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November 23, 2010

Impulsive concentration

"(W)hen that kind of focus springs to life - when interest becomes visceral, when caring becomes palpable, when you're so focused on something that the rest of the world melts away - the learning that results tends to be rich and sticky and sweet. The kind that you carry with you throughout your life. The kind that becomes a part of you. The kind that turns, soon enough, into wisdom.

It's a kind of learning, though, that can't be forced - because it relies for its initial spark on something that is as ineffable as it is intense. Interest has a way of sneaking up on you: One day, you're a normal person, caring about normal things like sports and music and movies - and the next a Beatles song comes on the radio, and suddenly you're someone who cares not just about sports and music and movies, but also about the melodic range of the sitar. Even if you don't want, necessarily, to be somebody who cares about the melodic range of the sitar. Interests are often liberating; occasionally, they're embarrassing. Either way, you can't control them. They, in fact, control you."

Quote from Megan Garber in Attention vs. distraction - What that big New York Times story leaves out

And here's that big New York Times story: Growing up digital, wired for distraction I couldn't bring myself to read the whole thing, because I am so sick of being told that my ability to multi-task is a bad thing, and that I can't concentrate because I'm under 25. (I'm blogging this in between editing photos, updating E24, and keeping up with Twitter, and I think I'm doing ok).

Garber sums up the counter-argument perfectly here:

"(T)he digital era is bringing a new kind of empowerment not just to interest, but to aversion. The web is a space whose very abundance of information - and whose very informational infrastructure - trains our attention to follow our interests."

(That's why online headlines have to be straightforward.)

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Posted by Julie at November 23, 2010 2:24 PM

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