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Nicholas Carr’s powerful essay called “Is Google Making Us Stupid” is an interesting piece of writing that persuaded readers to take a long and hard look on the Internet’s impact on the human brain. An overview of the essay revealed the application of a careful appeal to the reader’s emotions, the establishment of the writer’s credibility, logical presentation of relevant information, and the subtle entreaty using shared experiences. After a careful review of the ancient rules of persuasion, it was made clear that Carr utilized an Aristotelian construct characterized by three Latin words – pathos, ethos, and logos – in order to develop a persuasive argument concerning the impact of the Internet on the human brain.
Summary of the Essay
Nicholas Carr made an attempt to persuade readers to reconsider the impact of the Internet on a person’s thought process. His claim was centered on a personal experience in conjunction with the experience of other skilled writers when it came to the way they go through certain mental tasks. This was manifested while in the process of reading books, and the creation of significant literary works that required deep thought and several hours of study.
Carr pointed out the speed and ease of access to information as twin factors that affected the radical changes in the Internet user’s thought process. Carr connected with his readers when he leveraged Marshall McLuhan’s theory on how the medium affects the message (1). He also bolstered his claim when he presented the scientific basis of the brain’s plasticity or the mind’s profound adaptation capabilities (Carr 1).
Carr’s Manipulation of Words
Aristotle’s strategy of persuasion requires three key elements, and it is defined through the usage and interaction of three Latin words: ethos, pathos, and logos (Killingsworth 26). Ethos, the ancient root word for ethics, defines the importance of the speaker’s character. In other words, the proponent of the persuasive rhetoric must have a clear understanding of the importance of credibility because it is a crucial consideration before speaking in front of an audience (Killingsworth 26).
Pathos, another ancient term, defines the need to connect through shared experiences and human emotions (Killingsworth 26). On the other hand, logos, the third component, defines the importance of the logical presentation of verifiable statements, in order to urge the audience to think hard regarding a certain issue (Killingsworth 26).
Aristotle designed the use of the ethos, pathos, and logos as part of an orator’s arsenal of skills (Killingsworth 26). Therefore, adopting the said strategy in the crafting of an essay required the careful manipulation of words. For example, the author substituted Google for the word Internet.
Carr’s Use of the Ethos
In the ancient use of ethos, orators relied on costumes and hand gestures to establish an air of credibility. This type of methodology was not accessible to Carr. Thus, he utilized a different tactic to establish his credibility, and he succeeded by convincing his readers regarding his writing capabilities. Carr’s ability to create an essay as a professional writer was made obvious after his name was appended to a world-class organization called The Atlantic. However, for those who did not get the hint, Carr added one anecdote after another, and these were subtle references to his capability as a writer. At one point, he intimated that he spent ten years “searching and surfing and sometimes adding to the great database of the Internet” (Carr 1). He also made the disclosure that he was familiar with the different forms of online content, such as e-mail, blog posts, video, podcasts, and essays found on websites (Carr 1).
Carr’s Use of the Pathos
A human connection with the readers was made in the essay’s first paragraph. In the introduction section, the author recalled a poignant scene in one of the most popular films of all time. In Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Carr found the perfect vehicle to carry the message regarding the abstract idea of the re-arrangement of the mental circuitry within the brain (Carr 1). It was a well-calculated move on the part of the author, because the film’s popularity and subject matter assured the establishment of common ground between the author and his target audience (Killingsworth 26).
He also created a human connection when he used Google as a reference point, even when the technical term for the medium he wanted to focus on was the Internet, and not the world’s most popular search engine. However, he came to realize the fact that when he wrote the word Google, the majority of the readers associated the term to the World Wide Web or the Internet.
Carr’s use of the Logos
Carr developed a four-stage process in the construction of a logical framework supporting his thesis. First, he examined his personal thought process in relation to the way he acquired information. Second, he examined the thought process of his colleagues. He compared how they acquired information before the advent of the Internet, and after they became adept at getting information online. Third, he discussed a popular theoretical framework regarding the impact of mass media on the lives of modern people.
Marshall McLuhan’s “the medium is the message” was a theoretical construct he used. It was useful in understanding how the Internet had affected the way users processed and appreciated the various types of online content available through the World Wide Web. Finally, Carr presented relevant findings in the field of neuroscience that were instrumental in explaining the mental adaptation process that the brain has to go through, when faced with a radically different stimulator or source of information.
Carr’s persuasive argument with regards to the Internet’s effect on the human thought process compelled readers to reconsider how they use the World Wide Web in accessing information online. He persuaded his readers through persuasive arguments based on an ancient framework defined by three Latin words – ethos, pathos, and logos. Carr’s effective application of the concept of “ethos” gave him an opportunity to present his argument in a credible manner. He was able to accomplish this task by presenting his credentials as a writer. Carr’s effective use of “pathos” enabled him to establish a human connection with his readers. As a result, his readers felt they were able to relate to his ideas.
Finally, his careful application of the “logos” principle enabled him to skillfully create a four-stage process of arguing the case. He started with his personal experience that served as a way to connect with his readers. This approach also enhanced his credibility with his readers. As a result, readers were made aware of the mind-altering power of the Internet. Carr’s insights came at a critical juncture when human beings are no longer interested in books. It is important to take a closer look at the ideas provided by Carr because human being must find out if the long-term impact of using the Internet causes detrimental effects that the global population may soon regret.
Carr, Nicholas. “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” The Atlantic. 2008. Web.
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Killingsworth, Jimmie. Appeals in Modern Rhetoric. SI University Press, 2005.