Yesterday’s post about information rituals missed the point. I was working with the idea of information rituals as intentional, useful information habits. Yesterday’s post was a screed written by a madman, crippled by the compulsive need to stash web links in the virtual nooks and crannies of his web space in the misguided belief that there will someday be enough time to visit them all, watch them all, read them all and use them all. There won’t be enough time and there won’t be a point. Yesterday’s post was more about link hoarding than about information rituals.
Yesterday’s post failed to consider this: why bother? The goal of link catching, organizing and follow-up can’t be to visit them all. There is no point to that. The web is immense and growing on a scale far beyond the human mind. Before we can consider useful information habits, we need to consider the goal. What are we trying to accomplish?
You can’t learn everything. You can’t be interested in everything. If you are, you certainly can’t invest your attention equally in all directions.
Information rituals should help a person benefit from their information streams: Facebook, Twitters, blog feeds, social bookmarks, emails and so on. The benefit is gathering the raw materials needed to be well-informed.
Being well-informed means seeing an idea or event from many different directions. Being well-informed means having a sense of understanding about a thing, how that thing relates to my life and how that relationship changes over time. Being well-informed is about gathering resources that help you make good decisions. Being well-informed helps you set goals, plan actions and assess outcomes. Being well-informed helps you lend value to others who can benefit from your specialized knowledge and focus.
And so, before I can think about developing useful information rituals, I need to establish my purpose. What is it about which I wish to become well-informed? This, it seems, will determine the most suitable rituals to cultivate.
So here’s the list of things about which I am trying to stay well-informed. These are more than just recreational interests. These are events, themes or concepts about which I need to become and remain well-informed in order to accomplish my larger goals. Here they are, in no particular order:
- writing: as an action and a process
- libraries: why we need them, how they operate, what they do
- leadership theory and practice
- books: what is being published, how are those books being received, what is their impact
- eBooks: emerging publication models and the business of eText, how reading eBooks compares to reading print books, how to connect readers with eBooks through library collections
- mobile technologies and their use in education
- open education: models, platforms, possible goals/outcomes
- educational technologies: how technology intersects usefully with teaching and learning
- pedagogy and learning theory: how people learn, how we teach people to learn more effectively; how libraries contribute
- information theory: what is information, how is it used, how do people seek, find and interact with information
- changes in web technology
- social media: how they create communities of interest and how to use them to deliver messages to audiences
- Buddhism and mindful living
- creativity and things that inspire people to accomplish useful goals
- politics and political action
- world news
- local news
Ah. I begin to see the problem. This is a very broad list, and I know the list is incomplete. I am trying to wrap my mind around too much. I am becoming somewhat informed in a number of these areas but am not being purposeful enough in finding where these areas overlap. I am sipping from streams of information that pertain to all of this but not focusing intention on developing deep knowledge.
I need to pare down my daily information diet. I need to identify the most beneficial sources of information in these specific areas, find places where these overlap and pursue those channels with greater focus. This might mean dropping some blog feeds. This might mean reshaping my Twitter feeds. I need to raise the criteria I use to screen what sources I try to follow to increase the value of time spent with each.
I do realize that this thread of posts may seem crazy. What I am talking about here is cultivating a mindful approach to information overload. We all suffer. We can all benefit from new habits. I suspect in the future, the ability to quickly filter information, screen out background noise and act quickly on the highest quality information will be a basic requirement for survival.
The mind evolves to survive our circumstances. I believe we can take control of this process. In fact, I believe we have to take control of this process or we will get bewildered, blinded and lost. If we don’t find ways to cultivate useful information rituals, we will become more and more poorly informed in the most information rich time our species has yet seen.
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