Could I interest you in a Memex?

February 7, 2008 · · Posted by Greg Lloyd

Today Weblogged News (Will Richardson) has a thoughtful post "Proficiency in Tossing Stuff Out", reflecting on Thomas Washington's essay in the Christian Science Monitor. Washington says: "The pursuit of knowledge in the age of information overload is less about a process of acquisition than about proficiency in tossing stuff out."

"I suspect that the tipping point in information overload has tipped. Students' aversion to reading does not necessarily signal a weakness, much less a dislike of reading. For them, and now maybe for me, moving on to something else is an adaptive tactic for negotiating the jungle that is our information-besotted culture of verbiage." -- We're on information overload, Thomas Washington

Will adds a personal example:

Yesterday I did a couple of RSS sessions in Elluminate for the PLP cohorts and I found myself talking more about what I don’t read than what I do read. I’m guessing that I scan through about 80% of what comes into my Google Reader, actually read a few full paragraphs and note or tag or move another 15%, and do a “deep” read (and perhaps write, as in this case) of the remainder. -- "Proficiency in Tossing Stuff Out", Will Richardson

Exactly - a good example. It’s important not to confuse “reading comprehension” and “skillful navigation of a bewildering store of knowledge”. You can and should safely discard 80% of what you scan for information - holding on to the momentarily important item when you find it, and reading deeply when it matters - or when it gives you pleasure. Concerns on how to cope with information overload are far from new. Could I interest you in a Memex?

The difficulty seems to be, not so much that we publish unduly in view of the extent and variety of present day interests, but rather that publication has been extended far beyond our present ability to make real use of the record. The summation of human experience is being expanded at a prodigious rate, and the means we use for threading through the consequent maze to the momentarily important item is the same as was used in the days of square-rigged ships. -- As We May Think by Vannevar Bush, Atlantic Monthly, July 1945

I believe that students becoming more skillful navigators, more comfortable with the technology that enables them find, keep and share what’s important on a global scale is cause for celebration! Learning when as well as how to read deeply should be taught, but this deeper than a SAT “reading comprehension” skill.

The "momentarily important item ..." is one of my all time favorite quotes!

See also The Evolution of Personal Knowledge Management
Use of Weblogs for Competitive Intelligence | First International Business, Technology CI Conference, Tokyo Oct 2005

Not to mention a bunch of juicy posts from my internal blog mentioning people and circumstances I don't have time to redact. Maybe later ...

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