Thursday, February 15, 2007

Digital thinking

One recent survey of eight to eighteen-year-olds (8-18 year olds) claimed that children were now spending on average 6.5 hours a day using electronic media.

Could this screen and multimedia culture impact on thinking and learning behaviors? And what does this mean for social change and the work of us technologists?

Obviously, the most notable difference in this age group is the ability to multi-task and, as a tip to Orwell's 'Doublethink' - the death of linear thinking and the integral use of multidimensional thinking.

We don't tend to see the impact but will soon - and todays youth start to excel and show their rising competence and excellence in adapting.

The journalist Kevin Kelly [the founding editor of Wired] summed up the issue very well:
'Screen culture is a world of constant flux, of endless sound bites, quick cuts and half-baked ideas. It is a flow of gossip tidbits, news headlines and floating first impressions. Notions don’t stand alone but are massively interlinked to everything else; truth is not delivered by authors and authorities but is assembled by the audience.'
When those of the first half of the twentieth century read a book, most usually the author takes you by the hand and you travel from the beginning to the middle to the end in a continuous narrative series of interconnected steps. It may not be a journey with which you agree or that you enjoy, but nonetheless as you turn the pages one train of thought succeeds the last in a logical, linear fashion.

One might argue that this is the basis of modern education. It is the building up of a personalized conceptual framework, where we can relate incoming information to what we know already. We can place an isolated fact in a context that gives it significance. Traditional education has enabled us, if you like, to turn information into knowledge.

We of the second half then of course compare one narrative with that of another medium (we read a book and then see the movie and then listen to the audio book with our iPods) another. In so doing we start to build up a conceptual framework that enables us to evaluate further mental jumps and journeys, which in turn will influence our socially networked lives.

What about those of this generation – the first of the 21st century - the MySpace youth?

Here it is - imagine that there is no robust conceptual framework any more.

Imagine that you are sitting in front of a multimedia presentation where you are unable, because you do not have the experience of many different intellectual journeys, to evaluate what is flashing up on the screen.
The most immediate reaction instead would be to place a premium on the most obvious feature, the immediate sensory content - call it the 'wow' factor or the 'yuk' factor... or the wii factor.

Here's the difference - you would be having an experience rather than learning.

THAT's the difference between us and them. The term 'multidimensional thinking' is equivalent to the idea of 'modal logics' and always requiring an additional dimension for indication and implementation - using feedbacks.

Due to the opportunity for communities to leapfrog technologies – this is happening in both the developed (8-18 yr olds) and non-developed world (all populations under 38).

Surprised? Well read on.

This is exactly what is redefining socio-economic development requirements and is why most of today's ICT and development projects are not producing the results that were expected. Period.

We now have access to unlimited and up-to-date information at the touch of a button, but in this new, answer-rich world surely we must ensure that we are able to pose appropriate, meaningful questions.
Its not that we are asking the wrong questions – its that we are not recognizing the correct answers.

Does this mean that young people are acquiring different skills?

It seems that there is currently no conclusive evidence that reading standards are deteriorating. On the other hand, there is evidence that the enjoyment of reading has declined in the last five to ten years.

Is our world too linear? More visual?

Already the visual icon is often substituting for the written word. Audio - the spoken word - will be increasingly available.

We will soon have voice-interface computers – truly the next paradigm shift - embedded in our clothing or personal effects, you might simply need to ask your watch for the date of the Battle of Vimy Ridge or ask your phone to book you a reservation for two at a local sushi shop.

Why is voice recognition such a big deal? And what about the effect on the educational/economic divide?


That's it.

Memory may no longer be essential for us to 'experience' or 'learn'.

Huh? C'mon Galipeau - what'r you talking about? But listen.

Here's the deal - the ability to remember today may no longer be as essential as it was for those of us who had to remember such dates or had to learn reams of Latin grammar.

Imagination - that mysterious and special cognitive achievement that until now has always made the book so very much better than the film – is taking on a new role. A very prominent role because imagination and reality are mashing in the minds of today's post-2000 crowd. Here's a few question that, if asked and answered empirically, may hold the key:

What are the influences on youth/children today?
Where is the actual evidence of a new type of impact?
What do youth/children need to learn?
And, most importantly, how do we deliver these desiderata?

Is this shift transhumanism? No.

But is this the next level .. let's call it transsocialism? Yes.

Technology is not only changing the individuals role in all our distinct societies - its simultaneously changing all the distinct societies – the two don't sync for us (well .. my generation) but it will for the next and for the majority.

And – for us all - what a wonderful world it will be. Why? Because this shift promotes the ability of science and technology to go beyond the authority and the norm that is accepted in our current mindset - whatever that is - for physical and mental human enhancement.


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Anonymous Matt O'Neill said...

but will i be able to sit on a train when bored and ask my phone to re-create action fantasies?

can't wait to see the 'lassie and littlest hobo' dogfight, involving the launch of air-strikes and napalm.


12:38 PM, February 28, 2007  
Anonymous Henriette Weber Andersen said...

wonderful david =) I like the transsocialism - I have been writing a lot about transition lately so it fits perfectly in my vocabulary..

OH... and we know the next paradigm shift - or at least we agree...


12:56 PM, February 28, 2007  
Blogger Dannie Jost said...

Oh, yes. You have hit it. I like it, and there is more to where this is coming from. Wow! Now let's be there where it is happening.

2:53 PM, February 28, 2007  
Blogger Dannie Jost said...

Oh, yes. You have hit it. I like it, and there is more to where this is coming from. Wow! Now let's be there where it is happening.

2:53 PM, February 28, 2007  

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