Rhetorical Analysis R.F.

Rhetorical Analysis

By: Ryan Finkenbinder

The article being analyzed in the following essay is titled: “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” written by Nicholas Carr. Carr’s intended purpose of this article is to inform the audience that he believes the internet is rewriting the neural circuitry of his brain, reprogramming the way he processes information. It could also be considered a criticism of our almost complete reliance on the Internet for all of our daily information: Date, time, weather, our schedules, news and communications now exists primarily online. The intended audience would be anyone who uses the internet, but primarily people with at least a High School education would have the greatest likelihood of understanding the ideas and references put forth. The author, as afore mentioned, is Nicholas Carr. He’s written a few articles for The Atlantic, the publication this article is found in, he’s also wrote a book on the subject titled: “The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, From Edison to Google.”

This is an editorial. It has a catalyst, the internet’s effect on the brain’s cognitive ability/method. And the intended purpose being to inform, possibly to warn, people of this phenomena. Weather this is strictly a modern catalyst brought about by the internet or a periodic collective shift of cognizance based on the current methods of spreading information is a counter-argument touched upon by the author. He achieves this by showing a similar distrust throughout history by other intellectuals concerned by the alliterating of the way the every-mans cognition accesses information. Be it Hieronimo Squarciafico’s concerns about the arrival of Gutenberg’s printing press, to Socrates’ fears that the written word would have an effect on memory/recall. This ties in with the modern argument quite well. How often do people today immediately consult the oracle that is the internet for an answer rather than pondering a question for even a matter of seconds? So while the context of this particular articles argument is very modern, there is a kernel of it that it strikes upon that has been around for thousands of years. Does the method in which we spread/learn information effect/shape our very cognizance? The way we access information at a neurological level and therein process said information.

The catalyst in this particular article, as mentioned before, is the internet, and how it has become our main source of information. As well as the integration/effect of it on almost every other form of information access, referred to within the article as “old media,” such as T.V., newspapers, even books. All of these now have some sort of online presence, or have altered their methodology to accommodate the way “new media” consumers search. The thesis has already been touched upon, but to reiterate, the author claims: “Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think.” Therefore he believes the internet is making us more “stupid” than people before it’s wide-spread access. He has found supports for this idea in a few different forms. Starting out with a few supportive quotes from philosopher of communication theory, Marshall McLuhan, who coined the expression, “the medium is the message.” From this source he degrades a bit, citing two bloggers: Bruce Friedman and Scott Karp. Karp is only listed as being “a lit major in college,” who has experienced a change in thought since then. However Friedman seems rather credible, being a Pathologist on the faculty of the University of Michigan Medical School, who claims he, “can’t read War and Peace anymore.”

From there he moves on to two of the most credible supporters of his argument. One of which is a study conducted by scholars at University College London, that documented “a form of skimming activity,” shown in computer logs at the British Library and U.K. educational consortium. Claiming users are exhibiting new forms of “reading,” such as the “power browse,” rather than reading in “the traditional sense.” Maryanne Wolf, developmental psychologist at Tufts University is perhaps the best support of his argument. She is also worried that these new forms of reading “puts “efficiency” and “immediacy” above all else,” and that this, “may be weakening our capacity for the kind of deep reading that emerged when earlier technology, the printing press, made long and complex works of prose commonplace.” Carr then touches upon Nietzsche’s shift in writing style after changing to a typewriter, to Frederick Winslow Taylor’s streamlining of the methodology of industry, also known as:“Taylorism,” that claims every one of us are just cogs in the great “system” of industry. Then on to his great evil itself, Google, and it’s adoption of these classic Tayloristic methods in the modern digital age, converting this “system” from merely cogs in a machine to numbers or statistics in a collective digital matrix.

There are several links throughout the article that tie these citations back to the central argument. Carr doesn't stray too terribly far off the line. Toward the end he even does the right thing in presenting the fears of Socrates and Squarcaifico as a sort of counter-argument to his case. Showing that his more modern mistrust of Google and artificial intelligence may just be the archaic fears of a luddite. That perhaps this digital paradigm shift is just the next step in Human thought and the he may just be caught in limbo between the two methods, and therefore negatively effected. The implications are that we need to be aware of this shift moving forward and be skeptical of any corporation or artificial intelligence that claims to be streamlining our thought. That we need to still think for ourselves, not just blindly follow. That we should still ponder the unknowable answers to the universes greatest questions within our own minds rather than just typing them into a search engine and taking whatever answer it spits out as the one true fact. This much of his argument I totally agree with. However I think(hope) that as we move forward this almost infinite/immediate access to information for those who seek to actually think about it and expand upon it will eventually show that these fears are just that. People have always been afraid of change and the unknown. Just as Socrates bemoaned the spread written word, Carr fears the digital plague of information will overwhelm us to the point of stagnation. That it is fundamentally altering us in it’s image, it is, and will continue to do so. That is the way of things, it’s evolution, which is the complete opposite of stagnation. As long as we aren’t being forced to participate against our will, we proceed with caution, and continue to question things and exercise our free will, I for one will not stand in the way of progress.

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