Photo and Story by Zachery Wright / Contributing Writer
MTSU kicked off their annual Scholars Week on Monday evening in the Student Union Building with a keynote address from author Nicholas Carr focused on his book,“The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains.”
Carr is an American author whose book, “The Shallows,” was a finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction. Carr’s book and speech took a deep look into our modern day culture to express the social and internal transformation of humans driven by technology and the “Internet Culture.”
The speech began with Carr laying the groundwork of intellectual technologies and how we use them to think.
“It’s a very important set of technologies and tools because it shapes the way we think. It changes the culture in which we think. It really shapes the richness of our lives,” Carr said.
He continued, explaining how these technologies are nothing new and described the effects of early technologies such as maps and books.
“You introduce the map and you get a radically different way, not only to navigate the world, but a way to think about the world and to think about space and place,” Carr said. “In place of using your senses, suddenly you have to think in terms of an abstract image of the world.”
Carr began to explain that even though these technologies are useful and adaptive, we have lost something along the way.
“We lost this ability to interpret the natural world in which we live,” Carr said. “As soon as you start depending on maps and depending on abstractions, you don’t have as much attention to what your senses are telling you”
He then describes the similarities of this process with the introduction of watches and how we comprehend time.
“Before the invention of the clock, when people thought about time, they thought about time as this natural flow,” Carr said. “You introduce the technology of the clock and everything changes about how we perceive time. Instead of perceiving it as a natural flow… We start thinking about time as a series of precisely measurable units.”
The next section of the speech caught the audience up to modern technology and how the growth of distractions has discouraged deep concentration. This has developed what Carr describes as a skimmer environment.
“If I started by suggesting that intellectual technologies shape the way we think, then isn’t this the way to stage a new technology shaping the way we think? Maybe to thrive in this new environment with this technology is to be a skimmer,” Carr said. “I think there is a lot of truth to that. I think that’s what is happening, and I think there are good things to be said about all of this information popping up … but I think we need to be honest with ourselves and look at what we lose.”
The speech ended with a quote from David Foster Wallace that Carr believed summed up the evening and the influence technology has on the way we think.
“Learning how to think … means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from your experience.”
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