College Composition Students Discuss Their Internet Reading and Writing

Surprise, these students all read books.

Maybe I’m being dramatic, but I know after some days of checking email, reading websites, responding to student blogs, and dropping in on the various social media sites I participate in, I feel way more anxious and scatterbrained than usual. It’s a feeling Nicholas Carr notes too in his book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.

Several of the writers I’m working with this semester at St. John’s University joined me to discuss their upcoming literacy autobiographies within the context of Carr’s book.  Here’s some highlights of our conversation and a link to where I’ve published our discussion.

Nicholas Carr The Shallows William Torgerson St. John's University Love on the Big Screen

My fellow podcasters: Sean, Elizabeth, and Jessi

Shawn is a business management major who is also a baseball player. Although during the podcast, Shawn seems to take the side of reading around on the internet over reading books, he ends the program by recommending us to the writer and chef Anthony Bourdain who has written Kitchen Confidential and Medium Raw.

Elizabeth takes science courses even though she doesn’t much like science and she spends hours reading around on Wikipedia.  She also suggested a book to read at the end of the show: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell.

Jessi seems happy to be a pharmacy major and wants to someday own a lime green Volkswagen Beetle. She speaks highly of Tumblr and recommends the magna Bleach.

Here are a few of the lines we discuss from Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows:

“Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski” (7).

 “As soon as you learn to be a ‘skilled hunter’ online, he [O’Shea] argues, books become superfluous” (9).

Nicholas Carr The Shallows William Torgerson St. John's University Love on the Big Screen

“Calm, focused, undistracted, the linear mind is being pushed aside by a new kind of mind that wants and needs to take in and dole out information in short, disjointed, often overlapping bursts–the faster, the better” (10).

You can download the complete audio podcast here or search for us via “Digital Book Club” on iTunes.

Read or Overheard: Golden Lines From the Past Week

…all your facts are probably slightly polluted by your theories.

Peter Elbow in The Teacherless Writing Class

My student Eileen Gill writes about her hometown of Hollis:

It’s funny, because I see the Hollis that I moved to when I was six as Hollis in its purest form.  And I’m terrified that this friend of mine will one day be unrecognizable. But to people like Dick Walker, this travesty has already occurred.  I guess it’s an endless cycle–the world continues to change and there’s no way we can stop it or go back to the way things were in the past. I don’t know what to think about it, but it sort of makes me sad.

from the Hollis, NH website

Nicholas Carr describes what the internet is doing to our brains and writes…

When a ditch digger trades his shovel for a backhoe, his arm muscles weaken as his efficiency increases.  A similar trade off may well take place as we automate the work of the mind.

Hope you’ll check out my post next Wednesday whenI invite you to respond to a list of prompts in order to create your writing territories.