Saturday, May 21, 2016

Improvements or Consequences

According to Google, the term plasticity refers to being easily molded or shaped. When it comes to the brain and our every changing society this seems great. Alvaro Pascual-Leone, a researcher at Harvard Medical School argues that plasticity can be both a blessing and a curse. Once pathways in our brains are formed and routines are set in place it is highly difficult to undo the process.

Learning has shifted to a world where everything can be searched online. This process weakens the brains ability to pull from the long-term memory to recall information. The brain is being trained to be distracted at all times. New York Times created a map comparing Internet usage to the country’s wealth. Their findings led them to the conclusion that distraction is a rich country’s problem.

Another problem with the search phenomenon is that students are replacing memorizing with searching. This lack of memorization takes away from our creation of knowledge. Schuurman talks about the many Internet based distractions that are everywhere in our daily lives. Several programs are even fostering a life of distraction by allowing the viewer’s brains to skip from topic to topic within seconds.

“As we embrace a more rapid-fire, concise process of knowledge acquisition at the expense of our capacity for profound concentration, perhaps the most we can hope for is that we are attentive to how we are evolving and at what cost.” (Schuurman)

Schuurman, N. (2013). Tweet me your talk: Geographical learning and knowledge production 2.0. The Professional Geographer, 65(3), 369-377.


  1. The internet and namely social media is really changing the way we learn. The biggest problem is that when we start storing in are heads where to find information instead of the information itself, it makes us dependent on the computer in order to think. Is this something that we want to offload from our minds? It could not be as bad of thing as the article makes it out to be. For example with more personal devices, like Google Glass and our smartphones, are we ever really without internet? The major issue I can think of is when looking for patterns, if we do not know the information we may not see the pattern, but who knows there may be an app for that. A counter argument can always be the formation of print media. Before books, people had excellent memories, this was because in order to know something you had to memorize it. After when books became more popular we were able to offload this memory ability to written word. Today it is surprising when someone can memorize a lot of information (google moonwalking with Einstein), but this ability is a forgotten ability that we all have. Maybe we will feel the same way about learning in the future. It will just be so second nature to use computers that we will learn how to learn with them and then will be impressed with people who know a lot of trivia.

  2. It would be interesting to use GIS to map out not only where internet usage was the highest, but also what types of websites were visited the most in different parts of the country. I think what people are viewing online could give us great insight into our culture.

  3. Could it be because there is more information that one is exposed to that is a contributing factor? Back in the day a lot of useful information came in proximity to your location but now information all around the world is accessible at our fingertips.