I think it could be strongly argued that for the vast majority of individuals, the practise of learning, researching and absorbing information begins online and most prominently through Google. For a long time, books amongst other materials were the prime source to obtain information due to their trustworthy and authoritative nature. Even now they still bare a great influence of assertion over us; its second nature to look towards books to retain quality and redeeming information. During my studies I am constantly encouraged (forced) to immerse myself within this medium and I admit, it provides me with a very strong knowledge of informative information. Above all else however, what books give is a strong, well embodied critical and often original approach.
Nicholas Carr, author of ‘The Shallows’ discusses his recent revelation about his approach to reading. He has recognised that the way he processes information is very different to what it once was. He recalls when he would naturally and logically traverse through pages of books, left to right, page to page. “The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle” (Carr 2010: 14) Carr explains. It is important to recognise that Carr’s experience would be different to my own in the sense that he grew up in education, and began his career in a time when the internet and what I will be discussing were not yet born. For him, this migration away from the physical black and white text towards using the digital net as a tool for information is a change I am unfamiliar with. For me, deep reading has never exactly come easy; I have been taught from a young age to begin utilising new ways to learn which do not necessarily condone the actions of left to right, page to page.
Carr does however explain his experience, telling his readers that for the last 10 years his immersion into the internet has changed the way he thinks, recognising that the web has been a god send to him as a writer,
“Research that once required days in the stacks or periodical rooms of libraries can now be done in minutes. A few Google searches, some quick clicks on hyperlinks, and I’ve got the telltale fact or the pithy quote I was after.” (Carr 2010: 14)
I would have to agree and say that the experience is mutual, although he does appear to lather it as a process with ease, which it is not! However he shares the price he has paid – as a result of the internet chipping away at his ability to concentrate, to examine and to contemplate information – he now needs it to be supplied in particles, through hyperlinks and as, to the pint information. He maintains however that this is a good thing and it has changed the way he thinks.
“I think I know what’s going on. For well over a decade now, I’ve been spending a lot of time online, searching and surfing and sometimes adding to the great databases of the Internet. TheWeb’s been a god send to me as a writer. Research that once required days in the stacks or periodical rooms of libraries can now be done in minutes. A few Google searches, some quick clicks on hyperlinks, and I’ve got the telltale fact or the pithy quote I was after.”
Dr Bruce D. Berry of Baylor College of Medicine highlights in Marc prensky’s paper, Digital natives, Digital Immigrants Part 1 (Prensky 2001) how an individual’s differing interaction with digital devices can lead to a different brain structure. The paper goes onto to comment on how learning patterns change based on the medium one is learning from and for the younger generation, like myself who grew up immersed in technology and the internet – he argues that for the majority, the process is more natural. Joe O’Shea, a former president of the student body at Florida State University provides evidence towards this notion, stating, “I don’t read books, I go to Google, and I can absorb relevant information quickly.”(O’shea, J in Carr 2010: 17)
Going back to Carr, whilst he explains his difficulties, he also praises the Internet as a learning platform in the sense that it offers an abundance of information that is accessible anytime anywhere. Here is a fine, to the point example for you. A simple search of the very relevant term, ‘Internet Studies’ returns just under 14 million results, and in record time (see picture). Even using Scholar, the return is just under 4 million. So what that suggests is, although there is some 10 million avenues which may be unaccountable for, there is 4 million results of numerous literature which provides worthy material. What this shows is that the internet is a platform which gives us access to far more sources than books ever could, and delivers with results of efficiency that traditional material could not.
Prensky, M. (2001) Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. Emerald Insight [Journal online]. 9(5) September. pp. 1-6. Available at: http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/pdfplus/10.1108/10748120110424816 [Accessed on 13/10/2014]
Carr, N. (2010) The Shallows. London: Atlantic Books.
Figure 2. Available at: http://makewealthhistory.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/the-shallows.jpeg [Accessed on 13/10/2014]
Figure 3. Available at: https://www.google.co.uk/?gws_rd=ssl [Accessed on 13/10/2014]
Figure 4. Available at: http://scholar.google.co.uk/ [Accessed on 13/10/2014]