Wednesday, July 2, 2008

deep Google thoughts

Google and Deep Thoughts?

I know Jack Handey [yes, he's a real, live, person] and I have a little bit of an idea just how much time, effort, and thought goes into one of his little "Deep Thoughts", so popular from the old Saturday Night Live days. And no - sorry - I'm not going to give you all the little links to go check it out. If you're interested, at some point I'm sure you'll 'google' it. . . .

Even now, I'm listening to a crow cawing outside and giggling over today's "Deep Thought" on Jack's website:
"The crow seemed to be calling his name, thought Caw."
(these 'thoughts' sometimes creep up on you - that one took me just a moment. . . . grin!)

Today, I came across a really interesting article that asks the question Is Google Making Us Stupid? by Nicholas Carr.

Read the article. See if - like Carr; like ME, embarrassed as I am to admit it - you aren't also experiencing a growing difficulty reading longer articles. Carr's is only 4000 words, but I noticed - because I was thinking about it - how often I started casting about looking at something else, considering scanning to the end, clicking another link, or checking email real quick in between. The article is well-written - that's not the problem - and there's plenty of interesting thoughts, facts, and other information that is presented, all the way to very end. Perhaps particularly towards the very end, as Carr investigates whether Google is perhaps teaching us to think differently.

Although he doesn't mention the book, Carr would find a similar thesis in Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death, which tracks a similar shortening of attention span. It was first published in 1985, and related to the shift from the written word (or even the heard word in the sense of the radio or lecture) to the television. Carr's observations take Postman's earlier work the necessary step further, with a more chilling prognosis.

What particularly hit me is an observable lack of sustained thought, let alone sustained discussion and discourse. And deep? Fuggetaboutit. . . .

One couple I particularly admire has afternoon "study halls" at their house. Friends are welcome to come and sit and read or write - and ask the occasional question or read the quick, amusing, quote - from, say 3 to 6, and then they mix a cocktail and sit and talk together about what they studied or thought about, or wrote all afternoon. They are a rarity and they are not often joined by others.

That, however, is how I aspire to live.

Unfortunately, checking email and googling how to make whatever I want to make for dinner tonight so often gets in the way.

As does a 4-month old puppy. . . .

Maybe I should google what Cesar Milan would say about that.


Lee Anne said...

What a great couple! I like this idea -- especially the social aspect. The hardest thing about what I'm doing is the isolation.

After years teaching college freshmen, I noticed that students are not only unwilling to read lengthy articles (more than a news brief) or ones that do not state its purpose directly but are really unable to read at all. They do not know how to organize the information they are receiving or how to make a strategy for reading. I would go on, but I really need my coffee now. I'm not sure how to change that, but quiet time (a study hall or even focused meditation) would be a good way to start.

Anonymous said...

I am noticing it. I used to think it was bad, but now I am just going with it. Things change and maybe we are moving on to something else.