Chapter 8: The Church of Google


Fredrick Taylor – Excellerated the efficincy of workers and improved productivity. Workers would be trained to perform a specific set of tasks in the “best way” … similar to how Google was created to provide efficiency to users.

“In the past man has been first, in the future the system must be first” Do you agree?

Comparing Taylor with Google

  • Google carries out thousands of experiments/tests – Taylor did the same
  • Algorithm or set of instructions – Google believes that citizens are best guided by algorithms which is exactly what Taylor beleived
  • Maximum speed, efficiency and output – Goals of both Taylor and Google
  • Goal to adopt the best method
  • The most efficient way – Both aimed at creating the best way of doing things

Google relies on cognitive psychology research  to make people use their computers more efficiently. “Its the next best thing to actually being able to read their minds”

Larry Page – Founder of Google says:

  • Google rganize the worlds information and makes it universally accessible
  • Google wants to know where you are and what you need to better help you
  • Google has made the internet more efficient in finding you information – engineered to produce better results

See more: Where’s Google going next?

Google Glass: Do you agree with this concept, will it benefit us or destroy us?

Google’s Secret Project?

“To be up to date requires the continual monitoring of message alerts” How do you feel when you can’t monitor or view notifications? How do you feel when you don’t have any messages or notifications? *


Black Mirror: One episode that really got me thinking…

Do you think its possible for the world to be like this one day or does this already reflect our current society?

The Digitization of Books: Google’s effort to bring more efficiency

  • Do you think in the future people will stop reading books and magazines because everything will be online and easily accessible?

“The contemplative mind is overwhelmed by the noisy world’s mechanical busyness”

The problem today is that we are losing our ability to balance the industrial and pastoral – the idea of efficiency and contemplation as two seperate states of mind. “Information overload is worse than ever”. We are flooded every moment by information when we are on the internet or smartphones. What happens if we start using google glass? What will be next?

“The ultimate search engine is something as smart as people or smarter”

Do you think computers will be able to replicate human thought? 

Talk to a computer – Cleverbot responds to anything you type, it learns more from each person it talks to, it accesses thousands of conversations to come up with a response.

As computers get smarter what does this do to our brains? We are becoming consumed by technology, will it control us one day?


Ch.7 The Jugglers Brain

Reading this chapter I was reminded of a TED talk I was shown by a teacher in High School on Sixth Sense technology. This chapter points out how the way we interact with content has changed and become more demanding, fast-paced, interactive, and received in high volumes. This talk happened in 2009 keep that in mind when you watch it, and also how this technology would change our interactions.

Here’s a link to Pranav’s personal website (it’s slightly dated)

I was wondering what the opposite of overstimulation would do to people. In other words I wanted to see both sides of the spectrum.

Out brains are extremely sensitive and even the smallest change in our surrounding environments can significantly change the structure and wiring of them.

The chapter reviews studies on multitasking that have mostly proven people absorb information from straight text better than multi-sensory experiences covering the same content.

Should we have new measurements and methods of testing to accommodate this type of learning?

Provided bellow is a short term memory test

There is a small percentage of people in the world that are born to multitask



Ch 6. The Very Image of a Book


What is a book to you?

Do you prefer a physical book? Or reading on a Kindle?


Kindle is a small hand-held electronic device for reading books, similar to an iPod or MP3 player where you download and play music. The Kindle works the same way by downloading books (via wireless technology)  and store up to thousands becoming your own personal, portable library.

However, you compared to the original Kindle, the latest Kindles offer new options that the older versions did not have.

“As soon as you interject a book with links and connect it to the Web–as you as you “extend” and “enhance” it and make it “dynamic”- you change what it is and you change, as well, the experience of reading it.”


Cellphone Novels


Japanese cell phone novels (keitai shousetsu, ケータイ小説, literally keitai = cell phone, shousetsu = novel) is phenomenon that began almost fifteen years ago and landed in the Western world in 2008. It as mentioned before began in Japan, popular with everyday middle school, high school, university students and even those older write novels on their phones and post them onto sites chapter by chapter. Getting comments, reviews from chapters that consist of even 50-100 characters, sometimes more.

