Dear Commons Community,
In the past two days, I have read an article and a book review that dealt with the subject of the effects of too much technology (email, cell phones, twittering, facebooking, multitasking, etc.) on our brains.
The article interviews a family of Internet addicts who fear that they are not functioning as well as they should because their brains are adapting too much to immediate and constant barrages of information to the point that they are distracted from other endeavors including each other. For example, it describes the case of a teenage boy who is doing “C” work in school and who has trouble doing homework as:
“He could not focus on homework. No wonder, perhaps. On his bedroom desk sit two monitors, one with his music collection, one with Facebook and Reddit, ..His iPhone availed him to relentless texting with his girlfriend.”
It also describes the father as going to sleep with a laptop and cell phone on his chest.
The book, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, by Nicholas Carr also raises a similar alarm. The reviewer sums up Carr’s book as:
“The Shallows” is most successful when Carr sticks to cultural criticism, as he documents the losses that accompany the arrival of new technologies. The rise of the written text led to the decline of oral poetry; … the television show obliterated the radio play;… the Internet has diminished our interest in reading books. …The incessant noise of the Internet, Carr concludes, has turned the difficult text into an obsolete relic.”
Both pieces are written for a general audience but they raise important issues for educators as to how do we integrate technology in our teaching and learning and at the same time balance the activities of our students. While many faculty have embraced the Internet technologies and are using course management systems and social networking to connect to our students, maybe we also need to slow down our activities and require them to read the long and difficult texts.
The article concludes with a concern that too much technology limits our empathy and ability to relate with one another. Clifford Nass, a communications professor at Stanford University, is quoted as saying that:
“The way we become more human is by paying attention to each other,…It shows how much you care… empathy, is essential to the human condition. We are at an inflection point…A significant fraction of people’s experiences are now fragmented.”
For more information:
The NY Times article is available available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/07/technology/07brain.html?pagewanted=1&th&emc=th
The book review is available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/06/books/review/Lehrer-t.html?scp=1&sq=The%20Shallows&st=cse