Chad Wellman on Google

“All of the chatter about information superabundance and overload tends not only to marginalize human persons, but also to render technology just as abstract as a yottabyte. An email is reduced to yet another data point, the Web to an infinite complex of protocols and machinery, Google to a neutral machine for producing information. Our compulsive talk about information overload can isolate and abstract digital technology from society, human persons, and our broader culture. We have become distracted by all the data and inarticulate about our digital technologies.

The more pressing, if more complex, task of our digital age, then, lies not in figuring out what comes after the yottabyte, but in cultivating contact with an increasingly technologically formed world.2 In order to understand how our lives are already deeply formed by technology, we need to consider information not only in the abstract terms of terrabytes and zettabytes, but also in more cultural terms. How do the technologies that humans form to engage the world come in turn to form us? What do these technologies that are of our own making and irreducible elements of our own being do to us? The analytical task lies in identifying and embracing forms of human agency particular to our digital age, without reducing technology to a mere mechanical extension of the human, to a mere tool. In short, asking whether Google makes us stupid, as some cultural critics recently have, is the wrong question. It assumes sharp distinctions between humans and technology that are no longer, if they ever were, tenable.”

Why Google is not making us Stupid  . . . or Smart by Chad Wellman in the Hedgehog Review, Spring 2012

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