Carr’s “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” Article Review
When evaluating Nicholas Carr’s, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”, one can arrive at the conclusion that Carr’s main claim in composing this article is to educate his readers on the issue of the Internet. The issue being the influence on its users’ capacity to make their own affiliations and build up their own thoughts when analyzing a large scale text and persuade them to agree with him. Carr uses many different methods to try and further support his claim such as including his own observations and opinions, research, and targeting the audience’s emotions. In the end, his contention is insufficient because of his absence of solid sources and the tone that is set throughout the article.
Although Carr is a highly respected author who was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and has written for The Wall Street Journal as well as The New York Times, his inclusion of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is used so he can parallel that with how he believes computers have rewired his brain is a major example of him relying heavily on his opinion and fame to convince his readers of his point of view. If the reader does not know who Carr is beforehand, any part of the article that includes his opinion is not effective in supporting his claim. Carr additionally includes the fact that his blogger friends concur with him regarding the matter to help support his methodologies of logos. Carr himself then states, “Anecdotes alone don’t prove much” (Carr, 2008). This demonstrates that Carr knows him including his friends’ opinions is not much of a power move to continue supporting his claim regarding the matter, and falls flat without his or his friends’ authority being made known.
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Carr then uses the story of Nietzsche’s experience with developing an extremely terse writing style due to switching to a typewriter to further support the fact that the brain inevitably begins to take on the qualities of said technologies. However, Carr uses some logical fallacies in his argument here when automatically assuming that Nietzsche’s writing style was altered by the typewriter. In spite of the fact that this story originates from a man with authority, it is an anecdote that is more than one hundred years old and is technically an opinion of Nietzsche’s. Compared to the other examples of logos that Carr uses from the University College London and developmental psychologist Maryanne Wolfe, Friedrich Nietzsche’s story is not on the same level of reliability. In another piece of the article he repudiates himself by utilizing the data from James Olds, a teacher of neuroscience, when he expresses that the human mind is extremely pliant and can reprogram itself. When utilizing this data, it conflicts with the quote from Wolfe about the perusing of texting debilitating the psyche. Although he utilizes certainties from legitimate sources to demonstrate that he is proficient about the subject, because of the contradicting data it can make the reader question regardless of whether he knows where he is running with the theme. This is a clear example of Carr’s absence of consistent reliable sources and poor association with regards to interfacing a solid source to his contention.
The last thing Carr targets in “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” are his reader’s emotions. To do this, Carr states, “In Google’s view, information is a kind of commodity, a utilitarian resource that can be mined and processed with industrial efficiency. The more pieces of information we can ‘access’ and the faster we can extract their gist, the more productive we become as thinkers” (Carr, 2008). Although this quote seems to lean towards the positive side of the spectrum, Carr begins his next paragraph with, “Where does it end?” (Carr, 2008). To rapidly go from a positive statement to a negative one demonstrates Carr’s effort to persuade his audience to see his point of view by targeting their fears. Lastly, Carr revisits the 2001: A Space Odyssey scene he used to open the article. The inclusion of the scene shows a definite appeal to emotion because of the “fear” aspect that is portrayed through the idea of Carr identifying with the computer in the scene rather than the robotic human. In the last few paragraphs, he uses words and phrases like “unsettling”, “pancake people”, and “haunted” to create a sense of fear in his readers. Using appeals to emotion as a backup to rational and logical arguments is a skill possessed by many great writers. However, Carr seemed to include appeals to emotion more often than logic. By not appealing to both the brain and the heart, his effort to persuade a great number of people is overall ineffective.
Carr’s argument is ineffective because of his inability to successfully provide reliable sources in order to effectively support his claim that the Internet is altering the way one thinks. Carr uses a great deal of rhetorical appeals, though they are not used in a way that connects them all together. His ethos is focused on connecting with the reader by using the movie scene, which in the end was highly ineffective due to the fact that the movie is fictional and in no way could possibly become a reality. His logos is comprised of quotes from his friends and associates, and referencing historical innovations. Although his logos is fairly effective, the use of friends in his article makes said evidence bias. Finally, Carr uses fear as an appeal of pathos by using specific wording, and returning to the movie scene.