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The Shallows

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  1. The Shallows A presentation by Justin Goetschius and Sean Anderson What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains

  2. It was a warm summer morning in Concord, Massachusetts. The year was 1844. An aspiring novelist named Nathaniel Hawthorne was sitting in a small clearing in the woods, a particularly peaceful spot known around town as Sleepy Hollow. Deep in concentration, he was attending to every passing impression, turning himself into what Emerson, the leader of Concord’s transcendentalist movement, had eight years earlier termed a “transparent eyeball.” Hawthorne saw, as he would record in his notebook later that day, how “sunshine glimmers through shadow, and shadow effaces sunshine, imaging that pleasant mood of mind where gayety and pensiveness intermingle.” He felt a slight breeze, “the gentlest sigh imaginable, yet with a spiritual potency, insomuch that it seems to penetrate, with its mild, ethereal coolness, through the outward clay, and breathe upon the spirit itself, which shivers with gentle delight.” He smelled on the breeze a hint of “the fragrance of the white pines.” He heard “the striking of the village clock” and “at a distance mowers whetting their scythes,” though “these sounds of labor, when at a proper remoteness, do but increase the quiet of one who lies at his ease, all in a mist of his own musings.” • Abruptly, his reverie was broken: “But, hark! there is the whistle of the locomotive, — the long shriek, harsh above all other harshness, for the space of a mile cannot mollify it into harmony. It tells a story of busy men, citizens from the hot street, who have come to spend a day in a country village, — men of business, — in short, of all unquietness; and no wonder that it gives such a startling shriek, since it brings the noisy world into the midst of our slumbrous peace.” • -The Shallows (p. 166-7) Hawthorne in Sleepy Hallow

  3. What are the lasting effects of internet technology on society, on culture, on our minds? Are these effects desirable? The Question:

  4. This presentation was prepared with reliance on internet technology. • Carr’s extensive review of print media was delivered through a book. A Meta Moment

  5. Conception of the brain and mind

  6. Depth: deep, reflective, contemplative thought that is personal and private, often involving the studying of a single piece of information at a time, allowing one to “get lost” in it. • Breadth: fast, frequently changing, scattered thought that results from consuming many different pieces of information at once, scraping many different surfaces. Depth Versus Breadth

  7. What are the consequences of Internet use on the way our minds work? • “When we go online, we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning. It’s possible to think deeply while surfing the Net, just as it’s possible to think shallowly while reading a book, but that’s not the type of thinking the technology encourages and rewards.”-The Shallows (p. 115-6) The Juggler’s Brain

  8. “When we outsource our memory to a machine, we also outsource a very important part of our intellect and even our identity” (195). • As we rely on the internet and technology to store information for us, we are increasingly emptying our own minds of this information. Socrates describes it as “a recipe not for memory, but for reminder” (195). • The value of personal, individual memory, thought and experience on the collective culture (196). Search Memory

  9. The neurological circuitry of our brains, the way we think and live, is shaped by the tools we use: • Maps • Time Keeping • Books • Electronic Media/Television/Radio • The Internet • The Interaction of Nature and Nurture (28). The Vital Paths

  10. Distractions can be good, But… Unconscious thought processes don’t engage with a problem until we’ve clearly and consciously defined the problem. “If we don’t have a particular intellectual goal in mind…‘unconscious thought does not occur’” • Research shows that breaks in our attention give our unconscious mind time to grapple with a problem, bringing to bear information and cognitive processes unavailable to conscious deliberation • Better decisions are usually made if we shift our attention from a difficult challenge for a time Endless Distraction

  11. The stress that Google and other Internet companies place on the efficiency of information exchange as the key to intellectual progress is nothing new. It’s been, at least since the start of the Industrial Revolution, a common theme in the history of the mind. It provides a strong and continuing counterpoint to the very different view, promulgated by the American transcendentalists as well as the earlier English romantics, that true enlightenment comes only through contemplation and introspection. The tension between the two perspectives is one manifestation of the broader conflict between, in Marx’s terms, “the machine” and “the garden” — the industrial ideal and the pastoral ideal — that has played such an important role in shaping modern society. • - The Shallows (p. 167) Contemplation vs. efficiency

  12. Philosophical Frameworks

  13. Connections to Nolet

  14. “The Net grants us instant access to a library of information unprecedented in it size and scope…what the Net diminishes is…the ability to know, in depth, a subject for ourselves, to construct within our own minds the rich and idiosyncratic set of connections that give rise to a singular intelligence” (143). • The ability to be a an individual, deep thinker, both philosophically and as an educator. Further Implications

  15. Journal/blog exercises to encourage contemplative, reflective students. • Practicing monotasking in the classroom. • Reading “The Shallows”. • Utilizing activities and exercises that encourage student creativity and individuality (Creative writing, issue papers, etc.). As educators:

  16. John Dewey: the importance of social interaction, interaction with content, and owning one’s education. Importance of personal experience. • John Locke:the innate plasticity of the human brain. Companion Philosophers

  17. The Public Library: the importance of a personal literacy and deep thought. • Religious Communities: the encouragement of contemplation Community Partners

  18. Carr, N. (2010). The shallows: what the internet is doing to our brains. (1st ed.). New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company Ltd. • Hawthorne in Sleepy Hallow: • Conception of the brain and mind: Credits