Textverständnis und Analyse: Sachtext "Is Google making us stupid?"
The article “Is Google Making us Stupid? What the Internet Does to our Brains” by Nicholas Carr, published in The Atlantic in 2008, deals with the question whether the Internet influences the way we read.
Observing his own reading habits, the author is sure to have made out a difference in the way he used to read to the way he is reading now. Carr is of the opinion that while formerly immersing himself in lengthy texts did not used to be difficult, he now finds it hard to concentrate after reading only a few pages. The author puts this struggle for in-depth-reading down to the way information is nowadays processed and distributed on the Net. According to a study of online research habits carried out by scholars from University College London people searching for information tended to skim articles rather than close-reading them and seldom returned to a sited they have already looked at.
Carr believes that while people may well be reading more today than in the 1970s and 80s, due to the Internet and text-messaging, they may have lost their capacity for deep reading.
Ray Bradbury’s dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 is probably one of the most noticeable pieces of literature when it comes to the role of reading in futuristic society. In his novel set in an unnamed American city, Bradbury creates a world in which books are outlawed and firemen have the task of burning any books that may be found in somebody’s possession. Along with books, free-thinking, the enjoyment of nature and serious, in-depth conversation have vanished from society. Instead, people spend their time with meaningless pursuits like driving fast or endlessly watching television. Any sense of self-expression or wish for free-speech is numbed by the state’s censorship of books and art.
Fahrenheit 451 does not provide any real reason why books are banned in the future, yet it seems clear that the imposed fun and the constant exposure to different fast-track media like television and radio serve the authoritarian state to control its people. Overstimulated by the constant flow of material published via the various media channels, the population in Bradbury’s futuristic state is no longer able to concentrate and loses its interest in the things that really matter like war or political upheaval. In a way Nicholas Carr’s experience with the Internet’s effects on reading comes disturbingly close to what the people feel in Ray Bradbury’s dystopian world.
Another novel in which the media play an important role as a means of controlling a society is George Orwell’s 1984. Orwell’s world in 1984 is one in which people are constantly watched by a totalitarian state and in which a personality cult is centred round the elusive, semi-divine Party leader, Big Brother. The omnipresent telescreens serve the dual purpose of spying on the state’s citizens and of filling them up with blaring propaganda. Instead of aiding people to gain knowledge, media technology is misused to supress individuality and free thought. In fact, Thought Police are employed to arrest anybody who commits “thought-crimes”. Orwell’s vision of the world in the year 1984 is extremely bleak and reveals a deep scepticism of the role of the media in futuristic society.
For thousands of years reading and for a good century new media have served people to gain knowledge and to express themselves as individuals. The media may be used to inform us about what is going on in the world, but historic examples and also these two dystopian novels show they may also be used to control and manipulate a society, to feeding people with the “right” information or keeping them in the dark.
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