Researching Contemplation

June 14, 2011

I’m blogging to you today from the American Library Association Office of Information Technology Policy in Washington, DC, where I have been finding, downloading, and reading articles related to the issue of “contemplation,” or space to think away from connections and distractions, why we should promote it (the easy question) and how to do so (the harder question).

Even though I have a perfectly good computer here to read them on, I printed the articles out. I did this for two reasons: first, because I wanted to interact with the articles — mark them up with my multi-colored highlighter set and write comments and stars and emoticons in the margins; second and more importantly, because if I were reading them on the computer, I’d be distracted. So I took the articles, my notebook, and my highlighter into the office’s little library room and sat there and read them.

This worked great (as I learned in grad school), but it wasn’t perfect, and the imperfection rested in me and my brain. “Oh wow, this is so interesting,” I thought. “I want to look up this person right now. I want to find this other article he mentioned. I want to know what the weather is going to be like tomorrow. Oh look, it’s talking about how middle-aged people think they’re already having senior moments; I want to e-mail that to my mom who is afraid she’s got early-onset Alzheimer’s, but I’m like that too at age 28 and so this this author! Oh gee, I just thought of a better way to think about something I was worrying about; I should make a note of that. Wait, I’m not focusing!”

That was my thought process as I sat there and tried to focus on the effects of digital technologies on our abilities to focus.

I decide to take a corner of my notepad (intended at first for thoughts directly related to my research) and jot down everything that comes to mind that is irrelevant so it will feel sufficiently “dealt with” for now, and then try to go back to my reading. But then my eye caught a print edition of the Washington Post. “Oh look, look at the headline; that looks interesting. Ugh, I’m so distracted right now; this would be a perfect entry in my blog. I should write about this. And hey, I wonder what the weather is going to be like tomorrow.”

I clearly have a personal interest in this topic.

I’m too young to be having “senior moments.” What I have is a Millennial brain, and I don’t think this is limited only to members of the Millennial generation.

(P.S. Stop calling us Gen-Y, researchers! That is so incredibly uninspired.)

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