The Shallows

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The Shallows Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Nicholas Carr's The Shallows. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Nicholas Carr

Nicholas Carr was born in 1959 and rose to prominence as a critic of technology’s role in our culture. He is the author of The Big Switch, Does IT Matter?, The Shallows, and most recently Utopia is Creepy. Carr has been published in the Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, and Wired. He lives in Colorado with his wife and runs a popular blog called RoughType.
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Historical Context of The Shallows

Nicholas Carr wrote The Shallows in response to the drastic change in the way humans think and act since the invention of Internet technology. Not only does the book show how human brains have evolved since the invention of the Internet, The Shallows also places the Net in a historical pattern of change brought about by adaptation to technology. Carr examines the way technologies have affected humans throughout the whole of civilization.

Other Books Related to The Shallows

Far before The Shallows was published, as Carr acknowledges in the “Further Reading” segment of the book, writers have been expressing concern about the effects of technology on our intelligence and our quality of life. To write his own book, Carr looked to references on a plethora of topics. Some of these include Eric R. Kandel’s In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind on the science of the brain, Paul Saenger’s Space between Words: The Origins of Silent Reading on the history of the book, and George B. Dyson’s Darwin Among the Machines: The Evolution of Global Intelligence on the significance of Artificial Intelligence. The influential work most notable for Carr’s purposes was arguably Understanding Media, by Marshall McLuhan. Understanding Media, a cult classic, was a resounding warning shot to all consumers of media. McLuhan, who was primarily focused on television, wanted viewers and users to understand that they were being changed more by the way they absorbed content than the content itself, giving birth to his famous phrase “The medium is the message.” With The Shallows—a troubling argument for the enormous effect the Internet has had on our brains—Carr followed in McLuhan’s footsteps, situating himself, in the words of one USA Today critic, as a “Paul Revere for our Net age.”
Key Facts about The Shallows
  • Full Title: The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains
  • When Written: 2010
  • Where Written: United States
  • When Published: 2010
  • Literary Period: Contemporary Nonfiction
  • Genre: Nonfiction
  • Point of View: Carr narrates in the first person

Extra Credit for The Shallows

Pulitzer Finalist. The Shallows was a finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction.