Nick Carr, American journalist and the author of the Big Switch has written an interesting and thoughtful piece about Google’s effect on society. He addresses the question whether or not services like Google will end up making us smarter or stupid. Of course the answer will be a combination of both. By adopting technology we loose something and gain something, with the trade-offs unevenly distributed across society. It is important we study these trade-offs involved in the massive use of an increasingly monopolostic search engine. Therefore, unlike Battelle, I think Carr’s contribution is very valuable. And definitely worth a read.
UPDATE (from comments section & Infothought):
Theo Rohle reacts: “I agree, the article was more interesting than what Battelle made of it (strange outbreak there). Especially the part about the economic aspects of the development towards faster and more intense interaction were worth the read. But Iâ€™m not really buying this whole â€œpancake peopleâ€ thing. Sure, the internet may be faster and more dynamic than most older media (apart from TV zapping maybe), but I have a hard time believing in this kind of cultural logic being hard-wired into technology. (Quoting McLuhan and Kittler doesnâ€™t really help here, it rather reproduces their problems.) If itâ€™s actually that difficult for people to concentrate on anything for more than five minutes these days, how come everyone seems to be able to watch whole seasons of TV series in a row on DVD? Maybe immersive media practices take place in other forms today and Carr is just too focused on the gold old book to notice it.”
This argument fits with some recent observations about the Obama speech on race issues in the United States, which was more than half an hour long and supposedly watched in its entirety by millions of people.
Actually, I cannot believe that Carr doesn’t read any literature and scholarly books anymore. He seems too clever for that. Some arguments are just better made in a long text and you exclude too much if you forget to take the time to read them.
The comparison I do find interesting is the comparison of Taylorism in industrial manufacturing to Googlism in knowledge work. In Carr’s words “What Taylor did for the work of the hand, Google is doing for the work of the mind“.
At Infothought there is some discussion about the techno-science vs. humanities sides in this debate: “When I read articles such as the above, I’m very aware that there is indeed a science/humanities “Two Cultures” divide. And I’m on one side of it (science) while many pundits are on the other (humanities). One basic way to tell the difference is essentially when science types can extend “themselves” through technology, they think “This is cool! Wonderful! Great! More!”, while humanities types angst about “How has the basic nature of our essential souls been corrupted?”. Note this angst-ing effect generally applies only to technology they haven’t grown up with – for example, you don’t see a lot of articles bemoaning how the telephone disembodies us into ghostly vocal presences. Of course, the more intelligent humanities types, like Nick, know this history, and it’s clear especially towards the end of his piece. But they write the angst-filled articles all the same.”
The question is, however, if there is an actual debate going on. Most times, the two sides seem to be addressing different questions. (I know this from experience.)
There is more on this here, here and here.
UPDATE: Carr posted a detailed list of sources on his blog.