Rhetorical Analysis Final Livia

Rhetorical Analysis: Is Google Making Us Stupid?

The Atlantic Monthly (published in Boston) is an American monthly journal of literature, news, political nature, and opinion ("The Atlantic Monthly"). One of the oldest and most respected of American reviews, The Atlantic Monthly has been contributed to by a long line of distinguished editors and authors ("The Atlantic Monthly"). Among these notable authors is Nicholas Carr, who has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Wired (Carr). One of his most recent and seemingly controversial articles, Is Google Making Us Stupid?, has shed newfound light on the speculation that the Internet has negatively impacted the way people read, learn, and analyze print. Carr embraces an explicit thesis style that recognizes these adverse impressions of the Internet through selected evidence, personal experience, the experiences of acquaintances, and intricately placed quotes by professionals of varying fields of study.

The catalyst in this article is attributed to Carr's realization that although the Internet has supplied the substance of thought, it also shapes the process of thought. According to Carr, "And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles" (Carr). Carr's recognition of this prompted the writing of this article, which informs its readers of the negative affects of the Internet. He claims that the Internet is causing people to become lazy when reading and analyzing print, which supposedly makes us stupid for not forming the ability to broaden our learning horizon that print sources once did.

Carr's choice of audience seems to be directed towards the older generation who lived through the era in which the Internet had yet to be invented. This type of audience could be able to compare what their lives were like "pre-Internet" and what it's like now to have this technological advancement. It is also plausible to suggest that this article could be intuitively aimed at teenagers because their generation has not lived without the perks of the Internet, therefore, they may have a difficult time realizing Carr's purposed negative effects on the Internet's objectives.

Carr ingeniously begins his article with an excerpt from A Space Odyssey that compares the shutting down of supercomputer HAL to his own metaphorical brain shutdown. This excerpt foreshadows Carr's very point that the Internet has caused the minds of its users to subconsciously "shutdown" and look for the easy way out. Carr even ends his article with a relation back to the movie of his own opinion. He states, "…as we come to rely on computer to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence" (Carr). This inference leads people to believe that we are no longer capable of building up our mental capacity, but rather reaching a certain point and stopping because it gets too time-consuming/complicating. Carr's use of this film and his suggested implication is meant to evoke emotion from the audience, causing readers to become mindful of the Internet's negative effects.

The first citing of evidence that backs up Carr's theory comes from a recently published study of online research habits that was conducted by scholars from University College London (Carr). This five-year research program had the scholars examine computer logs documenting the behavior of visitors to two common research sites. The findings suggested that the people using the sites displayed "a form of skimming activity" in which one would go form one site to another and rarely return to a site they'd already been to (Carr). The authors of the study concluded, "It is clear that users are not reading online in the traditional sense…new forms of "reading" are emerging as users "power browse" through titles, contents pages, and abstracts…" (Carr). This study coincides with Carr's theory because it demonstrates how the Internet has seemingly caused users to look for the "easy way out" in finding/researching just what they need.

Besides one citation of research evidence, Carr does not appear to provide any other factual or authentic evidence to back up his main claim. His inclusion of opinions/observations of other online bloggers, media theorists, psychologists, and playwrights is random at best. Each paragraph of new information pertaining to a quote made by one of these professionals seemingly support his main claim, but the randomness of these varying professionals and the possible manipulation of their words do not validate Carr's theory. For example, Carr included a quote from the playwright Richard Foreman stating, "As we are drained of our "inner repertory of dense cultural inheritance" we risk turning into 'pancake people' - spread wide and thin as we connect with that vast network of information accessed by the mere touch of a button" (Carr). Even though this quote appears to support Carr's theory, one would wonder the credibility and importance of a playwright's opinion. Two of Carr's other quotes come from fellow online bloggers that agree with his inference of the Internet, but again, an online blogger is just an opinion. People are allowed to believe/agree with something, but that doesn't make it credible or factual enough to support a theory.

Another strategy used by Carr to make his argument is relating multiple technological innovations to the Internet. For example, he mentions Lewis Mumford (an historian and cultural critic) and his perception on the invention of the clock. Mumford describes that the clock "disassociated time from human events and helped create the belief in an independent world of mathematically measureable sequences" (Carr). Carr infers, "In deciding when to eat, to work, to sleep, to rise, we stopped listening to our sense and started obeying the clock" (Carr). First off, Mumford's comment isn't necessarily a negative one that indicates that the invention of the clock has become a controlling factor of human life; it's a statement. Secondly, it's difficult to make an argument comparing the effects of one invention to another when both do completely different things.

Carr asserts multiple times (both implicitly and explicitly) that the Internet has profound negative effects on the cognition of users, but he never proposes a possible solution to solve this so-called "issue." He bases most (if not all) of his argument on words said by a wide variety of professionals of different backgrounds. He only has one verification to back up his theory while the rest of his "validations" are quotes that can easily be taken out of context if manipulated the right way. It seems far-fetched to profess that the Internet is hindering people's ability to broaden their learning and cognitive ambition because the very purpose of it is supposed to enhance one's learning ability. Had Carr been able to provide more authentic support and evidence for his claim, he could have made a better argument.

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