web 2.0 for development

Internet and the new way of thinking


It’s a long time I have the impression that my mind is changing the way it “works”.

In other words, I feel like the tools I use to do my job, and Internet in particular, are modifying the way my mind process information and manage knowledge. So, reading, writing and, consequently, working approaches have been reshaped. Here are the main differences I perceived between today and the past:

  • Reading, that is one of my passions, has been transforming, both in type and quality. Since I was in the high school, I considered myself a good reader because of the large amount and variety of books I read. Today, I see a tendency to focus mainly on a certain kind of readings: shorter, lighter, faster. This attitude is probably due to a specific moment of my life: I spend much time in my office, reading documents and absorbing a lot of information. As a result, in the rest of my life of reader I may need something very different. This explanation I gave to myself is true for sure but maybe not exhaustive. In fact, I perceive that also some other factors influence my choice.


  • The way I approach writing is also changed. I remember when writing essays at school. Few minutes to make up my mind on the topic and some hours to squeeze the brain to get everything on paper: funny and exhausting at the same time! Today, I spend more time on the preparation of a document rather than on its production. And this process sees a different level of mental concentration: it seems like my brain is working HORIZONTALLY (more than an issue at the time, all of them in parallel) rather than VERTICALLY (one issue at a time, one after the other). Experience and different needs influence the process but they are not alone.
  • As a consequence, also my working approach has been changing during the years. Since 1996, when I was entering data for a website of ENEA (the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and the Environment), I got the impression that many things changed in the way my mind is managing information. The process my neurons follow to approach, manage and store bits evolved. Today it resembles the combination of a puzzle, linking together bits and pieces of information, most of which are already existing inside or outside my brain. It seems to me that I’m more involved in the “connection” rather than the “production” of pieces of knowledge.

Trying to visualize these processes, I see the PATH of my mind, that once was linear, becoming more fragmented, like a game of connecting pieces of information that are not necessarily distributed one after the other.

So what?

I’m using my personal experiences to introduce the point highlighted in an interesting article called Is Google making us stupid?. The question Nicholas Carr is rising is: “are our metal habits changing?“.

I tried to give my personal  answer to this question putting together different consideration like:

– the title of the article can be misleading (the focus is on the Internet and NOT on Google),
– someone, like Stowe Boyd and Kevin Kelly, do not agree with Nick’s ideas,
– some else, like Scott Karp or Bruce Friedman had similar experiences to those described in Carr’s article,
– there are many points of contact with what we discussed at the KM4DEV meeting in 2008, and
complexity is becoming one of the key of my everyday job (have a look at the image with the list of groups connected or related to the KM4DEV group),

At the end, I agree with most of the thesis proposed in the article.

After this reading, I consider the reflection OPEN and the topic far from being cleared. First of all, I don’t even know if we have to talk about a PROBLEM or just a CHANGE, a CULTURAL change. For sure, we have to consider the long list of dichotomies emerging from this new approach (faster but lighter, larger but less in details, etc.) and see if, at the end, PROs are bigger then COUNTs or not.

Secondly, how deeply the “age” can influence mental processes? When I was young, I completely focused on “creation” of knowledge, without external points of reference whom to look at for help. Today, after more than ten years working, I can both create and “manage” knowledge, having better results in terms of global experience.

The analysis is just started and time will say if this change was deep and real or just an adjustment to the need of the moment.

p.s.: I found great comfort in realizing that OUR brains are changing, and not only mine!


Author: Luca Servo @ talksharelearn

Passionate about social media, development projects and the world. Currently, I’m supporting the Emergency Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations in managing its online communication through the website, the social media and the mobile apps.

2 thoughts on “Internet and the new way of thinking

  1. great stuff Luca.

    I definitely concur with you, Googling (not internet per se) shifted the knowledge paradigm from producing or re-producing pieces to “connecting the dots” available in the wild.
    In regards to the horizontal and vertical approach to knowledge, well, I think Baricco in his “I Barbari” masterpiece gives, IMHO, a witty explanation on this: humans are rapidly evolving (…) from vertical people, able to focus and eviscerate a problem in a specific subject up to its inner intimacy (going deep and narrow), to horizontal people, who just are not interested into going deep, but are able to gather info and elaborate on it on a vast number of subjects (shallow and broad). In this latter way, a new form of knowledge is thus at hand, which was not present before, i.e. the ability to connect the dots, and elaborate on them.

  2. …plus, I’ll add one more for the scientific aspects of this. Googling has been found to engage an increased amount of neuronal circuitry as compared to e.g. reading text books: check this out…

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