Let’s face it, as helpful as the internet can be, it can also be incredibly distracting. Pop-up ads, Facebook alerts, that “ding” noise your email makes when you’ve received a new message; they all take away our focus from the task we have at hand. To even further complicate the matter, colleges continue to offer more and more online classes. Traditional, in-person classes are assigning projects that require students to use the internet. Thus, one can only assume that as the amount of time we require students to use the internet increases, the amount of times the student loses focus or is distracted also increases. This is a problem on multiple levels.
Not only do internet-based assignments take longer for a student to accomplish, but students are also retaining less and less information. As Nicholas Carr notes, when it comes to the internet, “Because it disrupts concentration, such activity weakens comprehension.” He later calls the internet “an interruption system.” Due to the fact that we become distracted while online, we have grown more accustomed to skimming rather than actually reading, another problem we have yet solve.
Tony Schwartz admits in a New York Times article, “Addicted to Distraction,” that it was easier for him to cut out entire food groups from his diet than to limit himself from getting online only three times a day, where he explains checking his email was “impossible to resist.” Thus, humans have become hopelessly addicted to using the internet, craving to get that extra tidbit of information rather than participating in their own reality.
Jesse Stommel finds problems in the internet-based disciplines; specifically, the Digital Humanities. Instead of “distraction,” Stommel focuses on a different problem, where the writer admits “I have never found the Digital Humanities as a discipline particularly welcoming.” Stommel urges that the Digital Humanities put more of their efforts into collaboration and community rather than “bring[ing] out the daggers” and competing with one another. Stommel thus contends that “The public digital humanities must be rooted in a genuine desire to make the work legible to a broader audience inclusive of students, teaching-focused colleagues, community college colleagues, and the public.”
As it turns out, the Digital Humanities is still in the process of working out some of the kinks it holds as a discipline, as well as a method. Not only must they resolve their “competitiveness,” but the method of simply using the internet also comes with problems of its own such as distraction and loss of retention. After these findings, one must ask, is the internet as useful for students, teachers, and DHers as we previously thought? Are there even possible solutions to these problems posed? Carr tells us that “We are evolving from cultivators of personal knowledge into hunters and gatherers in the electronic data forest. In the process, we seem fated to sacrifice much of what makes our minds so interesting.” It seems as if we are in a state of counterproductive-ness that we have yet to become aware of as a species.