I’ve been reading The Shallows – How the Internet is Changing How We Think, Read and Remember and led a discussion about the effects of digital culture on our brains for our 6th Form yesterday.
It was actually a very interest debate, which took in the printing press, Shakespeare, violence, gaming and, most importantly, speed and anxiety. It was out of this that a metaphor for the difference between the culture of paper-based information and digital information flows came to me.
Imagine a conveyor-belt of various items coming towards you, some important, some not so. It’s going at a pace which allows you to take each object, think about it and then classify it, categorise it in your own taxonomy, and store it. It’s not the fastest process, but things do get put away tidily.
Now speed up the belt. Why? Because it means you get more stuff. LOTS more stuff. So much stuff is now coming at you that you just don’t have the time to think about it or categorise it. You just throw it over your shoulder into your store and hope it comes in useful one day when you’ve got more time and aren’t so anxious about missing something really important which might be coming down the line.
The advent of the internet, and of information networks that we are a part of, has radically increased the amount of knowledge that we have available, and massively increased the amount of data that is presented for processing to us each day. This is a good thing in many ways. But it means that we no longer have time for reflection on the information we are receiving. We don’t have time to allow knowledge to bed down into wisdom.
If the research I’m reading is right, I’m guessing many of you won’t have a) the concentration to read much more than this on a blog post or b) will have skimmed to the end anyway. So here’s the skinny: how do we throttle the flows we have available, and carve out time for reflection? This is what dreams are: a time for our brains to ‘post-process’ the day’s data. We need time to shut down and sleep if we are to become wise and knowledgeable, not just highly fragmented hard-drives that are due to crash at any moment. These are some of the things I cover in ‘Other‘ – which is on sale as a real, physical item fully open to careful digestion and reflection 😉
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