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The Shallows: Chapters 1-4

ENGL 293
by

Kaitlyn Kaminski

on 8 November 2012

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Transcript of The Shallows: Chapters 1-4

Chapter 2: The Vital Paths The Shallows:
Chapters 1-4 Prologue:
The Watchdog and the Thief Chapter 4: The Deepening Page By Taylor, Alyssa, Lauren, and Kaitlyn Chapter 3: Tools of the Mind Designed for the most efficient writing; as many as 800 characters a minute
Suggested his writing became more mechanical
“Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts” (pg. 19) Freud’s nervous system research
Suggested gaps between the cells (contact barriers)
played an essential role in governing the functions of the mind, shaping memories and thoughts (page 19)
Neurotransmitters
Thoughts, memories, emotions: emerge from the electrochemical interactions of neurons
Previously thought that the structure of the adult brain never changed
Thought to be moulded into a concrete structure after youth shaped it
British biologist J.Z. Young
1950 BBC lectures: argued that the brain was malleable, and developed with use and atrophied with disuse
This idea means that every action leaves some permanent print upon the nervous tissue
Freud too said that the brain was mouldable, and could change in response to a person’s experiences Industrial Age metaphor bore the idea that the brain is an unchanging physical appartus
• The brain is a mechanical contraption
Like a steam engine, each part had a specific purpose and if it were to change in shape or function, the machine would breakdown
• Descartes’ dualism
The brain and the mind exist in two separate spheres
• The brain is physical and mechanical
• The mind is ethereal, and exists beyond the laws of matter
They can influence each other, but remain separate entities
• The machine metaphor was reinforced by the arrival of the digital computer
“the thinking machine”
The brain was referred to as being “hardwired” like computer chips Michael Merzenich, 1968
• Performs experiments on monkeys
• Severs the sensory nerve, discovers that over time the brain reorganizes itself
• This shows the brain is not fixed, and instead can change
• More experiments show that the brain has increasing levels of plasticity and malleability
• The biggest thing is the areas between the synapses (Freud)
• Repetition builds bonds between certain neurons
• The chains of linked neurons of life experiences form
“vital paths” Reorganization of the Brain
• People who lose limbs: “phantom limbs” as the brain is in the process of neuroplastic changes that register sensations from other parts of the body
• Blindness: the circuits for sight get taken over by auditory circuits
• Neuroplasticity: our brains are constantly changing in response to experience The Problem with Neuroplasticity
• Not elastic, but plastic
• We can get locked in to certain ways of being (rigid behaviours pg. 34)
• We are just as susceptible to bad habits as good
• If we don’t use our mental skills, those circuits will be turned over to what we do use Chapter 1: Hal and Me Understanding Media by McLuhan & The Internet “The medium is the message” (pg. 2)
McLuhan focuses on the technology/medium being more damaging to us, as opposed to the content where most criticism stems from
Carr concentrates on the Internet and, agreeing with McLuhan, states we are “too busy being dazzled or disturbed by programming to notice what’s going on inside our heads” (3)
Any concerns we have about media’s effect is usually diffused by our movable, enjoyment of the technology. "The content of a medium is just 'the juicy piece of meat carried by the burglar to distract the watchdog of the mind'" (pg. 4) Quotes: "The computer screen bulldozes our doubts with its bounties and conveniences. It is so much our servant that it would seem churlish to notice that it is also our master." (pg. 4) 1) Carr discusses his brain being almost taken over by the technology of the Internet (“hungry”), and has a desire to be constantly connected. Today, many of us find it hard being without our cell phones / smart phones; even the ownership of them seems to be becoming younger and younger. Do you miss our old ways of interaction? Or is this progression, through the Internet, become an acceptable means of interaction? Is the Internet, as he terms, “our master”?

2) Carr says he has trouble focusing for a long period of time while reading, and quoted another stating that “his thinking... has taken on a ‘staccato’ quality”. This is similar to reading and composing short snippets of text, like on Twitter. Is this something you have noticed while reading? Do you think perhaps the long book is becoming “superfluous”? Discussion Questions: Carr describes his lack of attention while reading long texts and blames this on the Internet changing his ability to focus
He attempts to show, through others’ perspectives, that searching and reading online can expand our brains; however, he is still concerned with the changes the brain has undergone since the past
Accessibility to information, research, communication, has become easier and more feasible through the Web; thus becoming “essential for work, school, and social lives” (pg. 9) Chapter 1 "My brain isn't going... but it's changing" (pg. 5) his experience of the evolution of the computer, and how it changed him
• describes becoming a word processor himself
once the Internet was introduced Carr felt the “very way [his] brain worked seemed to be changing.”
"But my brain, I realized, wasn't just drifting. It was hungry. It was demanding to be fed the way the Net fed it - and the more it was fed, the hungrier it became. Even when I was away from my computer... I wanted to be connected." (pg. 16)
“I missed my old brain.” (pg. 16) The Internet's Effect 1) In the video, it was seen that being forced to take a new path to class changed the way that the neuroscientist went to that class from that point forward. Can you think of a time in your life when something like this happened? Were you aware at the time that it may have been electrochemical responses in your brain that caused you to change your behaviour?

