People believe that the Internet is a tool that opens new opportunities, and some people still consider it as an unpredictable threat to humanity. In this paper, the thoughts of four writers, including Steven Johnson (2006), Christine Rosen (2008), Ursula Le Guin (2008), and Nicholas Carr (2008), about the Internet and the development of new technologies concerning books will be discussed to understand if such replacement may lead to positive outcomes. The Internet is an opportunity to save time, find the required information, and use global connections, as well a threat of being isolated, misunderstood, and mislead; therefore, such factors as fashion, the role of parents, and personal habits have to be properly identified to promote effective coexistence between books and the Internet as the two powerful tools of learning.
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The Role of the Internet in Today’s Life
Many ideas can be used to prove that the Internet has already become an integral part of human life. However, the fact that the Internet is inevitable in modern society does not mean that this tool is characterized by positive outcomes only. Johnson (2006) says that the Internet connects everyone to a new world full of information that is taken from different parts of the globe, but it comes alongside with terrible social costs by making people sit in front of their monitors and stay alone.
Teachers and technology experts admit the necessity to use the Internet as the fastest and the most effective method to investigate a topic of research, gather information, and develop an investigation. In Rosen’s (2008) article, there is a thought that reading can hardly improve someone’s life. Therefore, it is easy to justify the use of the Internet for learning or researching purposes.
The Internet promotes access to different sources of information in a short period. The main breakthrough of this tool is the availability of everything to everyone (Le Guin, 2008). Online searching is an easy activity that helps to find answers to millions of questions. The goal of Google is to organize information globally and make it available and useful to all people (Carr, 2008). It does not matter if a person is in the United States or Australia, it should not take much time to read the latest news about the United Kingdom or Japan. There are no boundaries in using the Internet.
When people use the Internet, they can develop targeted and strategic reading (Rosen, 2008). Instead of reading many pages to find out the necessary answer, the Internet provides its users with an automatic search. Carr (2008) calls it “the perfect searching engine” that “understands exactly what you mean and gives you back what you want” (para. 25). It is human nature to identify some problematic areas, pose questions, and wait for answers. A person can’t leave a puzzle untangled, and human minds continue ruminating on their problems until a solution is chosen (Johnson, 2006). Such an attitude may complicate human lives considerably, and the Internet is a helpful tool that cannot be ignored.
People should never forget about the price they have to pay when they choose the Internet to get the answers to their questions. The decision to spend much time online and achieve the goals set implies not only the necessity to read or listen less but the inevitability to spend less time on “doing everything we used to do before” (Johnson, 2006, p. 183). The development of digital literacy skills is not the same as the development of traditional literacy (Rosen, 2008).
Therefore, the Internet is a threat to people’s literacy that makes all online users unable to understand what they are deprived of, and what steps can be taken to resolve a situation. The only solution that many people can come up with is to go online again and search for an answer. Such a vicious circle challenges people and promotes the development of the discussion about the actual worth of the Internet in human life.
The Internet vs. the Book
People’s journey to a new form of literacy, known as digital literacy, has already begun and gained different forms that confuse users (Rosen, 2008). Some experts believe that the confrontation that exists between the book and the Internet may be interpreted from different perspectives, including initial human goals which are pleasure and entertainment, critical thinking skills, data processing, and people’s expectations. Rosen (2008) admits that a computer screen does not intend on replacing the book but does aim at improving a searching process. Public opinion may be divided into two main groups: those, who believe in the power of the Internet over the book, and those, who want to underline the book’s importance in regards to Internet accessibility.
Benefits of the Internet over the Book
Nowadays, methods of education have dramatically changed. It is expected that students have to deal with numerous tasks simultaneously, perform huge amounts of work, read books online, and share their opinions and feedback online. The completion of such a task would be impossible without the Internet. The Internet is a form of access to multiple sources in one place (Le Guin, 2008). People should not be bothered with the necessity to find a source, spend time visiting shops or libraries, and wait in queues to obtain the required piece of information.
