Monday, April 16, 2012

the myth of multi-tasking #2

We are like--
"Lab rats pressing levers to get tiny pellets of social and intellectual nourishment." p. 117

Another powerful image from Carr's book on the effect of the Net on our brains. This blog focus is on the "multi-tasker." I've considered myself one ever since motherhood, probably since college. It was a matter of pride. I could keep a couple balls in the air and accomplish things in the process. Back then I was doing laundry (which required waiting) or baking bread (more waiting) or cooking a meal (sometimes waiting). You get the picture.

Today multi-tasking can be done in one chair, at the computer, bouncing between Facebook, google, email, and any number of web pages for "research." I can play my turn in scrabble, check out a youTube, look up something in Snopes, write note to a friend, and even wish all my friends happy birthday without having to look at a calendar. And somehow, I am convincing myself that I am more efficient and I get more done. I have deceived myself.

Let's look at the facts about what is happening when we are on the Net. Take research, for example.  We are trying to learn more about some item or issue. We google it, find a plethora of "hits" and start clicking. We spend an average of 19-25 seconds at a site. We come across hyperlinks and jump to another page. We are no longer reading, we are "power browsing." As our eyes skim across words, we think we are reading. Our brains become more shallowly engaged as we load on the pages and verbiage. We are amazed at how nimble our brains are; how quickly they leap from one text to the next. We don't realize that in the nimbleness, we have forfeited deep and creative thinking. 

Cory Doctorow calls the Net an "ecosystem of interruption technologies." As we jump from link to link, the content of each page is fragmented, our concentration is disrupted.  Each mental shift requires a type of reorientation. 

Researchers have learned that: people who read linear text (like books) can--
and remember 
than those with texts peppered with links to other texts. The Hyperlinks confuse the flow, make the reading jumpy, and as a result:
the medium obscures the meaning.
Interestingly, the number of links is directly proportional to the disorientation and overload for our poor brains trying to cope.

Multi-tasking these days is:
and superficial.
Why? because the Net's stimuli are:
--The bad news is:
This type of stimuli
alters brain circuitry.
It is mind-altering technology.

That is subject for another blog. Let's end on a light note:
Heavy multi-taskers:
---are quite easily distracted
---have less control over the working memory part of their brains
                (keep shoving stuff out for more new stuff to go in)
---are less able to concentrate.

They find themselves "suckers for irrelevancy."



I love information. When I encounter a subject which interests me, I binge on information. 

Fifteen years ago, I spent many evenings at the library. I would take every book which contained pieces of the information I desired, surround myself with piles of them, and skim each one until I found what I was looking for. Some of the books I set aside after less than a minute--not so relevant. Others had only a little I wanted to read, and others had whole chapters. 

Now I have Google. I use it in the same way. I evaluate sources, check keywords, skim articles and click on links. And if I am interrupted, or have an appointment to keep, I can go back to my information gathering at any time. 

Has this altered the wiring of my brain? Maybe. 

If I want to read a book, I am still capable, and in theory I have more time to do so because I haven't spent the evening at the library.

Am I fooling myself?


1 comment:

  1. Great posts, M & K...I'd love to see a 'gadget' in the right hand column (layout) so we can follow your blog's words of wisdom! Or, is that more 'multi-tasking? The Net is a necessary evil these days, but, like all things, must be taken in moderation. It both saves time and kills it, and I'm convinced that it has damaged our children to the point where they are unable to concentrate for long periods of time, or '"be still and know that (He) is God". And of course, sitting down to read a book in a quiet corner is torture to them!