Rough Draft 9/27/18

Erika Bishop

Professor Werry

RWS 100

24 September 2018

Public Thinking

Technology, we all have it, use it, and love it. In the excerpt from the book “Smarter than you think,” Chapter two’s  “Public Thinking” by Clive Thompson, talks about how public thinking on the internet has drastically changed the how and the amount we write which has many major benefits. For example the use of technology has made our thoughts become more clear and cognitive, it improves the way we write because of the audience we are writing for, and it expands our social connections and knowledge. Many people may argue that the internet has made individuals less intelligent but according to Thompson, they are wrong. He makes many interesting and important claims that people may not have thought of before but he also carefully uses rebuttals so that the argument is not one sided or bias. This chapter is also filled with different types of evidence and reasoning as to why his side of the argument is the correct one. It gets the readers thinking about things they might not have ever thought of before reading this.

In this excerpt from Thompson’s book, he argues that the internet has become an outlet for our writing skills and that we are writing more now than we ever have before. This has become a resource for people all over the world and it is so easily accessible that people are writing without even noticing it. He uses a personal anecdote to justify his claim. Thompson also uses an effective strategy of comparing how much we write now versus how much we wrote back in the letter writing days. He did this because it closely relates to the argument and what he is talking about. For example Thompson asked his mother how much she actually wrote in the fantasized letter writing days and her response was “”Oh, never! I sign my name on checks or make lists-that’s about it”” (Thompson 50).  This probably got a lot of readers to realize that we have access to write more now than back in the old days. They also most likely thought about their ancestors and maybe even asked them how much they wrote back then. He also uses statistics about how much we write on the daily. He says “we compose 154 billion emails, more than 500 million tweets on Twitter, and over 1 million blog posts and 1.3 million blog comments on WordPress alone” (Thompson 46-47). This shows people the bigger picture about how often and how much we use the internet for writing every single day. The use of the large numbers grasps the reader’s attention because it gets them thinking about the real statistics and to realize that Thompson may be right about what he is arguing.

Another one of Thomson’s main claims is that writing things down can improve the quality and clarity of our thoughts. Think about it, if songwriters thought of lyrics in their head and it was clear to them, songwriters would not even exist because they would just know it already without having to write it down. Have you ever written an essay perfectly in one go? This is why we write things down because the thoughts and ideas can become jumbled in our brains if we don’t. Thompson often uses media discourse for hs man claims so that his readers know exactly what is going on throughout the essay. This claim is also backed up by evidence which is an effective way to prove the point trying to me made. He uses a poet to back up this argument to establish credibility for the audience. The famous poet, Cecil Day-Lewis, says “We do not write in order to be understood; we write in order to understand” (Thompson 51). This quote is coming from someone who writes poems for a living and it shows that writing things down plays a huge role in clarifying your mind and is a big part of what writers do for their work.

When it comes to having an audience, your mind works in a way that improves your writing because it knows that someone is going to see your work. Even if the audience is not that large, it still makes a much bigger impact than with no audience at all. This is another one of Thompson’s main claims in the text. Thompson uses many type of evidence to prove how writing things for an audience can improve the way we write. One strategy that he uses is defining the term audience effect. He claims that “[s]ocial scientists call this the “audience effect” [which is] the shift in our performance when we know people are watching” (Thompson 54). Defining this gives people a clear vision of what the term means so that there is no confusion. This is a strong strategy to use because it establishes trustworthiness in the person reading the article. Thompson also uses a few case studies to prove the audience effect is true in most cases. Case studies are useful because they grab the reader’s attention and gets them wondering what the end result is going to come out to be. For this specific claim he uses many case studies, strategies, and facts. All of this evidence is appropriate and effective in order to get his central argument across. He reveals that “a group of Vanderbilt University professors in 2008 published a study” on three different groups of children (Thompson 55). The first group was instructed to solve a puzzle quietly to themselves, the second group was told to speak into a recording while solving the puzzle, and the third group had an audience of their mother while figuring the puzzle out. The results prove the audience effect because “the ones who were talking to a meaningful audience-Mom-did best of all” (Thompson 55). As you can see, the end result ended up favoring Thompson’s claim which proves the readers wrong if they have any disagreements. After making this claim Thompson provides a rebuttal for the audience to consider. “In live, face-to-face situations, like sports or live music, the audience effect often makes runners or musicians perform better, but it can sometimes psych them out and make them choke, too” (Thompson 54) says Thompson. He is addressing the counterargument that sometimes the audience effect is not always a good thing. However, he does not expand on the opposing side well enough to fully get the reader to come to their senses on his side of the argument. This claim was overall very well rounded, had a good amount of evidence, and provided a rebuttal

One of Thompson’s last claims is that when your thoughts become accessible to the public, it is easy for connections to bloom. Personally I agree with Thompson because I have experienced that when I put my thoughts out there and read others work it helps me have a better understanding of different writing techniques that I can use later in my writing pieces. Reading and writing is a ongoing process of learning and getting better. Without access to the internet we would not have the advantage of reading other peoples work so easily. Throughout this claim he makes several points about how these connections happen and what we benefit from them. For example he states that “scientific journals and citation were a successful attempt to create a worldwide network, a mechanism for not just thinking in public but doing so in a connected way” (Thompson 61). This quote shows that being connected online has helped advance scientific studies by being connected. He chose to use facts as the type of evidence for this claim. It is very straightforward and gets the main point across in a very clear manner.

Throughout this chapter of Thompson’s book, he has many strengths but also some weaknesses to look at. He uses many persuasive strategies and evidence to bring together the effectiveness of the chapter. For example he uses many rhetoricals questions, facts, surveys, data, personal stories, and appeals to logos, ethos, and pathos. As for weaknesses, Thompson struggles with concrete evidence for one of his claims. When he states that writing on the internet opens doors for more connections, he struggles finding evidence that fully supports that claims. What little evidence that he does his is partially irrelevant and does not grasp the entire argument to the point where the readers are going to agree with him. Readers may think of many counter arguments for this claims because the evidence is not solid. Another one of his weaknesses is lack of clear rebuttals. Because he has three main claims, rebuttals are to be expected for nearly each one however, he does leaves them out or makes them so small that readers may not even notice that there was a rebuttal.

In conclusion, this chapter of Thompson’s book, Smarter Than You Think, does a good job in backing up his overall argument with many different strategies, evidence, and claims. He persuades the readers by making many important claims about how the use of the internet these days has become a writing outlet for people all over the entire world. His evidence, strategies, strengths, weaknesses, and rebuttals all work together to make a central argument against people like Nicholas Carr who believe the internet is making people in our generation less intelligent. Nicholas Carr is the author of the book “The Shallows” which entails many thoughts, ideas, and evidence to show how the internet is brainwashing today’s society. Thompson was brave for writing this book because most people, like Nicholas, think that the use of the internet has made our society become less informed and creative. All in all Clive Thompson’s writing contains all needed components to making a good persuasive argument.


Works Cited


Graff, Gerald, and Cathy Birkenstein. “They Say / I Say”: the Moves That Matter in Academic Writing. W. W. Norton & Company, 2018.


Thompson, Clive. “Public Thinking.” Smarter Than You Think, Penguin Press, 2013, pp. 45–69.
Werry, Chris. Rhetoric & Writing Studies

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