Dystopia concerning the internet and changes in the way we think and seek truth in a cloud.
Information Technology and Its Effects on Society -A Term Paper Primer
Critical Thinking is a required course for all freshmen at Southern New Hampshire University. The concept is to think large, ‘outside the box’ as it is so often said today. We must do this with a good base knowledge while working on a degree from inside the box (SNHU.) We are to look at the big picture with a critical eye in a search for truth thru knowledge. The Information Technology often used is a small computer-screen window presenting a visual adaptation of an ever-changing world of how we seek, find, research and use a world wide net of information. I say information and not knowledge because it is our critical eye that must discern truth from prevarication. Information used properly and for the greater good brings us closer to altruism. Spun, twisted, out of context, cropped, perverted, debased, prevaricated use of information corrupts language burying us in dysfunction and disconnect from reality. With a critical eye looking thru experience and in a search for knowledge as a novice in IT, I will use my voice word-processing a visual image with keyboard while manipulating a mouse (today with or without a tail) I may decide to place this picture in words outside the window. How in the World Wide Web will it be found, who will find it? Will they decide to read it, contemplate it with critical thinking and find their truth in it or as so often in this world wide glut of information will they just scan it through bloodshot eyes gaining nothing, in a less than superficial human connection!
This week in class Mike used a computer, jpg images, a power-point display and a critical eye in using research to present a very powerful picture in palpable words pointing to the demise of Flint, Michigan, his families hometown, destroyed in their abandonment by General Motors. This was IT used in a fine blend of technology and the human touch. It was a brave and touching presentation. The questions are many but the use of IT is changing the way society connects and it must be changing the way we think.
On cable this morning there was a feature on how people use information. The .com in question is in a constant quest to fine tune what you need to know into about 10 quick to read while visually enticing content. Even the shortened 10 are cut down to an introduction so you can decide to read them or not. It is like going thru the checkout line at the market with the cover pages your choices, scan, choose, read or just look at the pictures.
The idea for this term paper in part comes from thinking about the Language Textbook from my ENG-350 class (Edited by Clark V, 2008) and seeing the cover page of the July/August Atlantic Magazine-the ideas issue. The article is entitled; Is Google Making Us Stupid? The author Nicholas Carr’s most recent book, The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google, expounds on how information technology could be changing the way we think. An excerpt from the book, Part 2: Living in the Cloud-Ch. 2-A Spiders Web-follows; “Most of the major advances in computing and networking, from the invention of the punch-card tabulator in the 1880s to the present, have been spurred not by a desire to liberate the masses but by a need for greater control on the part of commercial and governmental bureaucrats, often ones associated with military operations and national defense. Indeed, the very structure of a bureaucracy is reflected in the functions of a computer. A computer gathers information through its input devices, records information as files in its memory, imposes formal rules and procedures on its users through its programs, and communicates information through its output devices. It is a tool for dispensing instructions, for gathering feedback on how well those instructions are carried out, and for measuring progress toward some specified goal. In using a computer, a person becomes part of the control mechanism.” He turns into a component of what the Internet pioneer J. C. R. Licklider, in his seminal 1960 paper Man-Computer Symbiosis, described as a system integrating man and machine into a single, programmable unit. “
The quote has serious implications and is worthy of discussion and study. Surly we are not under the control of our computers. However, when we purchase and set up a computer we must also purchase spyware and virus protection. This software catches cookies that spy and illnesses that corrupt our machines. Yes, we make the choices of what to select, open, scan, read, copy and print, but how much are we being led in those directions by the seductive presentations before us on ‘the window.’ Nicholas Carr does a great job setting the stage for this discussion. He mentions how writing, the printing press, and the typewriter all came into question when developed or invented. These advances in how we use language and technology and record and distribute it were nothing in comparison to the flood of information available today. From the Atlantic article Nicholas Carr talks about Frederick Winslow Taylor’s 1911 treatise, The Principles of Scientific Management. Taylor’s theory was to use Algorithm to create a set of instructions for how each worker should do a job/task. Carr says, “Taylor’s ethic is beginning to govern the realm of the mind as well….intent on finding the “one best method” -the perfect algorithm-to carry out every mental movement of what we’ve come to describe as “knowledge work.”
Nicholas Carr is concerned that he is losing the ability to focus and concentrate the way he used to when reading and contemplating a book. He feels that years of computer and internet use make him want to jump around tangent to tangent sometimes losing where he intended to go, forgetting his initial goal. I believe that to an extent this does happen. I have found that from personal experience that if I read first, surround myself with books and magazines, read and think about the connections that I do somehow retain enough to put those connections together in a readable form. When asked to do a paper the only problem is cropping the data down to size and making it readable for others. I tend to feel OK about what has been written but the question remains. Will it be read and understood by others whose rewired thinking has also been altered by today’s Information Technology? D.Q. infinity!
Carr, N. (2008, July/August). Is Google Making Us Stupid? What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains. Atlantic , pp. 56-63.
Carr, N. (2008). The Big Switch; Rewiring the World, From Edison to Google. N.Y.,N.Y.: W.W. Norton @Company, Inc.
Edited by Clark V, E. P. (2008). Language-Introductory Readings. Boston-New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s.