“Is Google Making Us Stupid?” And how much of this will you read?

“Is Google Making Us Stupid?” And how much of this will you read?


In a writing class I teach at Keuka College, we are reading the “classic” essay, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” written by Nicholas Carr in 2008 (which already feels like eons ago.) The essay is part of the class Discussion Forum  in which we comment and respond to each other — or you!

Looking at how the Internet shapes reading and writing practices, Carr covers terrain and ideas echoed by many social critics (using Google as shorthand for the whole digital world).

Using himself as a case in point, Carr laments our shortening attention span and decline of the long narrative:

Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore.


Illustration from “Is Google Making Us Stupid” Atlantic (2008)

Describing the experience of his fellow bloggers and literary types, Carr says the more they use the Web, the more they have to fight to stay focused on long pieces of writing.

Bruce Freidman, University of Michigan Medical School faculty member who blogs about computers and medicine, put the phenomenon bluntly if not succinctly:

I can’t read War and Peace anymore. I’ve lost the ability to do that. Even a blog post of more than three or four paragraphs is too much to absorb. I skim it.

Relatively new to blogging, as I try to entice viewers to choose mine among the dozens of revolving options on the screen, I too feel the need to write short, “quick hit” posts (like this one was supposed to be). Always in my mind is that millennial acronym, TLTR (Too Long To Read).

I have certainly been “guilty” of War and Peace-like tomes: How do union teachers teach about unions?, Remembering General Otis on his Day, June 15th: Rochester’s imperial war hero, What the New East will be and not be.

Interestingly, the shortest post, Anticipating the Ferguson verdict, was actually written as a group in real time during an earlier Keuka class.

The teacher in me offers an extra credit assignment. Read the essay in the Atlantic (2008), comment and join the conversation with our class. Is Google making us stupid?

About The Author


Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY and Lake Affect Magazine.  My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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