The Academic Laggard: A Glance at the Internet’s Effect on Research

What sets the human race apart from other creatures of this world? Opposable thumbs? The wheel? Or perhaps our natural yearn for discovery and intellect…

For thousands of years, art and historic documents have filled archives to make it possible for modern society to know the happenings of ancient days. Just forty years ago, one would have to look up random facts in encyclopedias or academic journals to discover certain information or ideas. The activity of looking things up and reading about them, broadened one’s idea about an entire subject. Today, someone can look up the age at which someone died, and google will just show the date; no research, no discovery. In this “quick and easy” lifestyle, are we abandoning discover, one of the major components of humanity?ElectracyBanner4copyIn modern society, the internet is used in everyday life. Just as orality and literacy (religion and science), shape the way we live our lives, so does electracy. George Ulmer, the father of electracy, explains the subject as “the kind of skills and facility necessary to exploit the full communicative potential of new electronic media such as multimedia, hypermedia, social software, and virtual worlds” (Wikipedia). While orality and literacy deal with morality and factuality, electracy is associated with joy and sadness and the aesthetic aspect of portraying such emotions. Electracy is a guide with which to navigate the internet realm with ease. However, in defining it, are we creating a level of acceptance for this situation? Is the digital age a setback of the our academic abilities?

In an article titled “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” Nicholas Carr explains his struggle with motivation and literary joy brought on by the internet. As a writer, research that once took days, now takes hours. After long exposure to the ease of the internet, Carr feels the internet “chipping away [his] capacity for concentration and contemplation.” Larry Page, one of Google’s founders describes working on his search engine “a way to work on artificial intelligence.” Not to quote the entire article instead of creating new thought, but Carr quite basically sums up the idea of Featured imagesearch engine intelligence in one sentence: “Ambiguity is not an opening for insight but a bug to be fixed.” Any room for discovery in the digital world is filled with fact. We cannot learn from the internet, or make it part of our three stemmed analogy for life as Ulmer suggests, if we take out the heart: the ambiguity, the discovery, the natural intelligence.

As many of my readers are on social media, I will conclude with a for instance. Many times, as I scroll through social media, I come across an interesting article, something that applies to my internet aesthetic, or the life I try to portray as successful. Out of laziness, I often don’t read them. I fall into the sluggish routine of a college student on the internet by just doing the minimum necessary. Don’t live like this anymore. I know the internet makes it easy for us just to know a fact, and not know the history or the relevance of that fact. How are we supposed to carry on intelligent conversation without the whole idea. Here is my advice: learn. Don’t let things be too easy, don’t do the basic minimum, and don’t take the marshmallow.

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