convinced that despite the wide benefits the internet has brought, it is also having a fundamental impact on the physiology of our brains, altering not only the way we perceive reality but how we actually take in information...
Published on 24 Dec 2010 by Chola Mukanga
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars `Everywhere you look, you see signs of the Net's hegemony over the packaging and flow of information.',
This review is from: The Shallows: How the Internet is Changing the Way We Think, Read and Remember (Hardcover)Is our constant exposure to electronic stimuli good for us? Can we transform the data we receive into the knowledge we need? Are we swapping deep understanding for shallow distractions?
In this book, Nicholas Carr argues that our constant exposure to multiple and faster data streams is changing the way our brains are wired. This change, which is due to the inherent plasticity of the brain, tends to reduce our capacity to absorb and retain what we read. Mr Carr cites a number of different studies to support his views, and the book makes for interesting reading.
Mr Carr acknowledges that the digital world brings both advantage and disadvantage: `Every tool imposes limitations even as it opens possibilities.' The Internet is a wonderful tool for finding information, but value usually requires some analysis, and often requires a context which is not always immediately obvious. How do we find a balance between those aspects of life that require self-awareness, time and careful consideration, and those aspects of life where an automatic (or semi automatic) response is more appropriate and perhaps even required? Do we understand what choices we have, or are we responding in line with the immediacy of the medium we are using? Are we consumers of data or evaluators of information? Does it matter? I think it does: `The more distracted we become, the less able we are to experience the subtlest, most distinctly human forms of empathy, compassion, and emotion.'
The most valuable aspect of this book, to me, was thinking about the short and long term consequences of the Internet. Those of us who grew to adulthood before the Internet shaped the way we work and communicate have (to varying degrees) embraced the benefits and new possibilities afforded.
A return to the past is neither possible nor desirable - but conscious choice is both.
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Important,
This review is from: The Shallows: How the Internet is Changing the Way We Think, Read and Remember (Paperback)The Shallows is a book that comes with quite a bit of hype and promise. It covers the Internet phenomenon and how its changing our deep thinking skills and ability to read and process information properly. It was also short-listed for the Pulitzer prize this year. Its not a particularly long book - just over 200 pages. However, it will take a little time to read as it can get quite technical with neurological functions being explained. It certainly isn't aimed at those whose attention has been affected by the internet. This being said it does bring quite a bit of evidence to the table and explain the issues well. The chapter on Google is very illuminating. There are digression chapters which tend to be written in the first person and relate to the authors experiences. These digressions are of some interest but sometimes they can just distract - the very thing that the author says the internet does to its users.
The problems that I had with the book, aside from getting through it which I managed to do over a period of five days, are about the missed opportunities and bias. A lot of the evidence here actually relates to people who are 30+. This is important and shows how the adoption of the internet has changed their thinking and reading. However, the internet natives of under 20 who are only used to the internet are not covered in as much depth. There is some evidence but not a lot and their experiences are vital as they are only used to the internet. I was left with the question of what the effect is on that demographic. I have experience with them at work and can probably make some assumptions but not from what is contained in this book. On the very last page some quotes for the positives of the internet of our thinking are given and the quickly dismissed. That's a shame in many ways as if a more balanced view was given before jumping to conclusions then I might embrace those conclusions more readily. Whilst I don't doubt that they are correct (for instance one being that the internet is a distraction engine that does not allow for deep learning or thinking) I do feel that I haven't been fully convinced on the evidence here for those reasons of suspected bias and demographics.
