Lectures

The World Is Not the Screen

How Computers Shape Our Sense of Place
Navigation Lecture Series

Nicholas Carr will present a lecture at the Radcliffe Institute about navigation and wayfinding in the digital age. He will discuss the automation of navigation and its personal consequences.

Since the government opened the GPS system to consumer use in 2000, we have all become increasingly reliant on digital maps and directions to get around. The convenience of having a computer determine our every turn can be great, but it can quickly turn into a debilitating dependency. What do we lose when we allow our navigational acumen to wither? Carr will examine recent scientific discoveries that reveal how essential wayfinding abilities are, not only to the development of a rich sense of place, but also to the general functioning of memory. We remain creatures of the earth, he will remind us, and finding our own way from place to place, though it may take a little more work than glancing at a screen, provides us with a deeper appreciation of and engagement with the world. It provides a path from alienation to attachment.

Carr writes about technology and culture. His most recent book, The Glass Cage: Automation and Us, examines the personal and social consequences of our ever growing dependency on computers. His previous work, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, was a 2011 Pulitzer Prize finalist and a New York Times bestseller. He is also the author of two other influential books, The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google and Does IT Matter? His books have been translated into more than twenty-five languages. Carr has written for the Atlantic, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Wired, Nature, MIT Technology Review, and other periodicals. Earlier in his career, he was executive editor of the Harvard Business Review. He holds a BA from Dartmouth College and an MA, in English and American Literature and Language, from Harvard University.

Lecture is free and open to the public. Doors open at 4:45 p.m.; lecture begins at 5 p.m.


The navigation lecture series is part of the Academic Ventures program at the Radcliffe Institute. A larger, one-day public symposium on the topic took place on Friday, November 14, 2014.