INFORMATION VELOCITY: KNOWLEDGE OPPORTUNITIES OR WHITE NOISE?Dave Davison
at Thoughts Illustrated
posted on Linda Stone
, who was featured in the HBR List:Breakthrough Ideas 2007
( which I picked up from Steve at ERMB)
Dave wrote:"Idea #7 a description by Linda Stone of her extremely apt phrase for our chaotic times: "Continuous Partial Attention (CPA)" .
I think Linda's phrase ranks right up there with Information Anxiety and Future Shock in drawing our attention to how technology is creating a condition I call "too much stuff - too little time" which gets worse as the dilemma of information overload and attention scarcity continues unabated.
Here's an abstract of Linda's concept of CPA
"This constant checking of handheld electronic devices has become epidemic, and it illustrates what I call 'continuous partial attention.' Although continuous partial attention appears to mimic that much discussed behavior, multitasking, it springs from a different impulse. When we multitask, we are trying to be more productive and more efficient, giving equal priority to all the things we do—simultaneously filing or copying papers, talking on the phone, eating lunch, and so forth. Multitasking rarely requires much cognitive processing, because the tasks involved are fairly automatic. Continuous partial attention, by contrast, involves constantly scanning for opportunities and staying on top of contacts, events, and activities in an effort to miss nothing. It’s an adaptive behavior that has emerged over the past two decades, in stride with Web-based and mobile computing, and it connects us to a galaxy of possibilities all day every day. The assumption behind the behavior is that personal bandwidth can match the endless bandwidth technology offers."
Stone argues that personal bandwidth is not up to the task and, as a result, a backlash to continuous partial attention has already started. She also worries that information overload will burn people out much more quickly as they strain to keep up with an increasing number of information sources all screaming for attention. "
It occured to me from Stone's use of the term "scanning" that "continuous partial attention" is a behavior that probably has a strong evolutionary base as it would offer obvious survival advantages to early humans who manifested that kind of alert and reactive perception to minor changes in the immediate environment. A behavior that can be relaxed when we are in locales where our need for safety and security are relatively assured norms.
Scanning for information in Continuous Partial attention increases the velocity of information flow to the brain and we would be constantly assessing the value of the given information in terms of "spending" our attention by increasing our focused concentration and going "deeper". Judiciously practiced, continuous partial attention would yield certain efficiencies in terms of time saved and increased probablity for generating bursts of insight. These would be moments where real learning could potentially take place, opportunities to acquire or, add to, useful knowledge.
The ability to assess information while it is in a dynamic state of flow would appear to be critical. Without that cognitive function establishing the moment for increased attention (and screening out the less valuable flows, the partial attention would come to resemble "white noise" where jumbles of data would represent a stressful, chaotic, environment in which thinking would be more difficult.
Dave is pointing to the development of visualization tools to help bring analytic order to a CPA state. It may be that some day, instead of scrolling through readers or meta-aggregators, we might have montages that we can view and then decide to click an image to read a particular post out of hundreds in just a a second or two; or symbolic ordering systems to classify new posts and articles according to our own criteria. A "visualization before reading" format.
Possibilities abound.RELATED LINKS:The Attention Economy And The NetThe Value of Openess in an Attention EconomyAttention EconomyJohn HagelA desktop reference for all visualizers : the Periodic Table of Visualization Methods
-Dave DavisonVisual Literacy.org
INTELLIGENCE AND INTELLIGENCES - ZenpunditAttention vs. Meaning
- Dave Davison
Labels: attention, cognition, davison, ideas, insight, theory, thoughts illustrated, visualization