This is an important book. It does focus the mind (ironically) on the internet and its long term effects on the users and their thinking. It does this in an over-long way at times and this kind of defeats its very premise. But it is recommended as if you manage to get through the harder to read sections it contains important and useful information that can be thought provoking and also useful for those who work on the internet for extended periods, work in education and use it as a tool or those interested in Psychology and social sciences. I fit all three of those categories so was well served by this book.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loosing natural capacities,
This review is from: The Shallows: How the Internet is Changing the Way We Think, Read and Remember (Paperback)When I was younger, there was no internet. I filled my days with going to primary school, playing with friends and reading books. When I went to secondary school, there were a few computers with internet access and I had no internet connection at house. At the end of six years of education the internet was available everywhere: there were many computers with internet access at school and my parents had subscribed to a fast internet plan at home. What happened in the ten years that followed is history: the internet became pervasive and was accessible from everywhere.
I have lived in two worlds: one in which there was no internet and one in which there was. Of course, I was influenced by both worlds and I have the feeling that this makes me - just like many more people of about my age - a bit special. I have learned to appreciate books and what they can teach people. But I have also discovered what the internet can bring to the table: instant access to lots of information and friends. People who are older than I am, appreciate print stuff more than they appreciate web things. For those younger than me, it's the opposite. Of course, these are generalizations and over-simplifications, but my generation has a big advantage over the ones that went before and came after: we live and lived in both pre-internet and internet times.
Why this story? Well, I think it illustrates Carr's argument quite nicely. In this book, Carr tells us that the internet has physiological and neurological effects on the brain. Because of the way the internet is structured, namely around short bits of hyperlinked information, our brain gets attuned to this new method, which is fundamentally different from the 'old' way of the book or the 5000 word article. Those texts contained long and difficult arguments and story lines, but our brains find it difficult to concentrate on understanding what is going on in the text. They got better at working with short and hyperlinked texts and superficial reading on the expense of the ability for deep-reading.
This has all kinds of interesting effects. Of course, we all know of news papers and TV shows, which have shortened material and added extra content that could be read and understood by hyperlinked minds. But the real changes are much bigger. According to Carr, we are loosing our natural capacities--those for reason, perception, memory, emotion (p.211), which causes a deep form of alienation.
And right there, when I read that sentence in this book, it struck me: I grew up in an age and time where the internet was not everywhere, one where reasoning and logical arguments were still valid for all, and one where having actual facts stored in your brain was actually valued a lot. The internet did not make all that irrelevant - at least not yet - but it did change how people approach questions, problems, ideas and change (even cultural change). I am in the strange position that I live in both worlds: I love Facebook, RSS and news sites, but I also have a few hundred books that I have read and try to use in understanding the world and what's happening in it. Both worlds are enticing to me, but I know too many people that only favor the internet and no longer are able to grasp the goods in books and long articles.
Of course, this book has also some shortcomings. One of them is that this book does not shed a lot of light on the many big and great advantages of the internet. For example, the fact that now every once-poor farmer in Africa can go up on the internet to check on the price of his product in the next town or market is great, because it enables him to decide about the best price-point to sell his product. Another example, the fact that it's as easy for me (a Dutch citizen) as for a London native to book tickets for The Lion King musical is also a very great convenience. And there is more, much more. Other books have been written about that. Carr's work could have been stronger if it also had focused on that kind of the medallion.
Another shortcoming of this book is that it's being quite firm about it's conclusions, but that the research that it's based on is not at all that old. Yes, it's possible to check for changes in the brain very soon. But to answer the question if our culture is changing because of the internet and it's mind-altering work, I really believe that it's too early to say so.
Nevertheless, Carrs book is entertaining in its breadth and interesting because of its persuasiveness.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Scary!,
This review is from: The Shallows: How the Internet is Changing the Way We Think, Read and Remember (Hardcover)The Shallows, by Nicholas Carr puts forward the argument that the internet is changing us in ways we may not have realised before. Nicholas Carr is convinced that despite the wide benefits the internet has brought, it is also having a fundamental impact on the physiology of our brains, altering not only the way we perceive reality but how we actually take in information and process it.
