Blog Post

Faulty Scientific Logic and the Institutional Status Quo

In my most recent blog post, on "The Myth of Monotasking," I noted the institutional importance of reviewing the assumptions behind the science on attention and multitasking.   In a nutshell:  if you believe that the Internet is really damaging our brains, making us shallow, destroying our memories, hurting our interpersonal relationships, and making us inefficient, then why would you want to reform our institutions of school and work to facilitate more interactive, digital communication?  On the contrary, the logical policy and institutional implications of the nay-saying pundits, is that we should be keeping school and work as traditional in their industrial age configurations as possible, as an important bulwark against the terrible, destructive technological change that (duh!) is happening everywhere around us.

 

Interestingly, even the people who really do not like the "myth of monotasking" counter arguments (backed by lots of research) in Now You See It, often admire the practical and inspiring suggestions that many of the people I interview offer for transforming school and work for the 21st century.   Isn't that a contradiction?   If institutions are supposed to support us in our goals and in our lives, and if the goals of the Internet are destructive, why bother with reform?   Give us the status quo, please!    Not.

 

In any case, if you want to read the original "Myth of Monotasking" post that alludes to the Harvard Business Review podcast of the same name and offers the ink to that marvelous interview with Sarah Green, go here:  http://hastac.org/blogs/cathy-davidson/2011/11/26/myth-monotasking

 

And if you happen to be coming to the HASTAC conference on "Digital Scholarly Communication," Dec 1-3, University of Michigan, you will hear me spin out my latest version of the connection between the science of attention, the myth of monotasking, the history of the institutions of school and work (and how Taylor's theories of  "scientific labor management" became the 20th century's practice of "scientific learning management")--and what all of that has to do with "digital scholarly communication."

 

Want a preview?   I hope to argue that, just as in every past Information Age (writing, movable type, mass printing), the current one intrinsically changes not just how we communicate but what, not just how we exchange information but the nature of our thinking---and, of course, we need better institutions of school and work to support that change, not flail aimlessly against the change that has already happened.   "Digital" changes "scholarly communication."   "Scholarly communication" changes "digital."   We have to step back and rethink on the deepest level how we communicate now, how new forms of communication disrupt old binaries, hierariches, affiliations, mechanisms, styles, and bodies of authority.   Multimedia changes text-bias.   Nonlinearity changes logic.   Process-oriented interaction, collaboration, and dialogue changes the idea of the "right answer."   All of these change Intellectual Property concepts.  And all must be tied to and integrated into new thinking about access, digital divide, cost, and openness.   Attention changes too, as does the idea of authorship, mastery, expertise, and masterpiece.   The broadcast model changes to the collaboratory model.   And "learning the future together" becomes not just a motto but a process and a rallying cry.

 

And, of course, fighting for the Open Web is essential, and must be our activist agenda, if we are going to prize the possibilities of this new era rather than simply allow it to be corporatized and govermentalized into a thin replica of the last Information Age.

 

That's it!   That's the abstract.  I hope to see you all in Ann Arbor a few days from now.  And, for those who cannot be there, we anticipate a lot of live blogging and maybe a webcast too, courtesy of the incomparable HASTAC Scholars. 

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NOW YOU SEE IT

Cathy N. Davidson is co-founder of HASTAC, and author of The Future of Thinking:  Learning Institutions for a Digital Age (with HASTAC co-founder David Theo Goldberg), and  Now You See It:  How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn (Viking Press). She is co-PI on the HASTAC/MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Competitions.   NOTE:  The views expressed in NOW YOU SEE IT are solely those of the author and not of any institution or organization.  For more information, visit www.nowyouseeit.net [NYSI cover]

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