Although in my last post I stated that I wanted to look further into early internet art, I remembered an article I read a really long time ago, which suddenly struck me as really relevant to this project. The article is titled “Is Google Making Us Stupid” and from what I know, it’s a famous article and references the way the internet has changed the way we process information, as in our brains have become ‘lazier’ and we prefer to take in information from the internet rather than book.
It wasn’t hard to find the original article, but a general summary of the article would be: The internet is an immediate source of information and people are allegedly now starting to struggle to read things for long periods of time, due to the introduction of the internet and its instant information access abilities. This instant format changes the way we process text and images on a screen. Nicholas Carr believes that the internet is making us lose our capacity for concentration and contemplation; we prefer to go online rather than reading in a traditional sense. Our minds have become used to having a moving stream of information thrown at us, instead of taking the time to understand it (Carr 2008).
The first 400 words of so of the article remains very clearly self opinionated and personal experience focused which made me question how reliable this piece of text could be, despite the fact everything he says is put across as incredibly relatable to myself, and I’m sure many others. Here is an excerpt from said 400 words:
“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. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.
I think I know what’s going on. For more than a decade now, I’ve been spending a lot of time online, searching and surfing and sometimes adding to the great databases of the Internet. The Web has been a godsend to me as a writer. Research that once required days in the stacks or periodical rooms of libraries can now be done in minutes. A few Google searches, some quick clicks on hyperlinks, and I’ve got the telltale fact or pithy quote I was after” Carr, 2008
After reading this section I became unsure about how much I could trust this article to base my research on until I came across further in his references to other literary writers, such as Clive Thompson. In 2007 the writer for ‘Wired’s’ Magazine wrote about human’s disintergrating memory, due to all the retrievable amount of information now available to us on the internet. He describes that he has given up trying to remember anything, because he can instantly retrieve the information online (Thompson, 2007). Carr mentions this article and references the lines . “The perfect recall of silicon memory,” which “can be an enormous boon to thinking.” (Thompson cited in Carr, 2008). This refers to the new way of retrieving memories and information as a celebration, we don’t have to remember anything because the internet does everything for us. Whereas Carr’s article is far more negative of the effect, and the idea of ‘silicone memory’, and protests it has a negative impact on his life. Although this information isn’t directly relevant to internet art, but it does remind me of the impact of internet on the human mind and the way we process things.
Not only does Carr reference Clive Thompson he also references the theories of Marshall McLuhan (which works perfectly with my previous research), he refers to him as pointing out in the 1960s that medias are not just passive channels of information, but they actually shape the process of thought (McLuhan cited in Carr, 2008). This reinforces my research further about the medium, being a huge force and supplier of information, whether it’s in reference to internet or even just the way internet effects minds and memory. Carr believes that the net chips away (his) capacity for concentration and contemplation, information only being taken in the way the net distributes it (Carr, 2008).
Looking further into the writing of Nicholas Carr I discovered he also published a bestselling book: ‘The shallows: what the Internet is doing to our brains’. His article for The Atlantic was incredibly popular, and obviously very helpful for me, but although he briefly referenced theories by others such as McLuhan it was incredibly personal and talked primarily of his own experience, or his friends in a conversational way. In the book however he begins to reference actual neuroscientific research. A review in nature magazine celebrates the book and Carr’s reference to Michael Merzenich and Eric Kandel’s research. Their research established that brains are constantly reshaped by experience, “ Carr argues that changes induced by Internet use,such as greater brain activation during web browsing, may not be in our best interests.If the brain adapts completely to the frenetic nature of the Internet, he warns, we may lose our capacity for absorbing practices such as reading a book” (Bavilier and Green, 2011). Again this research is in reference to the reading of text and information on the internet, but it could be argued that this is no different to the reading of an image on a screen.
Collectively all of this research into Carr’s, Thompson’s and McLuhan Research it can be proven with the research of Merzenich and Kandel. If there is a definitive answer in how the internet has affected our memory and the way we process information, that means that art using the same medium, has the same effect. What I have taken from this research is the effect of the medium of th internet on the mind, artists who create work on the internet are addressing this new way of processing information. By using all this information I can also deliberate that not only are artists adapting to the medium they could be using imagery such as GIF’s to capture the viewer’s attention, like Carr mentioned there is such a heavy stream of information being presented to internet users, and by using a moving image it will be able to grab more attention than a static one.Traditionally art is seen in galleries, and we are encouraged to continue to stare and look at one image for a while to consider the artwork. The present day now has an influx of art hosted online, so galleries may not be the first source of art. Instead we are flitting from page to page until a hyperlink entices us to look elsewhere, and consideration of a static image disappears. By artists such as Chris O’Donovan (See previous blog post) usign the moving image, only watchable in a internet format, he has a greater chance of capturing a reader’s attention.
These writers and researchers have taught me that it’s important to embrace the internet but there is such a huge amount of information its harder to remain noticeable, which is why in my own practice it could also be important for me to embrace the use of the GIF’s to maintain my audience’s attention.
Following this research, again, with a greater understanding of why the medium of the internet is an important medium, I can make more educated research into internet artists and their work.
References in the blog post:
Carr, N (2011). The shallows : what the Internet is doing to our brains. New York: W.W.
Journals and articles:
Carr, N. (2008). Is Google Making Us Stupid?. Available: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/07/is-google-making-us-stupid/306868/4/. Last accessed 28th November 2014.
Thompson, C. (2011). Browsing and the brain. Nature Magazine. 470 (-), p37 – 38.
http://www.theshallowsbook.com/nicholascarr/Nicholas_Carrs_The_Shallows.html Last Accessed 28th November.
Stoffel. (2011). Delete. Available: http://www.diagonalthoughts.com/?p=1124. Last accessed 28th November 2014.