It is a quite shocking assessment, and one that he backs up with a range of evidence. As a non-expert in this area, I was left somewhat convinced by the cumulative force of the evidence presented, though I retained deep scepticism on the individual bits. The evidence also at times appeared "selective" - not enough studies cited that offer contrarian position. Mr Carr clearly has become convinced of the narrative and brings all the evidence to argue for it.
Presentationally, it does start off somewhat slow, but given the subject at hand, one is forced to concentrate if only to avoid falling in the company of shallows. My main quibble is that the book really offers no alternative and for some readers it may read that he has failed to address the deeper metaphysical questions. There are deep questions raised, but it ends up quite hopelessly - not clear just how we are to adapt to this inevitable new world of shallows. Nevertheless, I think he offers enough for others to explore in more depth this fascinating subject. The internet is clearly here to stay, if the dangers cited are real then this demands much more debate than we have had in general media.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting argument,
This review is from: The Shallows: How the Internet is Changing the Way We Think, Read and Remember (Paperback)Very interesting and timely argument. I think this book is best described as a journalistic introduction to a very wide ranging subject. Really needs to be contrasted with the work of N. Katherine Hayles, David M. Berry, Steve Fuller, Alan Liu, Eli Pariser and others who write in a similar vein.
How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature and Informatics
The Philosophy of Software: Code and Mediation in the Digital Age
Humanity 2.0: What it Means to be Human Past, Present and Future
The Laws of Cool: Knowledge Work and the Culture of Information
The Filter Bubble: What The Internet Is Hiding From You
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timely, important, extensively researched and deeply thoughtful. Read it!,
This review is from: The Shallows: How the Internet is Changing the Way We Think, Read and Remember (Hardcover)Every once in a while a book comes along that changes your life. You suspect it by the end of the first chapter, and by the time you close the book it's assured. First came Naomi Klein's 'No Logo', urging us to look beyond the gleaming images of big-name brands. Then there was Joanna Blythman's 'Shopped', pulling us behind the benign faces of Britain's most successful supermarkets. And now I can add Nicholas Carr's 'The Shallows' to the list, this dazzling polemic exposing the uncomfortable truths behind the all-powerful reign of the Internet over our modern lives.
Like 'No Logo' and 'Shopped', 'The Shallows' is hard to summarise in any meaningful way because its argument is so complex and sweeping. This is not a book to devour whole - it is a book to be carefully read, considered and absorbed. Carr isn't a nostalgic professor yearning for the old days of leather-bound tomes and quill pens. But while he readily admits that the Internet has become a vital, entertaining and useful tool in his everyday life, he was also beginning to worry about the unseen effects of his online life. This book is the eloquent sum of his extensive and thorough research.
It's quite a ride. In exploring his subject, Carr reaches way back into the history of intellectual technology, considering the impact of early innovations such as maps, clocks and the book on human life. From there he moves into the age of the computer, from the earliest machines through to the all-pervasive use of the Internet we see around us today. The last few decades, he explains, have raced by in a blur, and suddenly the World Wide Web is our medium of choice for almost everything we do.
But what about the biological impact of the Internet? Here is where things get really interesting. Modern neurobiological studies have shown that the brain's neuroplasticity allows it to change with each experience, each path to learning we take. And thanks to the Internet, our brains really are shifting, away from paths that allow deep reading and reflective thought, and towards a chemistry geared to process the distraction and rapid-fire information that the Internet represents. Carr shows how even reading a simple page containing links and hypertext is a far cry from reading a page in a book, requiring us to stop, however fleetingly, to process the meaning of the link (What does it link to? Does it sound interesting? Will it be relevant to me?) and demonstrably disrupting our absorption in and thus our understanding of the text. In fact, it uses a different area of the brain entirely, one geared towards problem solving rather than comprehension. A little scary given the way schools and other institutions are already throwing out their books and replacing them with PCs and e-readers, isn't it?
