Week 1 Blog Post – The Duality of the Internet

Each article has a similar, unique duality to it. There seems to be an ongoing struggle—both internally and externally—with the kind of social behavior the internet imposes on us. Is the internet good? Or bad?  Is it helpful? Or harmful?

In his article “Is Google Making us Stupid,” Nicolas Carr argues that the internet, though helpful in its vast storage of information and knowledge, may be causing more harm to our human brains than it is doing good for us. Although people are reading more and learning more things, they’re not quite doing so with the same amount of dedication and in-depth critical thinking. It would seem we are choosing quantity over quality. Carr quotes Maryanne Wolf saying that we are becoming “mere decoders of information”, rather than thinking deeply on the information we are presented with. Then again, having so much information thrown at us, we become better multitaskers, and we have more access to knowledge that we can make long-term connections with.

The article “This is How Internet is Rewiring your Brain” by the Huffington Post presents both negative and positive side effects of the internet. The bad news, excessive internet use can make our thoughts more disjointed and scattered. On the flipside, with moderation, the internet helps us to become better multitaskers and can even help older-aged people increase brain activity. We see again the two-faced nature of the internet.

In her journal article “Hyper and Deep Attention”, N. Katherine Hayles explains the differences between hyper attention and deep attention. “Old school” activities that don’t require modern technology or the internet, such as reading, require deep attention.  New-age activities such as videogames or frequent internet use typically require hyper attention. Deep attention is useful for problem solving and critical thinking, however, hyper attention can increases ones reflexes and attentiveness. Yet again, we see the duality of the internet—how it can both help and hinder our human performance in certain ways.

Imgur, a popular multimedia sharing website, shares in this exact kind of dual nature of the internet—in fact, it may even be the epitome. Users can post and upload multimedia content on the site, and viewers read and rate the content as they scroll through each post one by one. Although the majority of the uploads on the site are meant simply to be funny, time-wasting posts, Imgur is comprised of current news stories, pop culture, personal testimonies (both funny and serious), promotional posts—the list goes on.  A viewer to the site gets a mix of the short, distracting kind of nature of the internet that Carr warns about (that would require “hyper attention”) as well as the informative, critical thinking-enhancing nature of the internet (that would require “deep attention”). You go from ridiculous meme to serious, long news story in a second.

So… What is it then? Is the internet good or bad?  Is it helpful or harmful? Will there always be a compromise? Or is there a balance?

Word Count: 498

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4 Responses to Week 1 Blog Post – The Duality of the Internet

  1. Annie Kingman says:

    Like you’ve said, these articles all present different opinions of what the Internet is doing to our brains. It is difficult to finalize a conclusion. I find it rather implausible to designate the Internet’s influence as simply good or bad. It is just not that simple. By default, the answer must lie somewhere in between. The most basic observation of the Internet reveals that it is in fact a product of humanity’s creative thinking, invention, arithmetic etc. So, its not as if the Internet is this evil, alien-force that has descended upon humanity to destroy us (for me, the articles are too ready to forget this). Brain power created the Internet, and is required to use it. So, I do not think we can say that it is inherently a ‘bad’ entity that makes us stupider. Certainly it changes the way we think and do things. Now, how ‘good’ these changes are is largely up to us, the users.

  2. Henry Schoenhoff says:

    The duality of both positive and negative effects that characterizes the Internet reminded me of a current television advertising campaign by the conglomerate General Electric (GE), which attempts to cast GE as a technology company, as well as an industrial company. The subject of the advertisements, is at a party celebrating his hiring as a programmer at GE. Another actor then tells the group of people that he was hired at Zazzys, a fictional mobile app that texts friends animated gifs of cats. Owen then responds saying that his work at GE will power cities and make hospitals run more efficiently. The duality that Daniel wrote about is captured perfectly in this thirty-nine second spot. The Internet that constantly connects us can increase quality of life or over-trivialize it.

  3. Gabby Bulgarelli says:

    I think this post acknowledges the important complexity of the global relationship between man and internet–something we’ve created is proliferating and becoming more beneficial to our society, yes, but in the process perhaps acquiring more and more detriments. As a proud redditor and imgurian I think the way the site Imgur is referenced here is accurate–the site, like Reddit offers an amalgam of both serious and funny, academic and outrageous, etc. Apropos to these sites and others like them, it’s easy to say that the internet has rightfully become a place for both work and pleasure, sharing and oversharing–and of course, there’s iwastesomuchtime.com …but hopefully nobody is too proud of that!

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