Contemplation space and paper books

June 29, 2011

I just wanted to share an observation:

I spent the past two hours in the ALA’s library room, with my printed articles and highlighers and Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together. (I highlighted pretty much the entire chapter on our “tethered self.”) While I read the articles and book, my brain was churning in a way that felt really great — really effective. I had a notepad there — a paper one, of course — and I wrote down insights and thoughts. I even had a great idea for a short story (when was the last time that happened to this would-be writer!) and wrote it all down, by hand. I had lots of thoughts and ideas and was connecting and synthesizing information, but I didn’t feel overwhelmed; I felt eager to keep going and take the next steps.

Then I came back to my computer and it all vanished. Should I e-mail people first, or find another good article first, or whoops I should make a list of stuff I have to do when I get home that’s important before I forget, and oh, wait, what was I doing again? Do I really need all fifteen tabs open in this browser? Which can I close? AHHHHHHHH.

Oh, and I started a blog entry. Whoops.

This is helping me get a grip and get my focus back, of course, and it’s also topical. But it’s true that this is a distraction machine.

Part of it, of course, is my own fault. I can’t blame it on the computer that taking the next step — weaving coherence out of last hour’s potential brilliance — is hard. Still, all these distractions here isn’t making it any easier.

Okay, so, next: read Cognitive Control in Media Multitaskers from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Yeah. I should probably read that.

Also, in Nicholas Carr’s blog (he wrote The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains), I discovered a study that suggests students learn better from paper texts. Check it out. I’ll be reading that shortly, too. But hey, it’s like I was saying!

Maybe I’ll read those back in the library, after I write an outline and some important e-mails.


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