Cellphones back then were much more advanced compared to what we have now. Already possessing the ability to access the internet and post on chatrooms/websites.

These writers would write about numerous controversial subjects such as a personal, emotional, existential and controversial topics that are considered taboo to mention openly in Japanese culture, such as identity, subcultures, relationships, rape, bullying, abortion, friendships, and betrayals. These novels can receive more than ten million views and some have even been adapted into published works, tv dramas, films, anime (cartoons), manga (comicbooks).

The top five bestselling novels in Japan are often originally cellphone novels.

Examples are: “Koizora” (Love Sky), “Akai Ito” (Red String of Fate), “Kimi No Sei” (It’s Your Fault), “Moshimo Kimi Ga” (If You)





  • French poet Alphonse de Lamartine “This will be the reign of the human world in all its plenitude. Thought will not have time to ripen, to accumulate into the form of a book-the book will arrive too late. The only book possible from today is a newspaper?”
  • Why do you believe it failed?



  • In an 1889 essay in the Atlantic Monthly, Philip Hubert predicted that “many books and stories may not see the light of print at all; they will go into the hands of their readers, or hearers rather, as phonograms.”












Chapter 5, A Medium of the Most General Nature

Alan Turing


Alan Turing was born in London, England in 1912 and died in 1954. He was an English computer scientist, mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst, and theoretical biologist. His work in the field with the creation of the Turing machine is what started the revolution the computer, with the Turing machine being consider the model for the general purpose computer. With his research he was considered to be the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence.

The movie The Imitation Game (2014) was a movie featuring Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing, going through the events of World War II, in a glorified fashion, which lead to the creation of the Turing machine.

The evolution of technology from the Turing machine to smartphones

“Once information is digitized, the boundaries between media dissolve. We replace our special-purpose tools with an all-purpose tool” (88).

Netflix statistics

RADIOLAB The Turing Problem

What if the internet stopped working for a day?


Search, Memory…

Chapter Nine: Search, Memory

To open, here is video by Crashcourse. It offers an excellent explanation behind the workings of our brain in the creation of explicit and implicit memories.
Explicit memories are memories which we can consciously recall. Working memory depends largely on the use of explicit memories; for example remembering what is in your fridge so you can decide what to have for dinner, or a fun memory with friends.
Implicit memories are memories which contribute to our ability to perform a task without consciously drawing back to the experience we learned to do it from. For example, reading – many can read but do not recall the time we learned how to do it.


Short term memories can only exist for a very short period of time; it depends on whether or not the synapses in the brain between neurons are strengthened or weakened. In order for them to be turned into long term memories our brains must go through a very specific project called consolidation. The consolidation is a complex anatomical and biochemical process which strengthens memories, making them long term so they can be recalled later. Distractions; from a something large to even the vibration of a phone can entirely disrupt the consolidation process. Sleep is also very beneficial for consolidation, alongside concentration. This is why, if we stay up late studying before a test and only get three hours sleep, our memory is very poor when it is the time to actually write the test.

“The take-home message from a working memory capacity standpoint is this:what we process, we learn. If we’re not processing life, we’re not living it. Live life” – Peter Doolittle

Artificial vs Biological Memory
Biological memory is the memories which are created from our own human experience. Our brain decides on what information to keep, and which information to discard; which constructs the framework that in the basis of our personality.
Artificial memory is the human dependency on resources outside of the brain in order to remember specific things. Some of these things such as books and calculators are extremely helpful in brain development as the help strengthen consolidation. Carr argues that the internet is a source that does not help with our memory- how so?

annCarr uses the example of Commonplace books in the chapter as one of the first instances in which artificial manifested. Commonplace books were held by students to document meaningful quotes they found or any connections they made which felt valuable to remember in their studies. For further reading, Ann Moss in her book Printed
Commonplace-books and the Structuring of Renaissance Thought (1999) discusses the role of these books in organizing and analyzing quotes from the studies of renaissance pupils.




Some Questions to ponder:
1. Do you value memorization? What is the place or role of memorization today?
2. Have you ever confronted a problem/challenge that you felt as though you could not solve because of your inability to concentrate? How can we as artists relate to Carr’s struggle to write a book?
3. Carr asks: “How is the way we think changing?”… How is it?
4. What difficulties have you experienced with internet so far?

