Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Book Review - The Shallows by Nicholas Carr

Although the book is a couple years old, Nicholas Carr's The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains came at a good time for me. As I prepare for a few social media usage programs/presentations and as we enter a new year with the accompanying resolution season, the book provides some helpful content related to the way I think about and use the Internet.

Carr's general thought is that our non-stop Internet usage that emphasizes quick, brief attention to a wide spectrum of information pushes us to use the shallower parts of our brain while crowding out the deep thinking portions that longer and slower forms of media require (such as book reading). While he keeps it interesting with some anecdotal support, the majority of the book sifts through various studies done on the human brain. The scope of the book is rather large as it covers everything from a brief history of the the passage of information (oral to written to printed to hyperlinked digital text) to the level of depth the Google masterminds have gone to in order do our thinking for us. Although Carr doesn't stay completely objective, his level of immersion in his own technological usage certainly keeps him from any sort of judgmental tone.

My primary take away from the book is to slow down. When overwhelmed with the number of items on my to-do list, my natural inclination is to try and accomplish everything at once (even though following a to-do list usually slows me down eventually). Yet the book re-affirms the suspicion that scattering my brain over four items simultaneously really isn't helping me get anything done well. It is a reminder (and shows some statistical backing) that eliminating the distractions I expose myself to not only keep me focused in the here and now but that it actually will benefit the way I think.

Not a bad thought to start in 2013.

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