Cover image for The shallows : what the Internet is doing to our brains
The shallows : what the Internet is doing to our brains
Carr, Nicholas G., 1959-
Personal Author:
Norton pbk. [ed.]
Publication Information:
New York : W.W. Norton, [2011]

Physical Description:
viii, 280 pages ; 21 cm
Discusses the intellectual and cultural consequences of the Internet, and how it may be transforming our neural pathways for the worse.
Prologue: The watchdog and the thief -- Hal and me -- The vital parts -- On what the brain thinks about when it thinks about itself -- Tools of the mind -- The deepening page -- On Lee de Forest and his amazing audion -- A medium of the most general nature -- The very image of a book -- The juggler's brain -- On the buoyancy of IQ scores -- The church of Google -- Search, memory -- On the writing of this book -- A thing like me -- Human elements.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QP360 .C3667 2011 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



"Is Google making us stupid?" When Nicholas Carr posed that question, in a celebrated Atlantic Monthly cover story, he tapped into a well of anxiety about how the Internet is changing us. He also crystallized one of the most important debates of our time: As we enjoy the Net's bounties, are we sacrificing our ability to read and think deeply?Now, Carr expands his argument into the most compelling exploration of the Internet's intellectual and cultural consequences yet published. As he describes how human thought has been shaped through the centuries by "tools of the mind"--from the alphabet to maps, to the printing press, the clock, and the computer--Carr interweaves a fascinating account of recent discoveries in neuroscience by such pioneers as Michael Merzenich and Eric Kandel. Our brains, the historical and scientific evidence reveals, change in response to our experiences. The technologies we use to find, store, and share information can literally reroute our neural pathways.Building on the insights of thinkers from Plato to McLuhan, Carr makes a convincing case that every information technology carries an intellectual ethic--a set of assumptions about the nature of knowledge and intelligence. He explains how the printed book served to focus our attention, promoting deep and creative thought. In stark contrast, the Internet encourages the rapid, distracted sampling of small bits of information from many sources. Its ethic is that of the industrialist, an ethic of speed and efficiency, of optimized production and consumption--and now the Net is remaking us in its own image. We are becoming ever more adept at scanning and skimming, but what we are losing is our capacity for concentration, contemplation, and reflection.Part intellectual history, part popular science, and part cultural criticism, The Shallows sparkles with memorable vignettes--Friedrich Nietzsche wrestling with a typewriter, Sigmund Freud dissecting the brains of sea creatures, Nathaniel Hawthorne contemplating the thunderous approach of a steam locomotive--even as it plumbs profound questions about the state of our modern psyche. This is a book that will forever alter the way we think about media and our minds.

Author Notes

Nicholas Carr is the author of The Big Switch and Does IT Matter? He has written for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, and Wired. He lives in Colorado with his wife.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Carr author of The Big Switch (2007) and the much-discussed Atlantic Monthly story Is Google Making Us Stupid? is an astute critic of the information technology revolution. Here he looks to neurological science to gauge the organic impact of computers, citing fascinating experiments that contrast the neural pathways built by reading books versus those forged by surfing the hypnotic Internet, where portals lead us on from one text, image, or video to another while we're being bombarded by messages, alerts, and feeds. This glimmering realm of interruption and distraction impedes the sort of comprehension and retention deep reading engenders, Carr explains. And not only are we reconfiguring our brains, we are also forging a new intellectual ethic, an arresting observation Carr expands on while discussing Google's gargantuan book digitization project. What are the consequences of new habits of mind that abandon sustained immersion and concentration for darting about, snagging bits of information? What is gained and what is lost? Carr's fresh, lucid, and engaging assessment of our infatuation with the Web is provocative and revelatory.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist

Library Journal Review

Expanding on his provocative Atlantic Monthly article, "Is Google Making Us Stupid?," technology writer Carr (The Big Switch) provides a deep, enlightening examination of how the Internet influences the brain and its neural pathways. Computers have altered the way we work; how we organize information, share news and stories, and communicate; and how we search for, read, and absorb information. Carr's analysis incorporates a wealth of neuroscience and other research, as well as philosophy, science, history, and cultural developments. He investigates how the media and tools we use (including libraries) shape the development of our thinking and considers how we relate to and think about our brains. Carr also examines the impact of online searching on memory and explores the overall impact that the tools and media we use have on memory formation. His fantastic investigation of the effect of the Internet on our neurological selves concludes with a very humanistic petition for balancing our human and computer interactions. VERDICT Neuroscience and technology buffs, librarians, and Internet users will find this truly compelling. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/10; seven-city tour.]-Candice Kail, Columbia Univ. Libs., New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Expanding on his article "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" (The Atlantic, 2008), Carr details his history with computers from the 1970s to his present-day Internet obsession. Realizing that the Internet might be dramatically affecting his brain, he decides to explore the neuroscience behind brain plasticity, which offers clues about how the brain adapts to favor new skills over underutilized ones. The book offers a fascinating history of intellectual tools and their effects on society and ways the human psyche changed with each new development. Indeed, one of human history's greatest advances came from writing, reading, and the book. Carr argues that the inherent intellectual ethic of books, single-minded concentration allowing for deep reading and comprehension, is lost when text is delivered online. He believes the Internet favors the distraction that comes with wading in and out of "the shallows" of information and convincingly argues that the Internet is changing the way people think--not necessarily for the better. The author meanders at times, sometimes purposely, when exploring history's many technological milestones, but never for too long, and often one senses his enthusiasm for appending an interesting, historical, tangential character or anecdote. An entertaining, insightful, thought-provoking book. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All collections. J. A. Bullian Hillsborough Community College

Table of Contents

Prologue: The Watchdog and the Thiefp. 1
1 Hal and Mep. 5
2 The Vital Pathsp. 17
a digression on what the brain thinks about when it thinks about itselfp. 36
3 Tools of the Mindp. 39
4 The Deepening Pagep. 58
a digression on lee deforest and his amazing audionp. 78
5 A Medium of the Most General Naturep. 81
6 The Very Image of a Bookp. 99
7 The Juggler's Brainp. 115
a digression on the buoyancy of IQ scoresp. 144
8 The Church of Googlep. 149
9 Search, Memoryp. 177
a digression on the writing of this bookp. 198
10 A Thing Like Mep. 201
Epilogue: Human Elementsp. 223
Afterword to the Paperback Editionp. 225
Notesp. 229
Further Readingp. 257
Acknowledgmentsp. 261
Indexp. 263