Pretty much everyone and their dog has commented on Nick Carr's piece "Is Google making us stupid?" Most offer up banal anecdotes to counter Carr's claim but ignore the primary sources/studies he mentions. I didn't offer my own opinion because I don't think this is a matter of opinion, it's a matter of science. Either research shows there is a new effect or it doesn't.
Two responses in particular bother me. First, Seth Finkelstein criticised Carr for not being "technology-positive" enough and for writing too much in the style of "fogeyism." His worry is that techies won't listen to people who sound old or cranky. That may be true but the answer isn't to water down criticism. Part of growing up is learning to listen to people unlike yourself -- even people you disagree with. A technology background does not teach you to think critically about technology and society; if anything it leaves you with a deficit (yes, I speak from experience).
The second response is by Danah Boyd and I don't know whether she's talking about Carr's piece or something else, but I'll assume she is (my second guess is Mark Bauerlein's The Dumbest Generation). Her post is another meta-comment and is about how to respond to "quasi-legitimate trolls in an attention economy." She characterizes some writers as attention-seeking trolls and is having trouble ignoring them so asks for advice. I asked in a comment for clarification of what defines a troll vs. a rational critic you disagree with and also what books she was talking about. I was rebuffed so I won't ask again -- I'm afraid of appearing to be a troll myself.
My problem with Boyd's point is that it's grossly unfair to call Carr or Bauerlein trolls (Keen and Siegel may be a little closer, but still don't meet the definition in my opinion). To be a troll (a term borrowed from the Internet, of course) implies an irrational attention-seeker who ignores logic and simply repeats their opinion to annoy someone. These writers, however, are drawing on real evidence to support their arguments and are engaging in rational discussion. They may be wrong but they deserve an intelligent response.
There's an irony in Boyd's post -- she claims Internet-style trolls are showing up more and more in real life. What she misses is that maybe real life is the same and what has transferred over from the internet is the habit of labeling people as trolls as an excuse not to listen to them.
I started this blog three years ago to try to point out the many good books that have been written on technology's impact on society, as well as the excellent work that continues to be done by people in fields such as science and technology studies. What still surprises me is how shallow and closed-minded most discussion on the Internet tends to be. Most of the smartest stuff is still offline.