Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Multiple Information Streams, Self-Motivation, and the Outcomes

Dana Boyd in her Web 2.0 Expo talk Streams of Content, Limited Attention: The Flow of Information through Social Media brings up some interesting thoughts as to the value of capturing shrinking attention spans by both businesses and individuals.

Within the rarity of sustained attention, other factors than limited time and having too many options come into play. When considering a more open access to data via the internet, one's attention will not always be placed on content that is most substantial or fact based:

We may be democratizing certain types of access, but we're not democratizing attention. Just because we're moving towards a state where anyone has the ability to get information into the stream does not mean that attention will be divided equally....Some in the room might immediately think, "Ah, but it's a meritocracy. People will give their attention to what is best!" This too is mistaken logic. What people give their attention to depends on a whole set of factors that have nothing to do with what's best.

She then goes on to say:
Our bodies are programmed to consume fat and sugars because they're rare in nature. Thus, when they come around, we should grab them. In the same way, we're biologically programmed to be attentive to things that stimulate: content that is gross, violent, or sexual and that gossip which is humiliating, embarrassing, or offensive. If we're not careful, we're going to develop the psychological equivalent of obesity. We'll find ourselves consuming content that is least beneficial for ourselves or society as a whole.

Boyd then goes on to discuss having multiple information options also results in selecting sources that look and think like we do, therefore limiting valuable, serendipitous encounters with differing ideas and concepts. However, that is a later post. :-)

Finally, I understand that what is considered "valuable" information is subjective. In my view, the determining factor is not "limited attention" but rather what motivates us to direct our limited attention to the information streams we select.  Are we constantly drawn toward and given to the siren songs of gossip, violence, and sex? I think a valid question is, are the content streams you consume beneficial for you let alone society as a whole?

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

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