Typically when you hear people talk about the internet, they say it is bad for your brain and your well-being. In Clive Thompson’s “Public Thinking”, Thompson proposes the opposite. Thompson argues the increase in public writing made possible by the internet has important effects on thought, knowledge-sharing, culture, and politics.Clive Thompson is a writer for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Wired, he typically writes about technology and its impact on our society and culture. Thompson argues the increase in public writing made possible by the internet has important effects on thought, knowledge-sharing, culture, and politics.
Knowing about the effects of the internet is important because it is being introduced to all aspects of our lives: from our social life to our school and work. The internet is a regular occurrence now, that we barely remember how the internet has completely changed our lives, especially when it comes to how much we write and how often we write. It is also good to know that there are many beneficial things connected with the internet when you only hear the bad things connected with it.
In this paper, I will talk about Thompson’s main claim, the evidence he uses, his rebuttals, and the strengths and weaknesses of Thompson’s argument. The three main claims I will be addressing are: that the increase of writing from the internet is having beneficial effects, writing for an audience improves your writing, and people with similar interests connecting through the internet will produce more discoveries.
Thompson insists that the increase of writing from the internet has many benefits including improves memory and clear thinking. Thompson claims people write more now than ever before because of the convinced of the internet. Thompson uses a Historian’s work to prove just how little people wrote letters. It was exceptional for the time, “the per capita volume of letters in the United States in 1860 was only 5.15 per year(page 49).” As the historian points out, it is difficult to find anyone not writing at least five messages a day. Thompson believes that writing boosts memory and uses the “generation effect” to prove his claim. A study from 1978 compared whether writing and reading improved memory and it indicated that writing “requires more cognitive effort than reading.” Meaning that writing improves memory because writing something you generate yourself makes your brain works harder. He also gives an example of college students using this for their benefit. To show that people use it all the time and it works for real people. Thompson claims that by forcing yourself to write something down you are forced to defend your position and fully understand your topic before you start to write on it. He uses the concept of “hand waving” to prove that, if you were to write a controversial blog post with the concept of hand waving people wouldn’t be persuaded or care what you wrote. By not being able to “hand wave” you have to know what you are talking about so you must clarify your thinking. Thompson uses a study and the concept of hand waving to convince his audience that writing can change way people think.
Thompson strengths include using many other peoples experiences, expert quotes, facts, and studies to support his argument. The author uses all four of these to support his claim about the audience effect. He starts by introducing his idea with a quote from a blogger that says that if there is an audience reading his work, then he takes it much more serious than if there isn’t. To prove that the social effect is proven he uses two formal studies done by Vanderbilt University professors published in 2008 and a professor at Douglas College in British Columbia. Finishing his argument with an experience by a small blogger. Thompson evidence is strong which helps persuade readers his argument is correct. By using prestigious sounding schools, he relies on ethos to show that if they believe in the audience effect than it must be real. Thompson also chooses to include bloggers big and small to show that everyone can experience it. On many levels Thompson has strong evidences, he uses facts and he slowly builds to his claim which all makes his piece very persuasive.
Thompson’s weaknesses include using an old study and having poorly supported claims. When the author claims that writing helps your memory, he uses an out of date study from 1978 and the study was 35 years old when Thompson published his book. There are better study that are more recent and more related to his claim that he should have used. Thompson may have not felt the need to support his claim because it is a common practice to write down notes in school to remember facts, but this is one of his least supported claims. Thompson uses one out of date study to prove his claim, when he previously has used multiply different studies and experiences to persuade the readers with previous claims. Another claim that was poorly supported was that the introduction of the internet in less democratic countries would allow citizens to speak out about more rights and free speech but his hypothesis was wrong. Thomson talked to a famous blogger from China and she said most people only talk about popular shows and movies as well as their personal life. Thompson still believes that the internet facilitates political conversations and is crucial to democratic societies. Thompson has claims that lack the support they need to fully convince his audience.