The Fuzziness of Contemplation

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“In Google’s world, the world we enter when we go online, there’s little place for the fuzziness of contemplation. Ambiguity is not an opening for insight but a bug to be fixed. The human brain is just an outdated computer that needs a faster processor and a bigger hard drive.”

– From the article “Is Google Making Us Stupid” by Nicholas Carr, printed in The Atlantic, July/August 2008

I would say maybe this author has a point (several provocative ones, in fact, if you read the whole article, which I recommend you do as surely this quote requires context), except that I first read this article, online, several months ago, and I’ve been thinking about this specific quote ever since and have been trying to say something about it. But I don’t know what to say – it just keeps rattling around in my head, bothering me, visiting me at times when I need to be doing other things, like teaching my class, developing my budget, or cleaning the cat box.

Here’s my chatter:

  • Isn’t being willing and able to engage in contemplation and to embrace fuzziness something we develop and practice? A kind of habit or capacity of mind? (And maybe Internet tools like Google are, in fact, able to alter our habits and capacities  – but perhaps only if we’re not paying attention, which probably means that we don’t have that habit or capacity of mind anyway???)
  • And will our cognitive structures actually (eventually, evolutionarily) change to “accommodate” new forms of information input? Will we actually start being different, as implied in this statement: “But it’s a different kind of reading, and behind it lies a different kind of thinking—perhaps even a new sense of the self.”  Really??? A new sense of the self? Maybe it’s just me, but that seems like a stretch.
  • And … aren’t these tools also allowing for knowledge construction, and not just knowledge input? (See Worknik, for example.)

To be perfectly honest, I am not all excited about running out and reading War and Peace again either (or Ulysses, for goodness sake!), but I don’t think that’s because my cognitive processes have been changed by the Internet.

Yes, it seems that I’ve been contemplating it, and I am, at this moment, lost in its fuzziness. And for now, I have decided to be OK with that.

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