I could keep going forever, but the point of the matter is this: the Internet can be damaging. And as the future entwines itself more and more tightly with the virtual world, it makes sense to be savvy enough about its effects to be able to use and enjoy it without allowing it to destroy the things we value: our attention, our concentration and our ability to understand and process information that requires a little more involvement to fully grasp. Go, buy the book. It may just turn out to be one of the most timely and vital books of the decade. Open your eyes, open your mind - and maybe it'll change YOUR life too.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating history of how advances in media have changed the human thought process,
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best in class. Scientific though moving, and not a cheap propaganda.,
In a way it is a very frightening book, although don't be fooled by my review, as the book offers much more in-depth analysis and is far away from playing with cheap emotions and trying to scare everybody. (By the way: how would I came across it without a help of an algorithm of "customers who bought this, also bought..."?). Far from it. It's perspective is very scientific and sometimes cold and distanced. It's not an emotional anti-web propaganda. It's an analysis. And maybe that's what makes it even more scary. The internet is literally changing the way our brain is functioning. As we are exposed to a very different kind of stimuli in comparison to plain text forming our culture for last 2 thousand years or so, our behavior as human beings is destined to change, we have no other choice than to adapt. As McLuhan put it, before anybody knew what the internet is: "we shape the media, and they shape us".
I guess one of the most frequently appearing statements in books' reviews on Amazon is "it is a very well researched book" and I do have to repeat it here. Carr surely deserves highest rating not only for the most universal approach I've encountered recently but also for highlighting meaningful connections. From open brain surgery on monkeys to prove the case of brain plasticity and adaptability, to Plato concerns about how the written word would separate our thoughts from us, making it distant and depleting us of unique relationship we have with hour own thoughts. The book will not tell you what would Plato tell us today, but it offers a lot to think about.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well Argued Perspectives on a timely issue,
It is indeed common to have such arguments thrown at us with the advent of every new technology and Nicholas Carr makes an effort to acknowledge this. His primary argument rests of neuro-plasticity, human brain's tendency to rewire itself when we start using a tool frequently. And, this is not about developing a new habit, but this essentially comes at the expense of an old habit, and in what is the book's most eloquent sections, he makes the point about the history and the cultural effects of the book itself. Indeed, he refers back to Socratic defence of the Oral tradition, where Socrates warns against Writing, saying that this would be a tool 'not of memory, but of reminder'. The same argument holds against the Internet today, with its infinite repository of data along with its capacity of immeasurable distraction.
The book also draws on the theory of Cognitive Load, developed by John Seweller and others, which dwells on the understanding of human memory in two parts, a small working memory and an almost infinite capacity long term memory. The argument here is that using internet puts working memory in stress, because at every step, one needs to make choices and decisions, and therefore create a bottleneck and limit our capacity to reflect and cultivate a thought.
I must admit that I could connect with this book as I reckon I suffer from a bit of a Attention Deficiency Disorder, and sometimes struggle to read a book these days. This is surprising, because I love reading. But it is common these days that as I start reading, all sorts of ideas start buzzing in my head. More interestingly, and this is where I tend to agree to the thesis put forward by the book in question, sometimes my reading gets waylaid by the references made in the text I am reading. So, often, as I see a reference of another work in the body of text, I shall stop and jump to the reference section and see what's being referred to. And, quite commonly, this will lead to another exploration, often on Amazon or on an Electronic Database or Google if I am near a computer or have my phone nearby, and - way leads to another way - will soon stop reading the main text altogether. I have recognized this as one of habits I wish to change, and Nicholas Carr's book almost explains why I may be suffering from such a problem (though I don't want to be deterministic).
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a psychology must!,
This review is from: The Shallows: How the internet is changing the way we think, read and remember (Kindle Edition)If you work with young people, this book is a must. It generates ideas and conversational debate with both colleagues and pupils alike. It has an Orwellian theme running through it which is quite ominous for the future of the long term memory!
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The Shallows: How the Internet is Changing the Way We Think, Read and Remember by Nicholas Carr (Paperback - 1 July 2011)