Tag Archives: blogs

Shallower thinking? Multi-tasking or unable to focus?

8 Jul

I have been reading a few articles lately in newspapers and on blogs which examine the question ‘Is the Information Age making us dumber?’ Information overload is certainly not a new phenomenon. Even in the 1980s I remember watching a documentary in which Barry Jones warned that the sheer amount of information that people had to take in was becoming unmanageable, and that we needed to become more selective.
I don’t think that even Barry Jones, with his huge intellect, could have imagined the changes in technology and the explosion of information sources which have occurred in the last 20 years.
We hear much about Gen Y’s ability to multitask – facebooking, texting on the phone, listening to music, tweeting, watching youtube and conducting an online conversation all at the same time. I wonder, though, whether the ability to focus on a task is being eroded. I’m not even talking so much about ‘deep thinking’ in an academic sense – though that may be a problem – but even reading a book and being able to immerse oneself in the action on the page – or indeed on the virtual page of an e-reader. I know that my attention span is much shorter for reading newspaper articles. There is just so much to take in all the time, that I flit from article to article and page to page, scanning headlines and pictures. When I do find something that I know I should read, I tear it out of the paper and keep it in a pile which steadily gets bigger and bigger….
I’m finding it more difficult to concentrate on a task for any length of time, because there is so much to do, but also so many distractions. The hyperlinks in web pages often take me on a wonderful journey of discovery (last week I spent more than an hour reading comments on a blog about the different methods that people used to keep squirrels out of bird feeders in North America). It is easy to be diverted from the original aim of the research. The sheer immediacy and often the humour in the writing are very enticing. ‘Happening upon’ information occurs, rather than ‘researching in a considered way’.
Hmmm…. I’m off now to research this topic in a considered way.

Background

28 Jun

Prior to taking this subject the main interaction I had with Web 2.0 was a Facebook page, and the only knowledge of blogs I had was from watching the film Julie and Julia.  In my library studies course a few years ago I built, using HTML coding, a website with five pages, text, photos, and some links to other relevant sites.  We were not required to upload it to the actual, really truly Web, so until I work out how to do that, I can’t provide a link to it.

I’ve used WebCT and Moodle from a student perspective.  I have used various automated library management systems pretty much since their inception in the late 1980s, and can find my way around today’s online academic journal databases (having first cut my teeth on microfiche and then CDs).

In the dinosaur days my early career at the Bureau of Statistics was that of a Data Processing Operator on the very first ‘multi-access keystation’ in the country.  Data was saved to huge magnetic tape reels and somehow, with the intervention of a whole flotilla of computer programmers, stagers, computer operations people and tape librarians working around the clock to facilitate the ‘running of the job’, statistics on all manner of things were eventually extracted.

I say all this to illustrate some of the computer-based technological tools that I have used over the past 30-something years.  It is obvious, however, that my knowledge is distinguished by its disparity, disjointedness and diversification, with the exception of some very specific experience with various library applications.

The task that I have set myself with this blog assignment is to explore my own learning journey of breaking new ground and becoming familiar with the many tools of digital technology.