….take a stress pill and think things over.

The Vancouver Industrial band Skinny Puppy, included several samples from 2001: A Space Odyssey in the track Rivers on their 1989 album Rabies.  Rivers also includes samples form Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange and Polanski’s The Fearless Vampire Killers. It’s been been posted to YouTube including the scenes sampled – so good!

Chapter 4 – “The Deepening Page” & a digression

Chapter 4 of “The Shallows” The Deepening Page talks about the evolution of the written word – the way that we started to read symbols to the way that we started to read words. Carr also explains the concept of “deep reading” and also the idea that the Sumerians (who were the first to use a specialised medium for writing) “…had to train their brains to ignore everything else going on around them, to resist the urge to let their focus skip from one sensory cue to another.”

Summary of devices

Cuneiform tablet receipt 2100 BCE for 6 lambs, on (goat) kid
Height 31mm, Width 29mm, Depth 13mm
Ur Dynasty, Sumer-Southern Mesopotamia (present day Iraq)
cuneiform tablet

Egyptian papyrus
1285 BCE
Judgment scene from the Book of the Dead.
In the three scenes from the Book of the Dead (version from ~1300 BCE) the dead man (Hunefer) is taken into the judgment hall by the jackal-headed Anubis. The next scene is the weighing of his heart, with Ammut awaiting the result and Thoth recording. Next, the triumphant Hunefer, having passed the test, is presented by the falcon-headed Horus to Osiris, seated in his shrine with Isis and Nephthys.
Judgment scene from the Book of the Dead

Wax tablet with Stylus
possibly 1 CE
wax tablet with stylus

The Vergilius Augusteus is a manuscript from late antiquity, containing the works of the Roman author Virgil, written probably around the 4th century.
Written in Roman Square Capitals
Only 7 leaves of manuscript survive
Vergilius Augusteus scriptoria continua

The octavo of Petrarch a portable book printed by the Italian printer Aldus Manutius.
Circa 1500’s CE
petrarch Octova page

The Dolphin and Anchor – that marked an Aldine book (printed by Aldus), a fashion other printers would employ afterwards.
anchor and dolphin of Aldus

Gutenberg Press
A page of moveable type is estimated to have taken 1/2 a day to set-up and Gutenberg’s workshop is estimated to have employed 25 craftsmen.
Gutenberg Press replica

Gutenberg Press Diagram (replica))

Gutenberg Bible c. 1455
Forty-eight integral copies survive, including eleven on vellum.

Project Gutenberg began in 1971 by Michael Hart (inventor of the electronic book or eBook in 1971) as a community project to make plain text versions of books available freely to all.
The collection includes:
The Pencil of Nature by William Henry Fox Talbot
On the Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection by Charles Darwin
Relativity : the Special and General Theory by Albert Einstein
Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll

What was that over there?

Screen shot 2016-02-10 at 10.32.16 AM

This is a refrigerator lightbulb. According to “Brain Games” on the National Geographic Channel, our brains run on just 12 Watts of power. That’s only about a third of the amount of energy used by that refrigerator bulb.

Not as bright as you thought you were? With such limited resources we can really only concentrate on one thing at a time. According to David Strayer, a psychologist who conducts research on attention at the University of Utah, multitasking is merely an illusion. Instead of balancing the tasks at hand evenly, we simply switch from one activity to another, making us “serial processors”.

The brain has two kinds of attention. The first, called “top-down” is what you use when you choose to focus on a stimulus or task, this could be anything from choosing what to cook for dinner to reading this post. Top-down attention is controlled by the prefrontal cortex, where thinking and problem solving take place in the brain. Secondly, we use “bottom-up” attention when we quickly shift our focus to an unexpected stimulus, such as a mosquito or ringing phone. This thinking is more primitive, and Carr argues that like most of our relatives in the animal kingdom, the natural state of our brain is one of distractedness. Magicians trick you by occupying both forms of your attention; and switching from bottom-up to top-down is no easy task. “MIT neuroscientist Robert Desimone says “It takes a lot of your prefrontal brain power to force yourself not to process a strong (distracting) input” (Ear Plugs to Lasers: The Science of Concentration,” New York Times , May 5, 2009.). There’s a reason why it’s so hard to ignore a text when it flashes at us on our phones. We literally have to train our brain to ignore everything else going on around us in order to read.

