Team 1 Synthesis

April Baker

I think the hardest part about reading and discussing The Shallows, especially after reading Technology Matters, is coming to any sort of definite conclusion. Is technology our tool or are we servants to technology? Are we changed by technology at all, and can we even go so far as to say our brains think completely differently as a result of using technology? It’s hard to completely answer these questions, because I have trouble saying there is on definite right or wrong answer. or that we can’t have experience some of two contradictions in our lives. Obviously, as we heard, personal stories and backgrounds have an affect on our discussions, so I think that really affects how people feel.
One of the things I struggle with, as I said in class, is looking at this progression of technology and how it may or may not change us in a long-term perspective. There’s no doubt in my mind that the creation of the wheel greatly changed society and cultural values and our approach to daily chores. It’s a new tool that creates new possibilities and the change that occurs may or may not be classified as “good.” But the light bulb and the zipper and the Ford truck all did the same thing; any new item with a purpose is going to affect the way we approach that chore in some way. Didn’t cartography and maps and the compass change our perspective of the world? Doesn’t the automobile and transportation pervade and possibly dictate every second of our lives?
I guess my question is - why do we care? Why are we studying this change? Isn’t any kind of technology always going to cause change? Is the internet really the only thing affecting us? Is the idea the a new technology would change our way or thinking really that radical or surprising? And if not, aren’t we just freaking out because we’re just now noticing it? Just because everything is now powered by electricity and airwaves and things we can’t say, does that really make digital technology so different from any other new invention? What are we afraid of?

Dave Bryan

Tuesday’s discussion seemed like it raised a lot more questions than answers. At first, I felt a bit confused about why that happened. But, after thinking about it for a few days, I realized that we all still benefited from the discussion, even if it didn’t supply any concrete answers to our questions. Prior to Tuesday, I had gone to class thinking that at some point, we would be given set-in-stone facts and proven theories about how humans interact with technology, but now I see that we can learn more by raising our own questions and discussing them as a group.

A great example of this that we talked about on Tuesday is the point about people not knowing how to change a tire or reset a circuit breaker on their own. It was mentioned that perhaps we don’t know how to perform these tasks because our society is becoming increasingly networked and there are now other people better qualified to take care of these tasks, no matter how simple they are. I think that this is not a result of the technology being too tough to work on, but a result of a society that no longer stresses basic skills in a variety of fields in favor of a specialization in one specific field. I feel that we are no longer a jack-of-all-trades society. We concentrate on one area that we know a lot about, and we hire someone else to fix any problems we cant tackle on our own. I had never thought about this before Tuesday’s discussion, and now I wonder how this trend is going to progress. Are we going to be able to do ANYTHING on our own in 50 years? Or will we hire others to come take care of even simpler tasks than resetting a circuit breaker?

Nicholas Carr’s book raises questions about our attention span as a society declining and our inability to concentrate on reading books because we crave instant delivery of information. Our discussion countered that point by stating that we often don’t like reading books or long-winded articles that are forced on us, but we still enjoy reading items that we have a genuine interest in. Case-in-point: the incredible success of the Harry Potter and Twilight series’.

As you can see from this summary, our discussion raised a lot of questions and some heated debates. I think that our discussion was an incredibly varied, yet educational experience. We brought up points from a wide variety of our readings, and confirmed or debunked many of the ideas of the authors we read. As I mentioned earlier, I cannot sum up our discussion with a single, concrete point, but I am looking forward to upcoming presentations.

Amanda Duncan

I thought that the discussion on Tuesday was a good one, but that there were some definite sticking points for people. For one thing, I think that most people were resistant to the idea that we are somehow becoming "hardwired" in a different way than, say, people 30 years ago or before. It is a scary thought, to think that you are becoming a different person because of the technology. But, like some of my classmates, I think that it is a bit sensationalchicken little, if you will to claim that this is the end of the human race as we know it. Because if this is truly the case, then Carr has to prove 2 things: first, that we have indeed been fundamentally changed by these technologies, and second, that this is a serious problem in defining our humanity.

Several people asked if there was any difference in between these technologies that Carr is mentioning and ones of past generations, such as the telegraph, telephone, TV, etc. And I think that this is an excellent point. It is not as if humans stopped being humans as soon as a telephone made it easier to share news than in letters. I almost feel tempted to accuse Carr of a naive nostalgia, since he seems to be lamenting the loss of a humanity that he claims he saw before. And I think that people saw this, as indicated in their willingness to concede that maybe we are "jack of all trades, master of none," but this does not mean that we are losing our humanness.

On the contrary, I think that technologies like networking make us more human and more connected with others. The collaboration of ideas and thoughts allows for greater innovation and understanding: it is much easier to understand a culture if you can communicate with them. Just as an example, would Carr begrudge the merchants of the Renaissance their contribution to society? They spread technologies and languages all over the western world. And while I certainly think that people should have the ability to know one good thing, this is self-obvious in the assertion that we outsource everything: if we are our-sourcing, there has to be someone to outsource to, so saying that the human race is disintegrating is both short-sighted and wrong.

Another point that people were very interested in was the idea that technologies, and their uses, vary greatly across the world. What is the norm here is very different from Japan, or France, or Germany. And I think that this cultural difference is something that stands in Carr's way as well. For all his talk about what the internet is doing to our brains, he fails to acknowledge that this is maybe only happening to Americans (an oversight no doubt advised by his publisher). But I would also like to think that there are cultural ideas that are more widespread, like Harry Potter. Book/movie format aside, one has to look at this and see how it is more pervasive than the internet. This gives me hope that Carr is wrong, and that there are other things that are more deep than the internet.

So I guess my point here is this: Even if these technologies are changing us, what is the big deal. Technologies have been changing humans from the first time someone chose to kill a rabbit with a stick than with his bare hands. And perhaps that is just my resistance to Carr's idea that we are becoming dumb. But I really think that technologies give us a chance to do good and interact more with humans—granted this communication is often virtual, but how is this worse than waiting for a physically virtual conversation from a letter?