Public Thinking Analysis Essay

Emily Richards

RWS 100

Professor Werry

September 19 2018       

   “Public Thinking” Analysis Essay


Some say that the advancement of technology has led to people becoming more slothful and ineffective in their writing, while others say that technology has only aided in the advancement and complexity of the writing people put out online for the world to see. In the piece titled “Public Thinking” by Clive Thompson, the author argues that not only have writers in this generation improved their writing, but the technological revolution in the last 20 years,  this has led not only to writers holding themselves to a higher standard, but they are writing more in quantity due to the fact that they are aware their work is being read by a larger audience. Thompson uses relatable examples, personal anecdotes, and statistics in order to make an irrefutable claim that technology has helped individuals improve their writing, not only with an increase in the quantity that is being put out into the world, but also with the complexity and skill with which they are writing, as well a increased collaboration with their fellow young writers.

One of Thompson’s main claims is that although some argue that with the technological revolution “generation z” is growing up in has made them lazy, unproductive, and unwilling to produce works of writing of high quality and effort, in reality technology has enabled young writers to create more advanced and complex works than ever before; through collaboration made possible by the internet. According to a study done at Stanford University by English Professor Andrea Lunsford “tracked down studies of how often first-year college students made grammatical errors in freshman composition essays, going back nearly a century. She found that their error rate has barely risen at all. More astonishingly, today’s freshman-comp essays are over six times longer than they were back then, and also generally more complex” (Thompson 66). This study, done at arguably the most prestigious universities in the nation, disproves the claim many make that the advancements made in technology have made students lazier and less likely to produce quality work, when in fact in recent years students, as well as other members of “generation Z” have not only  increased the standard to which they hold not only themselves, but their writing as well.

Thompson makes the claim that having an audience motivates the writer to perform to the best of their abilities, and they hold themselves to a higher standard. Thompson addresses this claim when he argues that “the shift in our performance when we know people are watching” (64) is significant, and plays a large role in the quality of work we are producing. When writers produce work and they are aware that no one or a very small audience will be judging their work, they are more likely to cut corners and put in minimal effort. On the other hand, when you know what you’re writing will be read by a large group of people, you generally put in more effort. Thompson uses numerous examples such as personal anecdotes and statistics in order to prove that when you produce a piece of writing with the knowledge that it will be viewed by a larger  audience, you typically hold yourself to a higher standard and more often than not, produce better quality work, and in larger quantity as well. The birth of the internet has enabled students to hold their peers to a higher standard, due to the fact that they themselves have access to complex and well-thought out writing, and are therefore are holding not only themselves, but their fellow writers to a higher standard. Professor Brenna Clarke Grey, a professor at Douglas College in British Columbia had her students undergo an experiment where they write their own Wikipedia articles for their fellow students to read and edit. The results were astounding; Professor Grey is quoted saying “they were suddenly staying up till two a.m. honing and rewriting the entries and carefully sourcing everything…It was like night and day” (56). The students were not only harder on themselves, but they are also harsher than on their peers when editing their fellow students work “the students were forced to go back, work harder, find better evidence, and write more persuasively” (56). With the advancements in technology and the internet, students have been exposed to better quality writing from fellow authors all over the world, they are themselves writing better, as well as having higher expectations for their fellow peers and their writing.

Writing in order to clarify your own thoughts is the basic premise of why many people write, in order to process their own ideas. Thompson is quoted saying “Professional writers have long described the way that the act of writing forces them to distill their vague notions into clear ideas” (51). The idea of writing has since been furthered by advancements made in technology in recnt years, and it has enables writers to clarify their own thoughts and create complex pieces of work in not only the quantity in which they are writing, but the quality of work they are producing. In older generations, writing in groups and the need for collaboration was difficult due to the fact that the idea of communication hindered by the lack of technology. But with recent advancements and the technological revolution in the last 20 years, young writers have been able to communicate with fellow writers all over the world to collaborate their ideas and thoughts in order to create new and innovative works  Famous poet Cecil-Day Lewis is quoted saying “If it were clear in my mind, I would have no incentive or need to write about it” (51). Lewis conveys the idea that people do not write simply to prove their abilities to others, but to understand their own thought process. Another example is the founder of DuckDuckGo, Gabriel Weinberg; when he decided to write a post about the movie Moneyball, that spiked his interest due to hs previous interest in statistics, he quotes “Even if I was publishing it to nobody, it’s just the threat of an audience…If someone could come across it under my name, I have to take it more seriously” (54). Weinberg asserts that even just the idea of his work being read by any size audience forces him to hold himself with a higher standard and makes him want to write not only more in quantity, but better quality as well.  

Though there is no doubt that there are countless complex and well thought out works on the interet, Thompson concedes that there is a undoubtedly a large amount of poor quality work, “the majority of which is done by amateurs in their spare time” (48). He refers to a famous quote said by science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon, who claims that “ninety-percent of everything is crap” (48). Thompson acknowledges that there is another side to his claim that the readily available resources of the internet enables people to write better. Due to the easy access of the internet and how readily available this writing platform is, it is assumed that there will mass amounts of terrible writing as well. Thompson concedes that though there is a plethora of high quality writing online, there is no doubt that a good portion of poorly written, unedited, not well-thought out writing on the internet.

To conclude, Clive Thompson asserts and proves his claim that the invention and advancements that the internet has made, has not only enabled writers to write more efficiently, but also collaborate with fellow authors all over the world. Writers also hold themselves to a higher standard because they know their work is being read by people all over the world, so they want their best quality work being projected out to the world. In the chapter titled Public Thinking; author Clive Thompson proves his claim that though some make the assumption that the advancements in the internet and technology has made people become more lazy in their writing, it is obvious that with the aid of the internet, people are writing more in quantity and better in quality, as well as better quality work. Through collaboration with people all over the world made possible through the internet, writers are creating works that have reached levels of complexity that would have never been possible without technology.


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