Digital life lesson número uno:
Post something before the deadline, add content later, before the professor reads it! I did this on a digital exam, handed in the link on a friday at 1300 hour and finished up the content during the weekend. Great success, A+ on the project!
Life lesson número uno: People like to chill in the weekends, exploit this fact of life when you can! 16 hours until I am “fucked”, but now quiz!
Digital Mindfulness and other Distractions^^
Let start this wannabe academic blog by saying something smart, interesting and illuminating about Howard Rheingold’s Net Smart.. Sounds like a good plan?
Ait, Yo let’s go then!
First of all, before you read the next passage I ask you to think about this one thing: How or what comes to mind when you hear the word literacy?
If you read this Rheingold’s point might be valid and if you don’t, this passages of words might prove a bigger point. Literacy is a skill, but in the introduction of Net Smart, Rheingold makes the point that it’s something more. To be literate in a digital world one needs the skill plus social competency in using that skill collaboratively. Let’s now imagine that you did not mark this paragraph and jumped straight to the next passage thinking I had spaced or tab-ed trough this space on the screen. My communication with you would not be successful, you’re ability to read and my ability to write to you would fail in a literacy sense, and maybe both of us would be classified as digital nonliterates?
Second “what matters the most with present-day new literacies are not just the encoding and decoding skills and individual needs to know to join the community of literates but the ability to use those skills socially, in concert with others, in an effective way.” Meaning if you did not read the hidden text in the paragraph above but everybody else did, you would be an digital nonliterate, but not me!? What I’m getting at here is that literacy in a digital world is much more than semiotics and rhetorical virtues. To really master the five literacies that are in the process of changing our world, Rheingold say we need the know-how of “attention, participation, collaboration, the critical consumption of information (aka “crap detection”), and network smarts.” If we as a society fail at this task, “we could end up drowning ourselves in torrents of misinformation, disinformation, advertising, spam, porn, noise, and trivia”
That quite enough, Mr. Rheingold! My internal crap detector is making me dizzy, let’s jump ahead to attention and digital mindfulness.
TRANQUILO POR FAVOR!
In the last 50 years the idea of Zen and mindfulness has grown to be a part of the Western culture, so I guess it was about time that somebody pivot the concept towards our awareness and on screen attention.
Nothing wrong with that Mr. Rheingold, please tell me more!
First of all, or third if your being all Nazi about my sentence connectors, the most important step towards mindfulness, in any field, is being aware of what’s happening to your thinking. Or as the Zen guru Jon Kabat-Zinn puts it “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose”
If we want to gain control of our attention we need to be attentive!
As with all kind of training some is immeasurably more useful than none at all, and when it comes to mindfulness your breathing is a good place to start. Attentiveness starts with focus, start by focusing on your breathing and let it become a stepping stone towards [ x in focus ]
Some people claim that one have to do something 13 times for it to become a habit, others claim it takes 21 days. How long it takes doesn’t really matter that much, the overall point is that if you start changing shit up, it will soon enough become a habit. Keeping that in mind while being attentive to your breathing, ask yourself this question. Did I waste any time on-screen today? Did I waste any of my limited time on this earth doing stuff that was not enjoyable, important or useful in any way? If your answer is no, I would make the argument that reading this text makes you a liar, but then again who am I to make this kind of claim.
If we start to analyze our life on screen we would all find situations where we are engulfed or distracted by stuff that is not really important. We can use tinder swiping as an analogy of sorts. In our everyday life we all have moments were we are swiping through all kind of information more or less automatic without thinking too much about the information we are processing and why we chose left or right. This is as true with Highway hypnosis as it is with Tinder, we are operating on a superficial level with little to none conscious attention on the task at hand and the choices we make. This is in turn made possible by the new technology we are using in our daily life, and the more autonomous an technology becomes, less “brainpower” is needed to operate it. What this all boils down to is the argument that we are becoming a group of mindless zombies incapable of any deep reflections, at all.
This text is dragging on, and I’m not really making any direct references to the reading material or the other subjects this text were supposed to reflect upon. Am I myself becoming a blog zombie-bot with incoherent blabber without any deep reflection on the subject at hand. It would seem so, especially now, at this hour. Let’s wrap this shit up ASAP, so I can get some sleep. No point in making the first text good, then there is no way to go but down.
Let’s end this blog post with life lesson número dos : Never be too good in the beginning, start out low. Everybody likes a underdog who are achieving greatness through hard work and perseverance!
That’s all folks
No wait, there is more..
Yes, that’s true. I just remembered that I had some thoughts about how Rheingold explains alpha waves and attention. In my experience using a Ganglion – Brain Computer Interface to record EEG, high alpha waves is more about synchronization than attention or “letting go”. When Rheingold is describing how he relaxed and let go, he is making sense and this is true-ish, but it would make more sense to explain it in an different way.
At all times our mind is involved in information processing, we are thinking, looking, feeling, tasting.. and so on.. We have an overflow of inputs that our brain are processing on a spectrum of different wavelengths.Even if we are concentrating with good focus, the neurons in our brain are usually calculating different things. The “information capacity” of our brain is high, but with many different conversations occurring between neurons. When we for instance close our eyes our brain goes into a much easier processing pattern and many of the inputs that used to vary are now all saying, it’s dark.
At this point our alpha waves would become “strong” in the sense that we are focused or synchronized around a single though/idea/concept. The other truth is that this synchronization makes the process of recording the EEG signals much easier and here we can use the stadium allegory.
“Imagine a stadium during half-time where everyone is having conversations between themselves. If you are outside the stadium, all you hear is a formless hum of noise. There are many interesting things being said (probably), but you can’t detect it outside the stadium.”
“However, imagine when all the participants in the stadium are doing the same thing, such as the singing of a national anthem.* We can certainly hear the song, though distorted, outside the stadium. This is analogous to the slow waves your brain generates while in deep sleep or the alpha waves the visual cortex generates when your eyes are closed.”
“The loudest event we can detect outside the stadium is when a “goal” occurs, as a huge population inside the stadium all scream very loudly at exactly same time. When large populations of neurons in your brain do this (all firing action potentials at the same time), it is called epilepsy, and it is very dangerous.”
“With both the national anthem and the goal events, we can say people in the stadium are very “synchronized” with “low information.” We can observe similar synchrony in the brain, but we do not need to go to sleep ” (Thanks to backyardbrains for the nice illustrations and text)
So It’s not so much the the act of “letting go” that is resulting in the strong alpha waves, as the synchronization of electrical activity over the visual cortex. All that being said, Rheingold’s larger point is valid and when one is entering a state of synchronization ones though are focused towards one idea. How this relates to mindfulness and neurofeedback is perhaps a subject for a later blog post. Intention is also a big part of brain wave research, more on all this later.
We need to work on the academic, smart, interesting and illuminating sides to this blog!
That’s also true, but enough now!
*Oohh* like you’re the one in charge! Eat this sucka!