Abundance or information overflow, does it harm? #change11

Today I did read a blogpost of Andrew Neuendorf. He mentions Carr and  Carrs book on the nasty effects of internet on brains. Nicholas Carr did evoke some discussion in USA (?)s on information overload and the effects of internet on the brain. As far as I know  Nicholas Carr   is a writer and he sells a lot of books. (I do not say he started the discussion because of economic reasons, but he sold a lot of books)

The myth of information that is overloading the brain is believed by a lot of people.  When I was a little boy my mam did warn me against reading to much because your brain will loose its power when you read too much.  Did your mam warn you against watching TV, reading books, listening radio, reading comics, watching internet?

Carr seems to think reading a (paper) book is different from (and way better than)  reading a text from a screen.

Interesting question: Why do so many people read a book like that of Carr?
(And, this question came when this blogpost was almost ready: why do I care to even think about this weird ideas of Carr?)

Another question, about a pedagogy of abundance, subject in this MOOC change11 (Erik Duval). Did this subject submerge (become a subject)  after Carr did his writing?  As far as I know students always try the abundance argument when teachers assign homework. (Erik Duval does not view abundance as a kind of sickening influence but as a blessing, as far as I do understand him.)

And how come the internet would have introduced the information overflow? In this little country where I live and 18.000.000 other people every day so many books and newspapers and weekly’s  are printed. You should need a year to read all books that were printed today.  Nobody is foolish to try so.

And why do people think information is what we read? We do receive so much non-verbal information. Our eyes and ears and skin and other receptors do gather information every moment.  Even when asleep we receive information. Does this information cause overload?

I do remember an experiment on sensory deprivation. Is this connected to information overflow?

8 thoughts on “Abundance or information overflow, does it harm? #change11

  1. Hi Jaap, interesting post. What do you mean by “he is a writer and he sells a lot of books”?
    Isn’t anybody who writes a book trying to sell it, to flog it off to his students? All I see in Mooc so far are people that have written books and they want you to read theirs…..
    I do think it is different reading from a screen than reading from paper……that does not mean reading from a screen is bad, it’s just my personal preference, my head does much better with paper……
    I do agree with you that information is not only what we read. We get lots of stimuli from all our senses and I am happy for that. This also caters to different learning styles.
    Internet would not have introduced the information overload, it’s just that more people have access to the internet (and therefore all information that comes with it) than they had access to books and newspapers. I’m in Canada and if I wanted to I could read the Dutch newspaper online…….That was not possible before the internet. I remember when I lived in Curacao, years ago, that I received the Volkskrant on Sunday morning, and that was a treat :-). That was the only time I could read more or less up to date information (if you call the news in the newspaper up to date) being so far away from Holland…..
    I have not read Carr’s book and I don’t have enough info, but it seems that he has some weird ideas about the internet……what I do know is that internet is not all there is (and I silently hope others will see it that way too, some day).

  2. Another thought just popped up (slow learning 🙂 )
    I do think my brain sometimes sees overload:
    Once I was in a restaurant and the plate they brought was was so full that it was impossible to start anywhere. I instantly felt I didn’t need any food anymore….So much food, not hungry…..Overload in the brain?
    Also, I love drinking a nice wine but when my glass is too full I don’t like the wine anymore….Overload in the brain?
    When I see a very, very long blog post, I don’t feel like reading it…..overload of the brain?

  3. My guess is that given the overall tone of public discourse in America, trust in the reliability of information makes one piece of information as meaningless or unreliable as the next. Neil Postman talked a bout this in “Amusing Ourselves to Death.” If you can’t stop the population from questioning authority then make them so critical of all evidence that truth and falsehood are impossible to distinguish.

    This pretty much leaves believing things on faith only, or relying on the the most strongly asserted “version.” This how I understand authority manages information. Wonder if a rhizomatic learner tapped into so many channels of information can manage overload better?

    Maybe we devalue things that come in large numbers, mass produced, not unique or special and just for us? God also sold a lot of books too and he kept it down to two editions and only ten commandments:-)


  4. Hi, I have been a publisher. Publishing books is all about publicity and sales. Truth, or content or whatever doe not matter, only sales. And weird writers with lots of free publicity make sales very good. Publishers try to choose writers who will evoke free publicity.
    @Irene, information overload is not a disaster or making your brains burn out. In your experience it is clear, overload makes you stop eating.
    A musician who is playing all concerts without sheet music, an actor in a play who knows his role by heart, all his roles, do they become dumb by learning so much?
    Internet is not a sacred institution, but it is neither an invention of the devil, its good nor bad.
    @Scott, public discourse in USA is amazing, and some Americans do see this. Public discourse in most countries is amazing.
    regards Jaap

  5. Jaap – you are right to be suspicious about a writer whose book is in “good sensationalist” territory. The idea of “brain full” does not work – this is an over-simplistic concept which appeals to those who do not think this through or who have a “vessel” idea of the brain.
    However, problems with accessing a HUGE and increasing amount of information, where to go for it, how to do it, what to believe, etc, calls for careful and systematic processes, use of judgement and reason, and time.
    This is easily converted into a sensationalist issue which sells books.
    Why do people read a book such as Carr’s? Perhaps because they do not use judgement and reason?

  6. People who value certainty may like to hear the message from Carr that most information is clutter and thinking is actually contra-indicated in the pursuit of happiness.

    Outside popular press level of discussion that reduces all topics to “for” or “against” there is a legitimate debate here. What is knowledge, how is it constructed, can everything be reduced to a simple explanation, is it necessary to consider all viewpoints to come to a legitimate conclusion? Or my favourite, what does it mean to be wrong in a world where you can Google yourself out of any quandary?

    Try “The Cult of Information” by Theodore Roszak. Described on the cover as a Neo-Luddite (which I take as a sensationalist term used to sell his books) Roszak cautions about falling into love with technology to the exclusion of everything else. Some people just don’t “do” computers and feel they have to defend themselves from the presumption that they are dullards or techno-refusenicks. And some people are totally immersed in technology to no apparent purpose.

  7. Hi Scott, I love these questions, uncertainty and chaos are so much more interesting than certainty and rules.
    I will try to find Roszak and read it. (MOOC is having a pause so …)

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