If that’s the case, why is it so hard to find a spot in Starbucks around exam time?

Screen shot 2016-02-10 at 10.34.31 AM

Is it easier to drown out a constant stream of stimuli in your surroundings than a single persistent distraction? Would you choose a coffee shop as your workplace or a silent room with a leaky faucet or ticking clock? Researchers at the University of Chicago tested how ambient noise impacted creativity by playing soundtracks at various levels and then asking questions designed to assess creative thinking. They found that when ambient noise was set to 70 decibels (the same noise level found at an average coffee shop), participants performed about 35% better than those who worked in quieter settings. This doesn’t seem so surprising, after all J.K. Rowling wrote much of her early novels in a café (here),. However, the study didn’t measuring concentration, a key skill needed for reading.

Lily Dipping

Screen shot 2016-02-10 at 10.35.28 AM

In Carr’s original article Is Google Making Us Stupid he argues that online reading avoids the traditional sense of reading we have come to know through books. New forms emerge like the “power browse” and “F-pattern” reading. These forms not only require a different kind of reading, but a different kind of thinking entirely. One that favors efficiency and immediacy, why read the whole article when you can get a “quick win” (as Carr calls it) from the abstract in a fraction of the time. Web content producers are aware of this trend and tailor the content around it, go on any website (like this one: or this one:, or even this one: and chances are you’ll see slightly different versions of “The F Layout”.

Screen shot 2016-02-10 at 10.36.01 AM

Logos are almost always in the top left corner, right where the eye starts. Then the horizontal navigation bar draws the eye out, and catchy words or “sexy” headlines bring the eye back down and out to complete the “F” formation. Newspapers (and even grocery retailers creating their flyers) have always been concerned with “above the fold”, meaning that they wanted to have the catchiest headline or biggest sales above where the fold mark would be so that if it were sitting upright on a table someone would be tempted to pick it up and read the rest. Web designers are aware that most people only do a quick skim read before moving on, so they incorporate the most important information in the first two paragraphs. Wolf and Carr are both concerned that this kind of reading doesn’t allow for deep connections to be made, the reading equivalent of lily dipping.

They are not alone. Playwright Richard Foreman called Net-Gen-ers “pancake people link:”. He didn’t mean they’d go well with Aunt Jemima (link:, but rather that the connectedness that the Net provided was making their knowledge wide but shallow, spread thin. In other words, he believes those that are in the Internet generation are like a jack-of-all -trades, but master of none.

Class Poll: Who considers themselves a reader? What environment do you need to be in to read? Do you prefer digital or tangible methods of reading? Do you get distracted when you read?

There is the idea that we were not born to read. Reading is not natural and that our brain must rewire itself to read. This is according to Leading professor, researcher and author – Maryanne Wolf.

The fact that we are able to read, does not turn us into readers. So then you begin to ask yourself ‘What makes us readers?’ What mysterious force drives a person to spend hours and hours over the pages of a book without any apparent reward and most of the time without any clear objective? I believe that half of the reason of what makes people, “readers”, is passion. If you do not find pleasure in reading, then you aren’t going to read. The idea that we should all be able to “deep read” is preposterous. Deep reading isn’t just reading, deep reading goes beyond reading words from a page, deep reading is a skill that is obtained by practice, passion and determination – it is not automatic and it is not always applicable to everyone.

The idea that Carr is stating that our ability to deep read is being jeopardized because of the influence of the internet is arguable. In an article by The Guardian online [link here] it is argued that “The internet isn’t harming our love of ‘deep reading’, it’s cultivating it”. The internet will always be distracting, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it is “harming” our ability for those who can deep read, to deep read. There is the idea that we are a generation of skimming and that our love and skill of reading has diminished, however that idea is refuted by sales of Young Adult blockbusters. Take the Harry Potter or Hunger Games series – there are plenty of young adults who will read those books until their hearts desire, but also will then spend hours on Facebook. The idea that you can’t have one with the other is nonsense.

