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Mind Over Mass Media

I was starting to get worried on how the “coin is starting to get flipped” in terms of web/tech criticism. This is natural since the “web revolution” has had more champions than detractors. A web idealist critic was frowned upon. It still is. See Andrew Keen.  But the contrarians are starting to gain some traction. Mostly because they’re actually making valid arguments. There’s Nicholas Carr’s recent book The Shallows and the debates it has started. There’s those recent NyTimes articles about how technology is making us impatient, unfocused, and changing us in not so good ways.

But how bad are really these bad things that the web is doing to us? Steven Pinker smacks some sense in the fear mongering tone of how the web is rewiring us.

Critics of new media sometimes use science itself to press their case, citing research that shows how “experience can change the brain.” But cognitive neuroscientists roll their eyes at such talk. Yes, every time we learn a fact or skill the wiring of the brain changes; it’s not as if the information is stored in the pancreas. But the existence of neural plasticity does not mean the brain is a blob of clay pounded into shape by experience.