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Intuitive chaos navigation through the narrows and the shallows

September 6, 2011
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:



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  1. Anonymous permalink

    <div dir="ltr">I hadn't thought of the Filter Bubble being an aspect of the Narrows, but of course, makes a lot of sense.?? I've read Nicholas Carr's book the Shallows, and my colleagues and I have discussed it in our weekly Sunday seminars, <a href=""></a&gt;. You can link from there to my blog post on my impressions on the importance of this thesis <a href=""></a&gt;?? and you can listen to the recording of our discussion there if you wish.<br> <br>One of Carr's points is that we are reading too superficially without taking time for deep reflection on what we do, and I suppose this is how I have approached Eli Pariser, since I haven't actually read his book.?? But I have been collecting links to his work, including two interviews (which I have listened to) on NPR's On the Media. These links are here: <a href=""></a><br&gt; <br>The links are also tagged evomlit and multiliteracies (to start answering Robyn's questions about tagging).?? If I want to call any links to your attention I can tag them evomlit and they will appear under the link <a href=""></a&gt;.?? The ending …tag/evomlit means they are everyone's links tagged that way on Delicious.?? In other words if you want to call a link to our attention, like a link to your blog post, for example, you can tag that post evomlit.?? Then we'll find it here: <a href=""></a><br&gt; <br>thanks for the cool references<br><br>Vance<br><br>??<br><br></div>

  2. Anonymous permalink

    <html><body><div style="color:#000; background-color:#fff; font-family:times new roman, new york, times, serif;font-size:12pt"><div><span>I’ve noticed the same too. It happened in print and broadcast – not thinking it would happen in cyberspace would be unrealistic. Here though, the monolithic might be harder to maintain. Users can network, use social media and applications to create and loosely link distributed networks…. think of it as guerrilla computing. Tag everything so the like minded can find you…</span></div><div><span><br></span></div><div><span>Unfortunately many learners and institutions will take the narrow, pre-set path of least resistance… easier and someone else does the mental version of heavy lifting&nbsp;</span></div><div><span><br></span></div><div><span>I look forward to reading what you blog about this</span></div><div><br></div><div style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: ‘times new roman’, ‘new york’, times, serif; "><div style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: ‘times new roman’, ‘new york’, times, serif; "><font size="2" face="Arial"></div></div></div></body></html>

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