Essay Assignment Four

pantgrievousAI and Robotics

Nov 30, 2013 (3 years and 4 months ago)

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Writer_______________________________



English 101
:

Summary/Analysis/Evaluation


Reading for
Essay

Four
:


Carr, Nicholas.
The Shallows
. New York: Norton, 2011. Print.



In
The Shallows

Nicholas Carr presents an

elaborately argued
expansion of his “Is Goog
le
Making Us Stupid” from
Atlantic Monthly
.

While Carr acknowledges that the internet affords its users
some genuine benefits

and very appealing features
, he raises profound concerns about how internet use

or at least
internet
overuse

affects some of our m
ost important cognitive abilities.

Drawing from the
fields of history, anthropology, linguistics, cybernetics, and, especially, neuroscience and psychology, he
argues that heavy exposure to the net seriously diminishes our cap
acity

for deep, focused
, susta
ined


thought and thus, very likely,

leads to

“a slow erosion of our humanness and our humanity” (220)
.


Scary stuff, perhaps. But before we decide whether to heed Carr’s alarm, we should be sure we’re
clear on the basic
elements

of his argument. The essay

options below
should help us get a sharper fix on
some of those elements. Choose one of th
e
se options to pursue for your essay
.

Naturally, before you

decide for sure on

your option you’ll want to complete a careful, active reading of
The Shallows
.
And of
course remember that, whichever option you choose, you should take care to focus your essay on a single
sharply defined
controlling idea

(thesis) and to

develop each

body

paragraph’s ideas with lots of
clear
explanation

and much
specific

evidence

(includin
g
textual evidence
, properly documented
, of course
).


Now, your options:


I.

“Intellectual Ethic” Faceoff:
Fairly early in his

discussion, Carr asserts that “every intellectual
technology [. . .] embodies an intellectual ethic, a set of assumptions about h
ow the human mind works,
or should work” (
45) and, further, that a
particular

“intellectual ethic is the message that a medium or
other tool transmits into the minds and culture of its users” (45
-
46).

He claims, in other words, that any
given intellectual
technology
privileges

and promotes certain habits of mind, m
odes of thought, and forms
of awareness at the expense of others.

He then spends much of the rest of his book

contrasting the
cognitive abilities privileged and promoted by print media with those
privileged and promoted by digital
media
,

arguing that the ones promoted by print media are more important to our fundamental humanity.
Your task in this essay is both to
explain

what Carr says are the nature and value of the divergent
intellectual ethics
of print and digital media and to
evaluate

how valid his analysis is
. To do this job
effectively you’ll
most likely

need
something like

one richly developed body paragraph to present what
Carr claims are the crucial kinds of human intelligence fostered by
print media

but left to atrophy by
digital media
, another such body paragraph

to cover the important aspects of human intelligence he
argues are promoted by digital media but given short shrift by print media, a third to explain why Carr
thinks the forms o
f intelligence privileged by print media are more valuable than the forms
favored by
digital media, and at least one more rich body paragraph

to

make your own considered judgment about
whether Carr’s

more

right

or wrong

in his views. Of course you might be

able to come up with some
alternate structure that will work for this task, but whatever paragraph structure you devise, be sure all
four of the issues identified above are covered carefully in your essay; also, for your evaluative section,
feel free to e
mployee

and, of course, cite

secondary sources if they’ll help you make your case.








I
I
.

Road to Recovery
:

What Carr’s warning his readers about is pretty clear: he
has grave concerns about
what at least certain
kinds or levels of engagement wit
h digital technology are doing to our abilities to
attend deeply and carefully to any single phenomenon, to reflect with depth and clarity on a given idea or
experience, and, inevitably, to lead a full, richly human life.

Consequently, he hopes for “a big
anti
-
net
backlash” (228), asserting that “some kind of rebellion seems in order” (227). But what, exactly, is the
nature of the rebellion he hopes for?

That would seem a bit less clear.

It’s hard to believe he’s arguing
that we should all just smash our co
mputers and turn our backs on digital technology completely
; after all,
he identifies plenty of value in various high
-
tech gizmos

and applications
, at one point, in regard to his
new Wi
-
Fi connected Blu
-
ray player, even allowing that “I’m not sure I could
live without it” (200). The
fact is
,

the exact program of reform he’d like
us to undertake isn’t an issue he spends a lot of time
explicitly discussing. Still, by putting his few
overt
statements on the matter together with his oft
expressed fears about wh
at we’re losing to the net, his elaborate discussions of how the brain’s
neural
networks constitute and reconstitute

themselves
, and his regular recourse to the explanations, warnings
and advice offered by “experts” in
a fair variety of

fields
, we might be

able to infer a plan of action
, or if
not quite that, at least some specific recommendations
he’d like to see us implement.
Your job in this
essay is to make th
ose

inference
s

about Carr’s proposed p
ath back from digitally induced decline
,
explain
ing

what
Carr would likely see as the most effective

yet realistic

actions we could take to
reduce or
avoid the damage he sees our internet
fixation
causing,

and
evaluat
ing

the efficacy of his
implicit

solution
s
, perhaps suggesting your own alternate
or supplementa
l
solutions in the process
.

To fulfill this assignment, you’ll definitely have to
pull together various threads of Carr’s discussion
, and
there are doubtless plenty of ways to structure an essay like this
.

One possible way to get organized would
be to sepa
rate what Carr would probably recommend at the public or institutional level (for instance, how
much and what kinds of online work should schools ask of students?) from what he’d like to see happen
at the level of individual

action and

choice (i.e. what do

you imagine he’
d

like to

see regarding the ways
we spend our
leisure

time or engage in shopping and commerce?), but
no matter how

you end up
organizing your essay,


in your analysis
you’ll want to make sure that your body paragraphs somehow get
at
both

th
e moves
Car
r

seems to imply
we should ma
ke

and

the reasons

his discussion

leads you to
believe these are the moves he recommends
; likewise, in your evaluation section, you’ll want not just to
state whether you think Carr’s implied reforms are good ones
, bu
t to
explain why you view Carr’s

solutions as you do
, and, of course, if you propose your own solutions, you’ll need to include effective
explanations of why you think they’
d be useful too. Once more, if you find secondary sources helpful,
feel free to use

(and cite)
them.



Not surprisingly, your audience for this essay will again be members of the academic community.
And as usual, whichever option you choose for this assignment, be sure to work through the writing
process to build that essay,
running

at l
east one preliminary draft

by me

and turning in this assignment
sheet with your would
-
be final draft.

Likewise, be sure to include at least two peer conferences in the
process and to turn in completed Peer Conference record Sheets along with your would
-
be
final.












Draft/Drafts:





















Assessment:
+


OK


Further revision, please