I thought that each moment was an opportunity to learn more and get ahead; I guess I actually thought all these distractions were good for me! Yet I know my attention would be 100% better if I only switched my phone off.
“Persistent multi-taskers perform worse than infrequent ones on tests that require them to jump from task to task. It seems they were more easily distracted by irrelevant information thrown up during the evaluations.” (Temple, 2011)
I have at times found myself sending out a bunch of random text messages so that I can expect a tidal wave of replies to ‘check’ next time I’m bored. Before mobiles were invented and you had to carry 40c around with you in case you needed a phone box. I wonder if my parents got bored. I doubt they did.
However they have very questionable taste in music and drive 10 km/h below the prescribed speed limit, so to say that generation X came out normal and unscathed would be a bit of a stretch.
Infotention is the ability to shift and sift through vast amounts of unsolicited information while assessing its value. While giving full attention to only the information which; via educated guess, appears accurate.
A real life example of infotention for me is when I’d like to know the health benefits of say… Spinach, because let’s be honest, I need convincing that its’ good for me to eat it! I’ll start with Google, read a few websites for facts which correspond to information on the others, ensure there are some similar articles on Google scholar and assume the facts are pretty solid.
Based only on a quick comparison, it’s easy enough to tell when an allegation is too outlandish to be true.
Macready says that without formal education, which is essentially the mastering of paying attention, one cannot mature correctly and become a responsible adult. The loss of attention is the ability to care – to be responsible for ones work or life.
Let’s look at the state of our planet, our oceans and forests, which are being completely destroyed by the destructive nature of capitalism and consumerism.
Yet we as individuals are bombarded every minute of every day to consume more, “These psych-technologies create care-less consumers that know how to purchase products, but not care-full citizens who know how to live responsibly.” (Macready, 2010)
Another example of this is massive credit card debt – sending more than we earn but we can’t quite understand why! Is there a mysterious force willing me to buy new things when old things will do?
Attention has always equalled power. From when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in the mid 1400’s to now where attention equals a more modern power, the almighty dollar.
In our attempts to take in the valuable stimuli we need daily, advertising is unfortunately always mixed in with it. It teaches our subconscious that we inherently “lack.”
I wonder how this attitude of deficiency impacts our individual modes of infotention? With the current transformation of physical to digital are we thoughtfully assessing what we encounter on our Google searches?
Perhaps those who are less advantaged in society are more susceptible to the onslaught of messages the internet brings. I immediately think of the fast-food debate and how low income earners, the ones who can least afford to get sick, are the main consumers of artery clogging deep-fried junk.
We have a wealth of information, a frazzled attention span and a deep poverty of any true understanding. Most don’t realise that they need to cull and be critical of “information” that comes along, we must be backwards in a society where a MacDonald’s ad can be mistaken for a public service announcement.
Knowledge and true understanding can only be mastered when an individual can dissemble and reassemble all the inner workings of a subject. This could be why mind mapping works when trying to retain important information, because we learn by associations with the help of our imaginations.
“Retention can be understood as judging, which is concerned with the past and relies on the retentive and productive capacities of the imagination.” (Macready, 2010)
This gives very good insight into the things that shape my attention, as the span of such has always been an issue for me personally. When we truly understand and retain some bit of information our brains instantly connect this building block to other pieces of information to which it may be relevant.
We are constructing the future in our minds, like the archive, our imaginations shape and mold the pieces of our past and present realities.
We dismantle and we troubleshoot, moving dream-blocks and objects from chronological patterns into spatial patterns, forwards or backwards, “Linking certain primary retentions with secondary retentions, consciousness projects protentions, as anticipation.” (Macready, 2010)
Temple, James (2011) ‘All those tweets, apps, updates may drain brain’ San Fransciso Chronicle, April 17, <http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/04/16/BUTO1J0S2P.DTL>
Macready, J. Douglas (2010) ‘The New Revolution: Stiegler and Arendt on Psychopower, Education, and the Life of the Mind’, The Relative Absolute, <http://therelativeabsolute.wordpress.com/2010/12/28/the-new-revolution-stiegler-and-arendt-on-psychopower-education-and-the-life-of-the-mind/>