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Analysis and Chapter Summary of Nicholas Carr's the Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains

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Chapter 1:

Quick Summary: The author, Nicholas Carr, shares his own personal experiences without technology as a youth, when he has to find information and contact people through the real world, and recounts his first encounters with computers and the helpfulness of having so much information at one’s fingertips. He talks about online accounts, and talks about blogs he posts to.

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Ethos: Carr uses his own experiences and others experiences from the beginning of technology to connect with the reader who might have their own similar experiences. He also uses bold terminology to make him appear professional. He leads us to believe that the information he is providing is valid, because he is not the only person that has had these same experiences.

Pathos: Carr lets us into his own life and personal experience and makes himself vulnerable to make us feel comfortable and to draw attention to the argument he is trying to make. The more connected a reader feels the more likely they are to pay attention and potentially agree with his argument.

Logos: The logistical appeal here is that Carr states that he can’t focus for long periods of time on a work of literature, and that the way he used to read was quite linear but is now full of sporadic bursts of information. He shares his experiences in a way that is very familiar to others and easy to understand.

Argument: So far Carr hasn’t decided either way, whether or not technology is a good thing or not, but he is developing both sides currently, by showing the benefits and its effects to humans.

Chapter 2:

Quick Summary: This chapter focuses on the science side of our brains. Friedrich Nietzsche, a famous philosopher, had an idea that our brain changes in response to the tools and equipment we have to use. This idea was however rejected during his time. A psychologist by the name of Sigmund Freud, came up with the idea that the brain wasn’t just a stationary organ but instead had space inside called synapses. The chapter then goes into a lot of science stuff that I don’t really understand, but shows examples of this theory by using Monkeys and Slugs, to show that the brain, if nerves are damaged, can heal itself. And that repetitive physical action if repeated enough can change the way our brain perceives it.

Ethos: This Chapter has a lot of appeal to ethos, as it uses a lot of studies and information gathered by Psychologists and scientists. Carr doesn’t really have much to say in this chapter, but shows that he has done his research, and has scientific proof of the argument he is trying to make.

Pathos: This chapter doesn’t really try to connect with readers emotionally, it does use different experiments to show that readers might have the same things happening to them as in the experiments demonstrated. Such as the idea of repetition makes a habit, is suggested by the slug experiment.

Logos: This chapter is all about logic. All the experiments and brain studies shown throughout the chapter further the audience’s understanding of what might be causing such a drastic change to our brains caused by technology. Carr uses the research given to suggest that technology might not just have an impact on us mentally, but has an impact on our brains physically.

Argument: Carr sends us a lot of information about neuroplasticity, the idea that our brain is constantly changing throughout our lives, which suggests that his argument may not be yes or no to tech, but rather giving us insight as to what it’s doing to us on an anatomical level. He suggests that we are born with a “blank slate” with an outline of our brain already in place, but it’s the experiences that shape and build us. He says that most people are reluctant to the idea that our brain changes from experience, but he tells us that that is not the case, which is what I think his argument is.

Chapter 3:

Quick Summary: The chapter starts by stating that our concept of space changes drastically from childhood to adulthood. Maps and clocks are some of the earliest examples where humans took the invention and molded their minds to perceive something else was happening besides the basic functionality of the tool. Strategy in maps, and consistency with time. Carr considers these Intellectual technologies. Things like language and writing are also considered Intellectual technology. Carr states that there are two different outlooks on how technology has influenced mankind, determinists, and instrumentalists. Determinists believe that our sole purpose is to develop technology until it becomes self-sufficient, and can produce itself. Instrumentalists believe that technology are tools that we have control over. In Carr’s writing it is hinted that he takes a determinist side.

Ethos: Carr uses a lot of scientific discovery combined with the experiments of last chapter to further his readers understanding of the science behind technology, and allows them to understand what is going on. He uses past discoveries and scientists work to show the audience his argument is valid, should be taken seriously, and is backed up by lots of evidence.

Pathos: Again Carr isn’t huge on emotions on this chapter which leads readers (or at least me) to think that he doesn’t care as much about how the information is affecting us. I will definitely include some of these thoughts in my essay.

Logos: Carr furthers his logistical argument a lot in this chapter from examples like the clock and map that make the message he is trying to communicate easier for readers to understand. He transforms these ideas into his determinist stance. He also suggests that language is a tool or technology that we have. Potentially making his argument that technology is just another advancement our brains take to make more technology to in turn fulfill the determinist idea.

