July 26, 2015

The weakness of the network to nurture curiosity

While search technology made the process of seeking the answers to our questions easier and quicker, social technology and our networks have had a paradoxical effort. Has the ease of 'asking' numbed our curiosity to investigate unknown knowns for ourselves?

There’s a strange paradox at work here. We live in an era where information is more freely available and easily accessible than ever before. Learning has, broadly speaking, evolved in three stages. First, knowledge resided in books or was held by experts. Students had to “knock” – to go looking – to find the answers. Then came Google, and with it students learned to “seek” because it was right there at their fingertips.

With the advent of Facebook and other social networks, we’ve entered the era of “ask”. Knowledge resides in the minds of the network, so students can just throw out a question on their Facebook page: “Hey guys, how would you answer this question that our professor set?”...

Students don’t read lengthy documents – like academic papers – any longer. They don’t go hunting for answers. They just put a question out to their network, sit back and wait for the answers to come their way.

Craig Blewitt. Thanks to Matt Esterman for the initial hat-tip to this.

It's not just our students who have become this Generation Ask - their teachers, in droves, sit on Twitter asking questions to the network, whose answers are waiting there to be found. The technology of our networks risks turning us into lazy researchers, for one.

But more worryingly, not doing our own homework, our own research, and relying instead on what others perceive to be 'right', means that we don't accidentally rub up against the interesting tangents that always come with one's own, personal, more time-consuming research.

The unknown unknowns remain untouched in this age of the network, and each individual's 'filter bubble' merely narrows down those chances further. The more our networks act as a magnifying glass on the loudest voices, the less likely we are to see the bigger picture, the whole context, and gain the depth of understanding we would ideally seek.

Pic by Kate Ter Haar


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I understand where you are coming from Ewan in regards to imagining the unknown, but I still feel often unknown unknowns arise out of a clash perspectives and points of view. I really like Clive Thompson's idea of thinking out loud, presented in his book Smarter Than You Know, where he puts the beginnings of new thoughts and ideas out on places like Twitter in order to see what it might bring. A certain openness.

I myself like to 'crowdsource' ideas, not necessarily because I want an 'answer' but instead because I want a more complicated one. For example, I put out the question in regards to 'Feedback' and got a whole range of responses and links, all with there contradictions (http://readwriterespond.com/?p=791).

Maybe I am not the person you are writing about or for, but I think that there is still a place and purpose for network sharing and knowledge.

That's a more sophisticated use of the network than I'd say one normally sees - "who knows...?' and then two minutes later: "Thanks!" :-)

Since the day technology, especially online network, has been evolved, searches & researches have been doubling day by day. The more we step deep into the research, the more we are getting lazy. Well said. Creativity is suffocating. Timely thinking is requisite to come out of it.

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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