Intuitive chaos navigation through the narrows and the shallows
Getting from chaos navigation to intuitive chaos navigation is at the core of the multiliteracies course. The analogy of sipping from a firehose is often used to describe the process, and another analogy I like is the berry bush, where you don’t try to get all the berries, just the ones that are easiest to reach and most appealing. Or fishing, you just take enough to feed your stomach or your economy and don’t worry about the ones you missed. There’s always more down there, but those don’t matter.
Knowledge is like that, and also knowledge comes to us via media. With media that’s second nature like TV, you might have it on while you’re doing something else, or you might sit down to watch a show, but you probably hardly ever think about what is on TV while you’re at work or traveling, what you’ve missed when you couldn’t watch it. I’ve got a stack of newspapers in my house where 99% of what’s in them is unread, so information overload did not come to us with the Internet; it’s just taking us time to accept it as another form of media, most of which we can (due to time constraints, priorities, and interests) ignore. Another aspect of media is that if you miss information that might be useful to you at one time, it’s likely to be repeated, so you’ll pick it up when it comes back around at your convenience. Twitter is a medium that carries such information.
One thread I’d like to pursue here in this course is the “shallows”, the idea that our brains are changing to the point where we are losing the ability to consume media and think about it in depth due to all the hyperlinking, multitasking, and distraction. David Weinberger on the other hand cautions about the “narrows”, distilling all the knowledge inputs that are out there down to a manageable trickle. The shallows is a problem because all the knowledge inputs are indeed overwhelming and appear chaotic. The narrows is in its extreme form an over-reaction to the problem where in Siemens’s terms, a trainer tries to pre-package and designate what s/he expects students to know or do. The narrows is one approach to course design, like teaching swimming in a pool (true people do learn to swim, and few drown). But what’s really out there is the ocean. At some point swimmers might need to confront the ocean, which could be the condition we find ourselves in, in case you feel you are drowning in a sea of information that’s preventing you from getting at the knowledge you need at any given time.
So that’s the problem, which brings us to Robyn’s great question about ” learning through chaos. Is there a way to keep order?” The keys to the solution are in tagging (tags and RSS are ). Let me get a cup of coffee and I’ll address this one in a next post.
If you’d like to get warmed up for it, check out this post from a presentation I gave the summer before last in Brazil, called Tag Games: