Technological Determinism & The Effects of Media on our Brains

As we learned from the Murphie and Potts reading, technological determinism is the belief that technology is the agent of social change. This suggests technology is an independent influence, and this new civilization known as the “information age” is the result of a successful technological advancement. The technological determinist, McLuhan emphasized his belief that all technologies are extensions of human capacity. He claims that these technologies alter our perception of the world.

The shift from the print-media to this “perceptual field” of mass media, where there is an incredibly rapid flow of information coming to us in every direction has changed the way we exercise our minds. He supports his argument with our brain using vision over sound, and individual readership over a more shared way of learning.

This perspective of the impact of technology on society can be strengthened even further and backed up with scientific research. Nicholas Carr, the author of the 2008 Wall Street Journal bestseller “The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google,” explains how technology changes the way our brains work. Experimentation has proved that our brains have experienced neuro-chemical adaptions and physical transformations from this technological revolution.

In the attached video of Carr, he highlights on the positive and negative effects of how we adapt to this information environment. He teaches viewers how we gain certain skills, and lose other ones.

Nicholas Carr


The positive effects are our brain now has stronger electro-chemical signals being processed. In addition, we also have new neurons that strengthen the activity of new pathways that are being used.

Now the downside to this is the “old” ways in which we are not exercising our brains anymore are now being weakened. This is because the brain’s response to this inactivity is the loss of the facilities that it is not exercising.

Online media has enhanced our visual cognitive abilities, as McLuhan was stressing. As we adapt to this new information environment, we gain certain skills and lose other ones. Ultimately, the main downfall is losing the ability to pay deep attention to one thing for a certain amount of time. The ability to pay attention is important to build memories. It is how we transform from short-term memory to long-term memory.

The Murphie and Potts reading states that people claims that “we have no choice but to adopt to this technology”. This question it then comes down to is: Is this an upside-down ideology? Is this a transition that is natural, and citizens in this culture have to adapt no matter what? Or can we control how this revolution will impact us? I think Carr has the answer.

As humans a part of this changing society, we must sustain this long-term memory. In my opinion, the long-term memory can be associated with wisdom. We must not lose this wisdom. There is a magnificent difference in the education with just acquiring information and absorbing wisdom. True rich intellect is ever lasting.

Carr states that “the thinker concentrates deeply and doesn’t multi-task.” The answer to all of this is balance. The Internet leads to us wanting answers fast, skimming and multi-tasking. This is keeping us from engaging in concentrated study. The fundamental way to fight this loss of wisdom is to find stability and set aside time to take yourself away from all mediated communication. Carr points how it is difficult, especially for young people because it requires a great sense of discipline. Technology has come into every aspect of our lives. Our social lives and work lives revolve around this mediated communication. Feelings of becoming socially isolated have become the main insecurity from this effect. We must try our best to find the strength and ability to exercise the parts of the brain that seem to be decaying away from technology.


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