24 February 2010

Instruction in an Information Snacking Culture

Tony Karrer at the Learning Circuits Blog asked readers to dialog about our information snacking culture and instruction. I love the analogy.

Although I just finished a major deep thinking-focusing project (a dissertation) and I wasn't distracted for the most part throughout, I've still noticed that my info-consumption habits have changed over the last few years, and I've been thinking about it, and observing and talking to others.  

In the mid 90s, I'd been living in Germany for few years, and even then, my German friends noted that their American friends were always insanely busy and thus unable to be "deep". After not living in the US for almost a decade, I have to say that that opinion held a lot of truth to it, regardless of how you interpret depth.  As a culture, we're very much about glitz, distractions, simulations and representations--surfaces in all their shapes and forms. On a personal note, I can't, nor want to be able to consume mainstream Hollywood action-films. Loud doesn't describe them. Of course you could say that's a taste thing. You could more accurately say it's a choice thing. I've been told that you get used to it. Yeah, that's exactly the point. 

So your question: How can we effectively work and learn in an information snacking world? fits into a much larger set of questions about how Americans prioritize what they attend to generally, and how that in turn impacts their capacity to make certain choices over others. 

As far as information snacking goes, I think the same ideas apply. It's about developing habits of mind that enable us to step out of the noise. Isn't it about discipline and being conscious about how we operate as human beings? The PBS Digital Nation piece made a fairly good case that we're less-effective when "multi-tasking." So what if we said to ourselves and our bosses, "I can't take on anymore work, I'm unable to function at my best"? What if we went off grid, and sat with the quiet and boredom. There's an interesting minimalist movement afoot, if you want some ideas on what that's all about.