By William Seidman There’s a two-part series of articles in the online Wall Street Journal of June 5-6. In the first, Clay Shirky asks,  “Does the Internet Make You Smarter?” The second, by Nicholas Carr, poses the question, “Does the Internet Make You Dumber?” Clay Shirky argues that the internet makes us smarter by creating new means of learning that will eventually surpass the old — and we all benefit from this. According to Nicholas Carr,  the internet promotes — even requires — multi-tasking,  which fractures attention, promotes shallow (or little) focus,  and limits learning and sustained, deep thought. This is relevant to a discussion of persuasive technology. Recently a trainer asked me about the interface to Cerebyte’s persuasive technology. He compared our interface, which is straightforward and utterly lacking bells and whistles, to more graphically whizzy learning systems. As I listened to him, I realized that he was accustomed to learning technologies that masked inadequate learning experiences with technical excitement. Anyone with kids can think of dozens of such “learning toys” which, ultimately, fail at their mission. It seems that the hook for most learning technologies has to be entertainment more than direct learning because the learning experience they provide is so weak. So these technologies are much more on the Shirky side of the discussion. Their premise is to give lots of stimulus and hope something sticks. Our persuasive technology is much more on the Carr side of the discussion. Its job is to encourage and enable depth and focus, not to entertain. We’re committed to this approach because it puts the positive deviant content at the center of the user experience and deliberately fades the technology into the background. Here is the interesting result:  people like to use our system because it absolutely helps them to create something meaningful and valuable. The best entertainment — the achievement of success — most definitely does not require batteries!]]>

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