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Monthly Archives: December 2011

The increase in the amount of data available and the ease of access to the data has certainly produced a cultural shift in how we carry out the activities and interactions of our daily lives.  The question that arises with this shift is whether it is changing the way we learn or simply lessening our capacity to think.  I’m going to go the optimistic route and say that it is changing the way we learn.

Nick Carr pushes the point that all of the various data streams that we have constant access to are inhibiting our ability to engage deeply with content and producing negative cultural repercussions.  He believes that the quality of work being produced overall is less than the quality of work being produced overall 100 years ago.  His main reason for this belief is that people are distracted and unable to focus all of their attention on one issues at a time.

Clay Shirky disagrees with Carr’s argument.  His main point of disagreement is in what should be done about the data overload in our current cultural context.  While Carr argues to return to the good old days when people didn’t have smart phones and didn’t surf the web, Shirky believes that we need to work through issues of data abundance by accepting new technologies and seeing how they can be used to better our culture.

What this essentially boils down to is that while the way in which we receive information has changed, our ability to think critically about that information has not changed.  Because we as a culture are being presented with infinitely more amounts of information on a daily basis than we were 100 years ago, we inevitably will not think critically and deeply about all of the information that we are receiving.  However, with the immense amount of information that we receive, we are able to choose a handful of bits that resonate with our interests and think deeply about those issues.  The capacity to think deeply does not disappear.  I believe that the capacity to think deeply is innate in humans because we as a species are aware that we live and die.  Therefore, we crave a sense of meaning in the world in which we live and die.  We think deeply to find this meaning.

There have been and always will be distractions.  How those distractions manifest themselves will constantly evolve.  Managing distractions is a part of being human.  We as a species can deal with it without losing our ability to have meaningful and productive thought processes.

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