There is the common misconception that reading is the highest creative skill for you to utilise, can be argued. Award winning writer, Lucy Prebble, said “playing video games requires more involvement and creative input than reading a book or watching a film – and also offers more opportunities to be active and sociable” [full article here]. She said gaming was similar to writing, in that both are private, creative activities very different to watching films or reading books, which involve less input. Video games require the user to make decisions, giving them the chance to influence the story and even in part design the world in which the game is played out, she added. We need to welcome the technological age into our society and accept that not having the ability to be able to deep read is not something that affects your representation in society. There are other creative outlets that we can channel our learning experiences into, a lot of which are linked to the internet.

Why it’s hard to read in the electronic age?

Are we losing the ability to read difficult books? Cognitive scientist Maryanne Wolf says we need to develop a “bi-literate reading brain” so that we can switch back and forth between the deep reading of print and the skimming of electronic texts

Link to audio here
(from 0:09:13)

The Digression
Lee deForest the “Father of Radio” and his 1952 article Dawn of the Electronic Age (Jan, 1952) in full, in Popular Mechanics:

800px-Audion_tube prototype
The Audion – the inauguration of electronics
A 3 element vacuum tube used to detect or receive code /voice messages
His device was crude and unreliable until more capable scientists and engineers ( at A. T & T improved upon it.

deForest’s prediction that knowledge would be implanted into the minds of the reluctant brains of 22nd century pupils couldn’t be further from the reality of the world of today.

Technology is possibly/most likely/definitely preventing knowledge from implanting in our brains.

Chapter 3, Tools of the Mind


Maps are Beautiful. Christine De Vuono, 2014

Chapter 3 is a bridge set up between the exploration of neuroplasticity (Chapter 2) and the evolution of the written word (Chapter 4).  Carr has set up a variety of “tools” that we use in everyday life that we rely on in an unconscious way – our mental maps, our sense of time and punctuality, and what/how we remember.  Carr looks at three historic tools in this chapter; the evolution of maps and how they shape our abstract assumptions of the world into an internal understanding of space and placement; clocks and how our sense of time (and timing) went from a publicly organized indicator to a personal one; and how ‘poetry’ from the Ancient Greeks segued into the written word, altering the emphasis from an oral tradition to a written one.

As we go through this chapter, Carr seems to utilize many Eurocentric assumptions regarding the progress of civilization.  There is a huge swathe of humanity that does not feature in his historical analysis, which should be kept in mind.     We are brought along a specific path that supports the ideals and lived experiences of his largely North American non-academic audience, which given the real thesis of the book, (that we are able to condition our minds and bodies into certain ways of behaving and remembering, and that the Internet is forming much of that behaviour, unbeknownst to our conscious selves) Carr needs to keep his audience with him until he can explore his thesis in totality.  Having said that, let’s look at the tools Carr outlines and how they support his argument.



A version of the World Map from early 1500s (

When discussing maps, Carr states that “the map is a medium that not only stores and transmits information but also embodies a particular mode of seeing and thinking.”(pg.41) Here we see a map from the heady days of global exploration, where the oceans seem manageable and full of vessels (and monsters).  Although the lands are not accurate, the map has an overall sense of adventure. Later, a new, more accurate map is created by Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator in 1569.

Mercator Projection Map, 1569

This map allowed for ease of navigation across oceans, but due the fact that the map is flat, but the Earth is round, this map is heavily distorted as it reaches the northern and southern hemispheres making European and North American land masses and the Antarctic absurdly big.  Given that this map dominated for over 400 years during which colonization spread across the globe, how does this distortion affect our understanding of countries that seem small? As Carr states, “The more frequently and intensively people use maps, the more their minds came to understand reality in the map’s terms” (pg. 41)

Arno Peters, a German historian, addressed this concern in his 1973 map, the Peters Projection map.  Coming out 6 months after the Apollo 17 released their photos of Earth from space, Peters claimed “that his new world map offered the best alternative to the 400-year-old hegemony of Mercator’s 1569 projection, and the supposedly ‘Eurocentric’ assumptions that lay behind it” (pg. 379, Brotton, J. A History of the World in Twelve Maps).