The Internet serves the function of a fast search engine with many links to click from where such information may be collected (Carr, 2008). It is easy to understand the nature of such benefit comparing two human actions: one person is provided with Internet access and one hour to investigate a topic, and another person has to complete the same task with no Internet access, but a chance to visit a library. The results are obvious, and the second person does not have the chance to succeed in the same way the first person can. Therefore, regarding such social requirements as time, amounts of work, and expectations, the Internet has all chances to replace the book in a learning process.
The Power of the Book in a Learning Process
When people start learning, they have to identify and understand the goals which should be achieved. Le Guin (2008) introduces an interesting thought that readers have to differentiate such concepts as entertainment and pleasure. Reading is “an object of value” that is characterized as “active, an act of attention, of absorbed alertness” (Guin, 2008, p. 2). While reading the book, a person can imagine how the events can be developed in reality, what the role of every character is, and why it is necessary to think critically.
Carr (2008) explains that it is necessary to teach human minds “how to translate the symbolic characters we see into the language we understand” (para. 9). A learning process is multifaceted, and students have to use their skills, knowledge, and understanding to make the right choice and not to be exposed to someone’s opinion.
As soon as people stop reading books, they can lose a chance to be unique and independent. When a person decides to use the web for listening to music, reading a poem, or watching a movie, it is necessary to remember that the web does not create all those things losing all-inclusiveness of a learning process (Le Guin, 2008). The book promotes the possibility of effective self-analysis and increased self-esteem, and the Internet is just a tool to save time and use the amounts of information.
Coexistence of the Book and the Internet
Many people around the globe may spend days in front of their computers, surfing the web and sharing the information and who like to read a classic book before going to bed. Such coexistence is possible, and it should be properly recognized.
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One of the main mistakes people can make when they choose the Internet over the book is a thought that reading is not as popular as surfing the web. Now, books may be considered as a type of “the entertainment media” that is not “a minor one” when it “comes to delivering actual pleasure” (Guin, 2008, p. 2). However, young people do not find it reasonable and appropriate to read a whole book that is 200-300 pages long just to get an idea of something.
They find it normal to surf the web, find an informative summary, read feedback, and develop a personal opinion using someone’s thoughts. Internet users become the symbolic decoders if information with no ability to interpret texts and develop rich connections between what is written and what is understood (Carr, 2008). Does such fashion make people stupid? The answer is “yes” in case a person cannot understand what an actual worth of the book is.
If it is hard for children to comprehend the role of the book and a reading process in their lives, certain attention should be paid to the possibilities of parents to protect their children against the destructive power of the Internet. There are homes where parents like to promote an old-fashioned skill of reading, and there are households where such tradition is not supported giving way to the Internet (Rosen, 2008). Parents should realize that their children are exposed to numerous temptations and opportunities, and it is easy to find the right way and choose the easiest but wrong way. It does not take much time for a parent to turn on the computer and offer an audio fairy-tale for a child instead of spending one hour on reading a book. Such simple steps can help to make correct decisions.
In general, today, millions of people find it necessary or, at least, interesting to discuss the role of the Internet in human life. The thoughts developed by such writers as Johnson, Rosen, Le Guin, and Carr help to understand how crucial the role of the Internet and the book in a learning process is. To answer the question if the Internet may replace the book in a learning process, it is necessary to remember about the possibility of the coexistence of these two issues. When a person surfs the Internet to find an article, a song, or a citation, it is wrong to conclude that such a person neglects books. Vice versa, when people are noticed with a book open in front of them, there is no need to think that these people are ancient enough and not aware of how to use the Internet.
Carr, N. (2008). Is Google making us stupid? The Atlantic. Web.
Johnson, S. (2006). Everything bad is good for you: How today’s popular culture is actually making us smarter. New York, NY: Penguin.
Le Guin, U.K. (2008). Staying awake: Notes on the alleged decline of reading. Harper’s Magazine. Web.
Rosen, C. (2008). People of the screen. The New Atlantis. Web.