As we’re reading Rheingold, we must acknowledge that the article was written 10 years ago, which means that some of the essay has not necessarily aged well. Additionally, he is older and an academic, which are two things that could bias his argument against the internet and media. He does acknowledge the good in this developing technology. His essay focuses on distraction as a central theme, and the fact that there is a virtual world that is essentially separating and pulling us away from the real world.
Not all distractions are inherently bad, but blocking out things that would make you more successful is key. Some kinds of distractions are good, as we as humans are made to be distracted. The focus is more about filtering good and bad distractions through the competition for our attention. We aren’t only focused on this to make ourselves better, but we must consider how important relationships are being affected.
Is the internet making us stupid? Not necessarily. To begin with, it is a tool that doesn’t actively do anything, it is something that we can use to our advantage. With the internet, there is more information available to us than ever before. At one point, Socrates believed that writing was going to destroy rhetoric and make people make wrong inferences and become more uneducated. We have always had developing technology, and there have always been people who disagreed.
The class discussion has turned to a debate of if ancient rhetoric and modern-day internet are so different that they exist completely separately, or one lead to the other. We must be careful to see them as connected, and there are advantages and disadvantages.
Rhinegold argues that the internet is making us stupid, but we cannot make it go away. We have so much access to information that it can be extremely beneficial. There is an argument that anyone with access can upload things. There is also a problem of mindfulness, which is not the same and more regards being on your phone in class, while driving, etc. We need to acknowledge that the tools that we use to access it is separate from the information. The tools have become a lot more complex, while additionally becoming more mobile. We now have ubiquitous computing. My phone can be taken everywhere, but more important than that I do not just have access to phone calls. I can read, play games, call people, text, take notes, etc., so the tools can be used for productive academic uses, or for the exact opposite.
The problem of distraction is much more complex than people often discuss. The faster pace of information production and our cultural ideas come together to change the way that we both consume and produce knowledge. These changes are so important that they are literally changing who we are. We can either change and let it be good or bad by change, or we can think about our change and do it in a way that is more beneficial to ourselves and our children.