Pancake Sponge Brain: The Internet and Digital Media Stretches Us Thin and Feeds Wisdom Depending on Who Is Using It


The Internet and digital media have revolutionized the way we access the news. Ironically, it has hindered full exposure of the truth and has assisted in building the most comprehensive source of knowledge. To what extent this medium is a curse or a blessing primarily depends on those who utilize it.

The most obvious protagonist in this dynamic play is Google. In “Is Google Making Us Stupid,” Nicholas Carr speaks to the fact that the brain can reprogram itself and adapt to every technologically development. Gradually, we have evolved from reading in-depth to only skimming. However, Google believes the human brain is an outdated computer that needs a faster processor and bigger hard drive. Carr introduces the pancake-people as we are spread wide and thin as we connect and skim through a vast network of information.

The skimming trend leads to the concern of maintaining context and diversity as a priority. According to Michiko Kakutani in “Texts Without Context,” one of the main issues the Internet causes is cyberbalkanization. Since people can filter everything they view, they tend to not encounter other people or ideas that are different from their own, which reduces a sense of consensus and common ground.

Switching our focus to those who produce the material we skim and filter, J. Hebert Altschull in “From Milton to McLuhan: The Ideas Behind American Journalism” points out that journalists are confined by the time and space of the news production system and tend to avoid reflecting on the fundamental ideas of their work. Thus, a lack of context is tolerated to meet a deadline and serve readers with no time to fully view their work.

In The Guardian article “We Need a New Era of Digital Journalism,” Frederic Filloux explains that journalism is in need of an evolution to cater to today’s readers who “want to be taken from A to B, with the best possible arguments, and no distraction or wasted time.” A possible solution to this is to create a new journalistic genre for digital media.

Thus, a form of digital media etiquette should be required for both producers and consumers of news to insure that the truth behind issues and events are clear and comprehensive. For example, the Guardian posted an article about Ghana’s first farmer’s market, implying that organic and local produce are becoming a trend due to Ghana’s growing middle class and are being hosted in markets for the first time. The article failed to mention the long history of food markets in Africa or how African farmers are undercut in the global economy or the recent health issues Ghana has faced due to its desire to compete and keep up with globalization. All of this information the article lacked are easily accessible via the Internet and digital media, but could possibly get lost beneath our skimming and filtering habits.

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