Does Google Make Us Stupid?

Source Organization: Pew Research Center

Author: Janna Quitney Anderson, Elon University, and Lee Rainie, Pew Internet & American Life Project

02/19/2010 - Respondents to the fourth "Future of the Internet" survey, conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project and Elon University's Imagining the Internet Center, were asked to consider the future of the Internet-connected world between now and 2020 and the likely innovation that will occur.

The survey required them to assess 10 different "tension pairs" – each pair offering two different 2020 scenarios with the same overall theme and opposite outcomes – and to select the one most likely choice of two statements. Although a wide range of opinion from experts, organizations, and interested institutions was sought, this survey, fielded from Dec. 2, 2009 to Jan. 11, 2010, should not be taken as a representative canvassing of Internet experts. By design, the survey was an "opt in," self-selecting effort.

Among the issues addressed in the survey was the provocative question raised by eminent tech scholar Nicholas Carr in a cover story for the Atlantic Monthly magazine in the summer of 2008: "Is Google Making Us Stupid?"

Carr argued that the ease of online searching and distractions of browsing through the Web were possibly limiting his capacity to concentrate. "I'm not thinking the way I used to," he wrote, in part because he is becoming a skimming, browsing reader, rather than a deep and engaged reader. "The kind of deep reading that a sequence of printed pages promotes is valuable not just for the knowledge we acquire from the author's words but for the intellectual vibrations those words set off within our own minds. In the quiet spaces opened up by the sustained, undistracted reading of a book, or by any other act of contemplation, for that matter, we make our own associations, draw our own inferences and analogies, foster our own ideas.... If we lose those quiet spaces, or fill them up with ‘content,' we will sacrifice something important not only in our selves but in our culture."

Read the full commentary Does Google Make Us Stupid? on the Pew Research Center's Web site.

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