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Technology Duty Calls

Published on April 4th, 2012 | by Thompson


Using the Internet to Improve Memory, Imagination, and Intelligence

I will be investigating the role the Internet plays in altering the way we think and suggest a set of guidelines for proper use of the world’s most addictive drug.  I wanted to run this by the class to get feedback on my proposal, and I’m hoping to submit at least the last section for publication to a tech magazine like Wired.  I think it’s about time we learned to use the Internet effectively in order to avoid the dumbing down of the societal mind, and I hope my guidelines for effective Internet use will alter the way future generations use the web.

The Internet as a Memory Theater

First, I will explain how the Internet was designed with the mnemonic techniques of Simonides in mind, and evolved into a much more diverse array of memory theater similar to that of Bruno.  For this section, Yates will be most applicable, as well as Davis’ explanation of the magical evolution of the computer and the Internet.  I will also investigate the idea of the Internet as a place, a digital frontier, where websites serve as different locations for memory storage.  Proust and Nabokov could come in handy in describing the power of place in the memory theater of the Internet, and certainly Foer’s journey through the competitive ranks of memory in a digital age and his discoveries will be applicable.  Contributions from Charles Seife’s “I’ve Outsourced my Memory” and Galia Salomonoff’s “Of Knowledge, Content, Place, and Space” will help to explain the Internet as a memory theater.

The Effects of the Internet on Society

In this section, I will compare the two most popular arguments regarding the effect the Internet has on society and our brains.  Carr’s argument that the Internet is making us dumber and Shirky’s argument that the amount of information available to us has made us all smarter will be thoroughly evaluated, the positive and negative effects of the Internet will be summarized, and my hypothesized conclusion, though I haven’t completed Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus yet, is that the Internet has the ability to improve our memory, imagination, and overall intelligence, but we must learn how to properly use the Internet and avoid the spectacle of infotainment, as Davis calls it.  Davis will also be drawn upon to describe the lasting, mystical effect the Internet has had, and how new, radical ideas thrive in the digital age.

Society of the Spectacle

There are many distractions on the Internet, and it’s imperative that we avoid these distractions in order to properly use the Internet to our advantage.  The overwhelming availability of information and entertainment on the Internet allows users to be led in the wrong direction, lost in a sea of information.  Debord’s Society of the Spectacle will be essential in writing this section, as well as Davis’ explanation of infotainment.  Chomsky’s Media Control will also serve as a warning to those searching for truth on the Internet.  Richard Dawkins’ essay on the consequences of infinite information, Larry Sanger’s essay on the promise and pitfalls of the “hive mind,” and Brian Eno’s essay on finding authenticity in a world of endless reproduction will also help explain the pros and cons of highly accessible information.  I’m sure more of these essays will become applicable as I read more of them, so my sources are certainly not limited to those listed here.

Guidelines for Effective Internet Use

The concluding section of my paper will suggest guidelines for using the Internet in an advantageous way, by avoiding the obstacles stated previously and suggesting websites to avoid like the plague.  There will also be recommendations for proper use of the most popular websites, including YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, etc.  A summary of news providers and their familiar slants will be given as a warning to those in search of the most trustworthy news outlets.

Placing a value on information is very difficult to do, but that is what I’m attempting in this section.  I will review all websites as objectively as possible, but this will undoubtedly be a section open to interpretation.  No set of guidelines will be perfect for everyone, but I know I can suggest a way everyone can benefit from their Internet use by limiting time reviewing websites strictly for entertainment purposes.  I will also present a children’s set of guidelines to promote educational use of the Internet amongst the world’s youth.

In conclusion, I will speculate the future of the Internet and society considering the path we’re currently on and suggest an alternate path in order to avoid turning one of our best tools into a simple source for entertainment.  The Internet doesn’t have to be a digital Disneyland.  There are plenty of ways to utilize the Internet to improve our intelligence, imagination, and even our memory.  We just have to learn how to use it.

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About the Author

When Thompson isn't busy writing for Go Gonzo Journal, you may find him drunk at the movie theater with Professor Heinous or stirring up trouble in a bar with his attorney. Thompson also enjoys skiing, hiking, camping, and watching and betting on baseball and football.

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