Argument: Carr’s argument has confused me as it seems to shift one way to another and then evolve itself. Does he want to suggest that we are only here to further technology? Is he saying that it’s a tool to help further our lives? I’m not exactly sure what his argument is at this point. The book says he has a determinist stance. And he keeps suggesting the idea of neuroplasticity. So my best guess is kind of what I stated in the logos section, that computers and new technology is only adding to the tools of language writing clocks and maps etc.

Chapter 4:

Quick Summary: Carr goes in depth about the language tool. And shows us the history of language and how it is developed over time. The earliest writing was without breaks and hard to understand, but evolved over time to become continuous like talking. And easier to understand. He also talks about the struggles to overcome distractions while reading. And finally gets to the point in time when scribes were no longer necessary and writing and reading were essentially a tool that everyone can have.

Ethos: This chapter was very interesting, it showed the development of language, writing, and reading by using terminology that is user friendly, but at the same time shows examples and personal connection to what he is trying to say.

Pathos: Carr might be hitting a little here by using past examples to connect with a reader intellectually, but not really. Carr did you forget that there are THREE ways to connect with your audience?

Logos: Again, Carr really wants to connect with his audience here. By showing past examples and letting us in as to our own developments, he is forming his logical argument quite well. All this information really allows us to comprehend and to connect with car on an intellectual scale.

Argument: Carr doesn’t really further his argument here, at least not that I can tell, but he is showing more in depth why his argument is correct.

Chapter 5:

Quick Summary: This chapter suggests that an old conceived idea, the turning machine, has been actualized by the internet. The internet is increasingly powerful, and is replacing old technology such as newspapers, mail, photographs, and almost all written text. More and more time is devoted to screens, and less time is used on physical text. He suggests that the speed of technology is not allowing more time for other things, but instead is consumed by more time spent on television and screen time.

Ethos: Carr has already demonstrated his abilities and appeal from knowledge and experience. And I feel as though my ethos paragraph in the essay has already been developed. I don’t feel as though it’s necessary to include more of the same in each section.

Pathos: Carr is giving us a lot of information so that we as the reader can make our own informed choice, but is leading us to his conclusion. As he provides more and more evidence on how technology is affecting our minds and our time spent. He shows us common examples in our own lives that we as readers can connect to, and see that yes indeed we are spending a lot of time and effort into the internet, it makes me kind of sad.

Logos: Carr uses our own lives as his main logical example here. He shows us how much time we are spending, and reminds us of how much we used to spend on other things, but are now slaved away into internet time. In the previous chapter it took years to eliminate distraction from reading and writing, and he suggests that we may be adding effort and time to add that distraction back in.

Argument: Carr suggests that most of the media today relies on user input, implying that his determinist stance is furthered. Technology is relying on human input until it can make it itself. He also still isn’t outright saying his argument, but rather stating what an impact technology is having on us, And how much it has taken over our lives. Instead of making an argument, Carr is asking us rhetorically whether or not technology is helping or hurting.

Chapter 6:

Quick Summary: Carr argues that books are being replaced by the eBooks that we can download, and with new high definition screens and less eye strain the eBooks are becoming more efficient and accessible than hard copies. The experience is very different, but eBooks can pronounce words zoom in and even read the book to you. Books are now designed to get more internet attention than actual people reading them. He says that we are reversing the way books were designed, less and less people are reading and we don’t have much if any time to read them at all.

Pathos: This chapter is designed for people to make a reflection on their own life and too see how much technology is really affecting us, to make us realize how much time we are devoting to it. It’s not so much an emotional connection, but it’s all he’s giving us.

Logos: This is a clicking moment, a realization. It’s like a girl telling all the things you did wrong to her. She’s not angry, but you know exactly what it is, you remember it. You want to stick with it but your time is so devoted to something else. It makes logical sense, we now understand why Carr’s argument is why it is, he wants us to change.

Argument: There is still no outright dictation of what Carr wants us to do, he is still informing us on what is going on with society and ourselves. He never once says it’s wrong, or that we should fix it, he is simply stating what is happening. Just because he is giving negativity to technology does not mean his argument is technology is bad, I’m reluctant to believe that is the point he is trying to make. He concludes by stating that we are done with the singular individual tasks and have moved on to a working life with multitasking. Carr states that without literacy one can’t have “enriched individuality”.

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