The Peters’ Projection map was adopted by many groups almost immediately, including the UN through UNICEF and UNESCO, Oxfam, Action Aid, and the British Council of Churches with the slogan “New Dimensions, Fair Conditions”, distributing over 60 million maps worldwide (Brotton, 380). But did it go far enough? The video above asks a question about how people would react if the map was shown with the North on the bottom, something that artists like Joaquin Torres Garcia explores in his challenge to view the world with the South at the “top”.



But really, who uses maps anyway?  How many of us still have paper maps that we rely on to navigate?  Hardly any of us. And why should we when Google Maps has over 10 petabytes of geographical data at our fingertips? (as of 2012, Brotton, pg 406) A petabyte represents 1 million gigabytes! Although there are criticisms about Google maps having a Western bias, and (before 2012) censoring, then (after 2012) not censoring militarily-sensitive sites throughout the world, who is not in awe of the fact that I can type in my Skipton home address and get this:…/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x487bf3959ed9622f:0x213522ce86a87040

And we can also look at the moon:

Or Mars:

We may need to remind ourselves of the notion that the mapmaker is seeding his/her/its own perspective of the world within and we need to scrutinize our assumptions even as we enjoy the wealth of fast, free knowledge on our phones, computers and tablets.

Maps are also being used in other ways, pushing into the idea that our minds come to understand reality in the maps’ terms. Check out to see how they utilize global economic, social and population information to shape maps into representational illustrations of the inequalities of the world:

One more thing, while thinking about how cool it is that we can access 10 petabytes of geographical information via the internet, you might want to check out this animation that shows where internet access is dominant (okay, the data is almost 10 years old, but it shows how not everyone in the world has access to Google Maps. )…/internet_users_animation


The second intellectual technology Carr discusses is clocks.
Humans have had a concept of time way before clocks but this relied almost entirely on the sun either through simple observation of its place in the sky or through sundials. Although they’re mostly used ornamentally, sundials are abundant in our society today and actually surprisingly easy to read – the shadow simply acts as a hour hand on a clock.

Mechanical clocks developed in the 1300s and began the shift in the way people saw time. However these clocks were often public (owned by churches) or owned by only the incredibly wealthy.  It’s when these clocks become smaller and more portable that they start changing our everyday lives – this act of measuring time swept us into the enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution and new worlds and transportation. This video, sums up that profound impact pretty well.

What this video also notices is how these segments of time now control us. How many things do we do when we actually just want to do them instead of the time to eat, the time to be at work, the time until a shop closes, the time something is due, the time when you can get seven hours of sleep?

Now the mechanical clock that set this ball rolling is no longer accurate enough for our obsession with time, being on it and saving it, as it does actually fall farther behind over the years and it’s user falls behind. Other technologies are pushing the clock to its most accurate so that we can make more exact measurements and calculations.

Our love affair with time is still advancing and with every check of our phones, watches, and microwaves we’re proving that we’re still entirely wrapped up in it.


In this section, Carr discusses the slow, yet inevitable shift from oral to written traditions for Western Civilization. He tells how difficult Hieroglyphics were to learn, having various components, including “logosyllabic systems expanded to include many hundreds of characters…” which was mentally taxing and utilized both hemispheres of the brain (pg.53).  Let’s see how hard it really was:

Carr then moves through history to the Ancient Greeks, outlining the arguments both for and against the written language as a usurper of the oral tradition of memorizing long passages of information and relaying them in the form of poetry. As history reveals, and Chapter 4 will expand on, the shift to writing was unstoppable.  With it our cultures have been able to retain vast amounts of data that can live on beyond the individuals who wrote them.  The price for this has been our personal ability to remember large amounts of information and a cultural skepticism regarding oral traditions in other cultures.  A 2014 interview on Day 6 CBC with Dave Woodman, author of Unravelling the Franklin Mystery: Inuit Testimony, explores reasons why the oral legends passed through the Inuit generations were both right and befuddled through translation, cultural context and historical biases.  Well worth the listen.…/franklin-expedition-why-native-oral-history-was-right-all-along-1.2764923


Brotton, Jerry. A History of the World in Twelve Maps, 2012, USA.