The sound of fingers tapping on keyboards filled the room as Brown University recently hosted a student competition called the Digital Literacy Contest, which is "a high-speed battle of the minds to find information online," reports the Brown Daily Herald. Using the computer as a "cognitive prosthetic," says contest developer and Purdue University graduate Daniel Poynter, competitors scour the web to answer obscure questions chosen by Poynter for the cunning strategies required to solve them. Competitors of varying ages and concentrations had turned out for the $200 prize awarded to the winner. The second-floor computer cluster burst with silent activity as the competitors locked onto their screens, their hands flitting across their keyboards. A competitive research environment is often a turnoff to students in academic fields, but Poynter has found a niche in making competitive research a sport. The 21-year-old is president of Global Networked-Intelligence Contests, a young company he started with three current Purdue students. For him, the contest is not just a test of ability, but a new way of looking at the relationship between computers and the mind. Brown is the fourth school to purchase Poynter’s contest, which Head of Reference and Research Services Ron Fark says doubles as an advertisement for the library and its extensive resources. "One of the selling points to universities is that they spend millions of dollars on databases, but nobody uses them," Poynter says. "A third of the questions require participants to use databases." But for Poynter, the contest is more of a consciousness-enhancer than a consciousness-raiser. In the information age, "the ability to wield it should be right up there with IQ tests and the SAT," he says…

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