The Fuzziness of Contemplation


“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 The human brain is just an outdated computer that needs a faster processor and a bigger hard drive.”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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