2) Why do you think the chapter began the way it did? What connections can be drawn between Nietzsche’s experience with the typewriter and modern society’s interactions with digital computers? Do you think that the use of the computer for many tasks and the use of the internet has affected your way of thinking and acting? Discussion Questions: Types of Technologies 1) Extends our physical strength, dexterity, or resilience; ex. the plow, the darning needle, the fighter jet
2) Extends the range or sensitivity of our senses; ex. the microscope, the amplifier, the Geiger counter
3) Enables us to reshape nature to better serve our needs or desires; ex. reservoir, birth control pill, the genetically modified corn plant
4) Extends or supports our mental powers (“intellectual technologies”); ex. map, clock, typewriter, abacus, books, the Internet

it's our intellectual technologies that have the greatest and most lasting power over what and how we think; they are our most intimate tools, the ones we use for self-expression, for shaping personal and public identity, and for cultivating relations with others
it’s an invention’s intellectual ethic (the message that the medium or other tool transmits into the minds and culture of its users) that has the most profound effect on us The Map Before the map:
people understood where they were and where they were going purely through what they saw and what they heard
After the map:
we suddenly had a different way to think about where we were in space; the pure visual, sensory and auditory perceptions were supplemented by an abstract picture, which is a radically different way to think about space.

The map is a medium that not only stores and transmits information but also embodies a particular mode of seeing and thinking. The Clock "What the map did for space—translate a natural phenomena into an artificial and intellectual conception of that phenomena—another technology, the mechanical clock, did for time" (pg. 41)

The personal clock was “an ever-visible, ever audible companion and monitor”, continually reminding its owner of “time used, time spent, time wasted, time lost”; it gave people a more scientific way of thinking that focused on measurement rather than the natural flow of time. http://www.roughtype.com/?p=1451 Discussion Question: A group of historians and philosophers argue that "technological progress, which they see as an autonomous force outside man's control, has been the primary factor influencing the course of human history" (known as technological determinism). Another group, known as instrumentalists, argue that our instruments are the means we use to achieve our ends and are "entirely subservient to the conscious wishes of their users"; they have no ends of their own. What do you think? Do you agree with either group or are you neutral? Discussion Questions: 1) What books, stories, or even articles altered your perception or enriched your experiences in the physical world? How and/or why did they do that?
Alternatively, HAVE books, stories or even articles altered your perception or enriched your experiences in the physical world?

2) How does the world of the computer screen differ from the world of the page? Do you prefer reading physical pages or pages on the Internet? Why?

3) Do you think reading articles, pages, and documents on the internet on computer has taken a step backward from reading books? How? Why? Explain. Evolution of the Book The Samarians: first to use specialized mediums for writing on clay tablets
2500 B.C, the Egyptians began manufacturing scrolls from papyrus plants
• after preparing the plants, sheets were glued together
to form long scrolls.
The Greeks and Romans adopted this writing medium, and also began using parchment made from goat or sheep hide
Papyrus scrolls were expensive: the demand for a cheaper option lead to a new writing device: the wax tablet
• played a major role in turning writing and reading from a
specialized craft into an everyday activity.
• lead to the creation of the first real book, because to
store lengthier documents, the ancients would bind tablets
together with leather or cloth. oral communication shaped how things were written and read
all the words were written together in a form called ‘scripta continua’, which reflected oral culture because things were written down mimicking how they were heard
after the fall of the Roman Empire, the number of literate people grew steadily
reading became less of a performance art and more of a means of personal improvement
leads to the invention of the phonetic alphabet & addition of spaced between words to make the cognitive deciphering of text easier Evolution of Reading 1445, printing press was developed; turning a manual craft into a mechanical one, changed the economics of printing and publishing
began a virtuous cycle: the growing availability of books
heightened the public’s desire for literacy, the heightened desire for literacy & demand for more books
process of writing/reading books enhanced people’s experiences of life and nature through perception by enriching experiences in physical world The Impact "Writing and print and the computer are all ways of technologizing the world, and once technologized, the word cannot be de-technologized. But world of the computer screen …is very different from the world of the page”. Walter Ong Nietzsche’s Revival: The Writing Ball
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