WSJ: Does the Internet Make You Smarter?

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RJN
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WSJ: Does the Internet Make You Smarter?

Post by RJN » Wed Jun 09, 2010 7:48 pm

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142 ... 94334.html
Author: Clay Shirky
This linking together in turn lets us tap our cognitive surplus, the trillion hours a year of free time the educated population of the planet has to spend doing things they care about. ... the cumulative time devoted to creating Wikipedia, something like 100 million hours of human thought, is expended by Americans every weekend, just watching ads. It only takes a fractional shift in the direction of participation to create remarkable new educational resources.

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Re: WSJ: Does the Internet Make You Smarter?

Post by bystander » Wed Jun 09, 2010 10:04 pm


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Re: WSJ: Does the Internet Make You Smarter?

Post by wonderboy » Tue Jun 22, 2010 10:24 am

I know for a fact that the internet has made me smarter. Just by being part of this forum I have learned a ton of new things. If you were to take the internet away altogether I really do think that the world would be a much brighter place.


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Re: WSJ: Does the Internet Make You Smarter?

Post by Beyond » Mon Jul 05, 2010 7:12 pm

HHHmmmm.........Sounds like you are for keeping the internet because its made you smarter - and - you are for getting rid of the internet so as to make the rest of the world brighter. And we wonder why the world is as bad off as it is :!:
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Re: WSJ: Does the Internet Make You Smarter?

Post by Chris Peterson » Mon Jul 05, 2010 7:55 pm

beyond wrote:HHHmmmm.........Sounds like you are for keeping the internet because its made you smarter - and - you are for getting rid of the internet so as to make the rest of the world brighter. And we wonder why the world is as bad off as it is :!:
Well, there's some truth there. I think it is likely that the Internet, when properly used, is a tool for extending knowledge, and improperly used it is something that results in a narrower view on things. Unfortunately, it seems that the percentage of people capable of critical thinking is becoming smaller, so...
Chris

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Re: WSJ: Does the Internet Make You Smarter?

Post by owlice » Mon Jul 05, 2010 8:32 pm

Oh, Chris, I don't know about that. I think people -- some people, anyway, more and more of them, are learning. I used to get a lot of emails from friends and acquaintances about all sorts of things that just weren't true. By replying with a few sentences and a link to the relevant page of Snopes, most of these folks are more skeptical now, and more willing to check out the claims they read in forwarded emails. I get far fewer of these emails now; of course, that could me that some people have deleted me from their mailing lists because my responses have been unsatisfactory to them! <g> But I think it more likely they have learned to be skeptical.

The forwarded emails-of-eyebrow-raising-claims I still get -- I do still get a few, but they are rare -- now typically carry a disclaimer along the lines of "I have not checked this out and don't know whether it's true but I'm forwarding it anyway just in case it is!" Those, I hit "Reply to all" instead of just "Reply," to try to head off more forwarding.

Years ago, my first husband got a scarygram from someone in security at his workplace, which had gone out to quite a few employees to my understanding, and forwarded it to me; I had read it before (in a book about urban legends), pulled the link for the Snopes article, and sent that right back to him. First husband wrote to the guy who'd sent out the email asking what his source was, there was back-and-forth, involvement of higher-ups, general mayhem and brou-ha-ha, and embarrassing retraction of scarygram by management.

First husband is one of the smartest people I know, but this particular email hit an emotional hot button for him, and he reacted to that, though the email's source -- from someone considered credible -- lent credence to the message, too.*

People are learning! Takes time. There is a lot of dumb stuff out there and the internet helps spread it around, but the internet, in the hands of those who know to ask, can counter at least some of the dumb stuff.





* I've been known to swallow an urban legend or two and repeat it, too, as true; please don't think I'm picked on the exH here! I certainly had to learn my lessons the hard way!
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Re: WSJ: Does the Internet Make You Smarter?

Post by Chris Peterson » Mon Jul 05, 2010 9:41 pm

owlice wrote:Oh, Chris, I don't know about that. I think people -- some people, anyway, more and more of them, are learning.
I hope you're right, but I'm skeptical. My website gets lots of traffic, and after a big fireball that shoots way up. My stats show me that more than half the additional traffic is coming from UFO, 2012, and similar nutjob sites. And that's just the science-like side of the Internet. When it comes to politics- well, I think more people are getting locked into their beliefs and never seeing alternatives than ever before.
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Re: WSJ: Does the Internet Make You Smarter?

Post by owlice » Mon Jul 05, 2010 10:28 pm

Chris Peterson wrote:I hope you're right, but I'm skeptical. My website gets lots of traffic, and after a big fireball that shoots way up. My stats show me that more than half the additional traffic is coming from UFO, 2012, and similar nutjob sites.
But isn't it good that they are coming to your site? If all they got was nutjob, wouldn't that be worse?
Chris Peterson wrote:When it comes to politics- well, I think more people are getting locked into their beliefs and never seeing alternatives than ever before.
I was looking for a source for an out-of-copyright score for a Rachmaninoff work and came across a website listing music that was acceptable for women of a particular church to listen to; there was also a list of music that was unacceptable listening. The music of Rachmaninoff was on the "unacceptable listening" list. I initially thought this was a joke, a spoof, but ... it was not. Of course this meant that I immediately wanted to go listen to Rachmaninoff!

The same mechanism works for political polarization; my experience with the two music lists helped to sensitize me to the mechanism; I'm hoping being sensitive to it is more than half the battle in remaining open to alternatives.
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Re: WSJ: Does the Internet Make You Smarter?

Post by Chris Peterson » Mon Jul 05, 2010 11:49 pm

owlice wrote:The same mechanism works for political polarization; my experience with the two music lists helped to sensitize me to the mechanism; I'm hoping being sensitive to it is more than half the battle in remaining open to alternatives.
The mechanism worked for you. It works for me, and for a good many of the folks who hang around a forum like this. I don't think we represent a typical cross-section of society, however.
Chris

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Re: WSJ: Does the Internet Make You Smarter?

Post by owlice » Tue Jul 06, 2010 12:14 am

Oh, Chris, I didn't phrase that well, I see! I meant the mechanism of retreating further from an alternative view, clinging more tightly to a position, is the same, whether for beliefs about what music is suitable for women (!) or political leaning. If I feel that my core values are under attack, it is more likely that I will move closer to the position which I perceive values those core values. It is harder to hear, to consider, an alternative in such circumstances. Many people, when faced with the "radical opposite," move farther away from the middle and closer to the pole on their end of the spectrum.

My experience with the "don't listen to music by these composers" list showed me very clearly the inclination to push back, and in pushing back, move farther back. My reaction was not, "Oh, isn't that nice? They advocate the music of Bach and Mozart!" It was not to find the common ground. No! I wanted to do exactly the opposite of what this group advocated: I wanted to listen to Rachmaninoff!

So recognizing the mechanism which helps to polarize people can help me to 1.) watch for times when I might be caught in the mechanism; 2.) know better how to approach someone on the opposite side. I don't want to trigger the mechanism, the reaction, in the other if I want the other's position to be closer to mine.
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