Comparison Essay on Works by Nicholas Carr and Ellen Ullman
Over the few decades, technology has transformed the mankind’s overall culture. The use of advanced computing and telecommunication technology has changed the human behavior, and the mankind has undergone an inevitable transformation, especially in the field learning. The use of electronic tools and gadgets nowadays occurs in almost every aspect of life. Although the Internet is an essential primary source of information, it is affecting peoples' ability to read long narratives and books. This entire process of rewiring human brains poses a danger of flattening human experience even if it acts as an essential immediate source of knowledge. This concern has been addressed by Nicholas Carr and Ellen Ullman in their literary works titled “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” and “The Museum of Me”respectively. However, these two authors approach the issue from different perspective. In this essay, these two articles will be compared with regard to their approach to the issue of technological advancement and its influence on human attitudes and behaviors.
In Nicholas Carr’s article “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” which was published in July, 2008, in The Atlantic, he discusses the change that has occurred since people began relying on the Internet for obtaining information. His main thesis is that the human way of thinking has become impatient and unfocused. Carr (2008) supports that by writing “I ‘m not the only one. When I mention my troubles with reading to friends and acquaintances, most of them say they are having similar experiences.” He is frustrated that he cannot sit and enjoy a long book like he used to. In contrast, in “The Museum of Me” (2000) by Ellen Ullman, she outlines the dangers of the Internet. She believes that the Internet promotes selfishness and antisocial behavior among individuals. In addition, she states that the Internet discourages democracy by preventing individuals’ freedom.
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Nicholas Carr (2008) feels that we have shortened our overall attention span. In his article, he includes a study conducted by College in London to test this trait, which concluded, “Indeed there are signs that new forms of reading are emerging as users power browse horizontally through titles, content pages and abstracts going for quick wins.” Nicholas Carr compares this change to the transformations that occur when the mechanical clock was introduced, when people “stopped listening to their senses and started obeying the clock.” Nicholas Carr also suggests that the Internet’s big companies are striving to keep people from staying on a single page for an extended period. The more pages a user view on the Internet, the more advertisements they can show. With the short lived reading that most typical users do, this prevents the Internet users from engaging in deep reading on the Internet. This transpires the reader to develop the same attitude when reading.
In contrast, Ellen Ullman (2000) suggests that the Internet has eroded the personal privacy, and the Internet is “no longer a zone for personal freedom.” She further states that the Internet has resulted to the development of a purely introverted society. “The Net is no longer simply a zone for personal freedoms; a pleasant diversion from what we used to call real life; it has become an actual marketplace that is changing the nature of real life itself.” In her article, she further lament on the elimination of these intermediaries. The local real estate broker, middle man and the insurance salesman’s have all disappeared as a result of the Internet. According to Ellen, this is as a result of the use of Internet that has made them virtually unnecessary. This implies that the use of the Internet has eased the delivery of services and fulfillment of personal needs although it encourages dependency and social isolation.
Nicholas Carr has explicitly expressed that humankind thinks less deeply and it ultimately relies on quick facts, instead of using critical thinking and in-depth research. Carr (2008) further suggests that our minds are malleable and are easily influenced by the impression created by the Internet. Nicholas Carr holds that the use of the Internet makes humans less deep-thinking due to its simplicity in access and spread of information. He condemns the negative attitude towards a long research instilled into human minds by the Internet use. According to Carr, although people gain and spread a lot of information, people disregard the in-depth meaning and knowledge associated with such information. “We no longer have to scrutinize material and comprehend it ourselves, but rather we rely on simple responses.” Moreover, he emphasizes that the easiness and simplicity of finding the answer to various topic on the Internet has essentially transformed deep thinking into shallow thinking.
On the other hand, Ellen Ullman (2000 believes that the use of the Internet has contributed to the weakening of the social dimension of happiness. Ellen suggests that with a little assistance of the Google, it is possible to search through the entire world’s ware and people in pursuit of self-satisfaction. Ellen claims this course to be totally different from everyone’s needs. She further holds that an individual creates a personal space at home or in public street with the computer or a cellphone in pursuit of self-satisfaction. This ultimately alienates an individual from the social world. This privately tailored path of satisfying personal life needs has led to the isolation from the social world. Therefore, the link between individual happiness and that of other people in social circles becomes weakened by the use of the Internet. The use of the Internet has not only weakened social ties but also changed the pattern of reading among the intellectuals. In Nicholas Carr’s article, it is explicit that the Internet users are not reading online material in the traditional sense. Carr suggests that new reading forms have emerged due to the power of browsing. According to Carr, most people just browse through the tittles, tables of content and abstract in search of quick information. This makes it evident that most people use the Internet to avoid reading in an old-style method that inculcated in-depth understanding and critical thinking among the readers.
In conclusion, it is clear that the use of the Internet has posed a considerable influence on the way of life that people lead. Nicholas Carr has demonstrated how the reliance on the Internet has contributed to the weakening of the ability to reason and concentrate as a result of regular Internet use. Carr has further predicted that people’s ability to concentrate will further be weakened. He claims that it will result in many distractions that often surround the Internet content such as notifications and advertisement. This is compounded by the style of information presentation on the Internet tends to mimic the Internet user needs thus luring the user to follow the link. Ellen Ullman has explored how the Internet rendered physical services as virtually unnecessary, which ultimately leads to social isolation. Ellen has shown that it is possible for a person to fulfill almost all their needs with the use of computer. This is how the thought of “The Museum for Me” has been expressed in the article. Ellen suggests that when using computers, we do not have a physical visit to the museum. Instead, we can ultimately view all our favorite pieces of art on our screens. However, Ellen warns about the possibility of leaving an introverted way of life that leads to social isolation.
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