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Internet Surfing for Class Credit

University of Pennsylvania professor defends multi-tasking as a vehicle to creative thinking. 

| BY Kent McDill

Amid new reports of bogus classes being offered at the University of North Carolina comes word that the University of Pennsylvania is offering a class entitled “Wasting Time on the Internet.”

The course is being taught next semester by University of Pennsylvania English professor Kenneth Goldsmith, who is asking students to produce a piece of creative writing based on what they read during three hours of Internet surfing. The time can also be spent talking on the phone, as Goldsmith wants to promote the effects of multi-tasking on creativity.

”We are trying to wrench an artistic product out of the state of distraction that’s naturally created by talking on the phone with someone and surfing the Internet at the same time,’’ Goldsmith said. “That’s the desire state in the class. I want their attention across tablets, phones, screens, music. I want it divided many, many times.

“I am tired of reading articles that make us feel bad about spending so much time on the Internet,’’ Goldsmith said. “I think the Internet is making us smarter. There is this new morality built around guilt and shame in the digital age.”

Here is a partial course description from the University of Pennsylvania catalog:

“Using our laptops and a Wi-Fi connection as our only materials, this class will focus on the alchemical recuperation of aimless surfing into substantial works of literature. Students will be required to stare at the screen for three hours, only interacting through chat rooms, bots, social media and listservs. Distraction, multi-tasking and aimless drifting is mandatory.”

According to Yahoo! Tech columnist Alyssa Bereznak, there is method to the madness of a class instructing students to waste time.

“The course will play out a little like this: Students will spend a lot of time chatting with friends, watching YouTube videos, surfing Facebook, exploring Reddit,”’ Bereznak wrote. “Eventually, they will have to take the detritus from that time wasted – tweets, posts, photos, browser history – and turn it into ‘substantial works of literature’.”

The course is required for students on the English Department’s Creative Writing Track, but can also be taken by other English majors as an elective.




About the Author

Kent McDill

Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.

In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.

McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.

McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy  Buffett and all things Disney.