Blogs as brains, uh oh

Drs. Fernette and Brock Eide's Neurolearning Blog give us some insight into blogging in Blogs as Our Brains: Can We Escape Chaos?:

The dilemma of the blogosphere as well as our brains is....chaos.

They touch on a couple aspects of blogging and cognition that make things chaotic: tagging, learning preferences, and even organizational skills.  This brief article is just a taste.  Essentially, if the history of the blog reflect our brain, we are in trouble.  One, because we end up finding too much "interesting stuff."  Two, because each of our tagging behaviors will vary, and even an individual's varies over time.  Three, because we have poor organizing skills.

They close out with some comments about the criticality of organizational skills and point readers to other sources.

Organization should be a mandatory educational skill in the 21st century. The need for organization increases with the more information we gain. This sort of skill does take time, but there are tremendous pay-offs at the end.

When I first read this paragraph, I resisted.  But I have to acknowledge that being purposeful in my actions and thoughtful about how I manage things helps me.  I wonder if the resistance is that my image of "teaching organization" doesn't fit with what I believe the skills of personal organization look like.  I'll need to consider this in revamping my knowledge management course for the spring.

[via George Siemens' elearnspace]

5 Comment(s)

I don't buy it. Forced organization only creates guilt and prevents people from using blogs. Just like some people do better with stacks and piles than file folders put away in drawers, not everyone needs an organized brain (or blog). Relevance varies over time, information seeking varies over time and the stage of search... why shouldn't our tools be dynamic? Tags are, by their nature, dynamic -- you don't have to figure out the entire hierarchy in advance and make sure every post falls into the hierarchy... nah, I'm not defensive about my messy desk, blog, and brain :)

jackvinson Author Profile Page said:

Christina, That's exactly why I didn't like the thought of forced organization at first. What I tried (and failed) to communicate is that it is important for people to know who they are and consciously work with that. Know what brings you happiness and what causes stress. Learning styles / personality styles would have to be a big part of "organizational education" if it were to happen.

kris said:

There is the trade-off to consider. Does the liberating freedom of being disorganized outweigh the opportunity costs - especially if there is a group involved and dependent on some form of structure, organization,m and intuition (usability??).

Blogs are typically personal agenda based, so structure is not as important to the writer BUT if building a readership IS important, the audience matters.

Wikis and other collaborative tools ARE group oriented. One of the reasons they are so difficult to adopt by groups, as your post indicates, is the inherent diorganized nature of individuals. We tend to set things up based on our own poerceptions and not in consideration of the group as a whole.

If Tagging is relevant only to the blog or wiki, the 'standardization' is no big deal. It IS frustrating, though, when you try to tag in such a way that it will be easily found but there are dozens of variations on the same topic.

Structured sites like Wikipedia notwithstanding, most of the wiki sites I see do have a chaotic nature about them which is unfortunate. They lose a lot of potential audience that way.

Lumpy said:

I recently heard the author of "The Singularity is Near" on PBS. One of the topics he touched on was that he anticipated microprocessors to be as adept as our brains at pattern recognition in less than 20 years. I find this rather related to this.

Human beings, myself especially, are easily distracted and not well organized. If one considers how well our brains recognize patterns and reason, should this suprize us? People like you, data-miners and search engines allow us to "flow" like that.

I think the Internet has gotten much, much more cluttered over the years. Remember Compuserv and needing a printed book to know where to look? With keyword search engines around now, doing anything that way seems more and more primative. I agree we are, on one hand, "in trouble". The Internet shall become more cluttered.

However, I think search technology will make that aspect of our lives less painful. Now the work envirionment, is an entirely different issue. The challenge there is going convincing workers that data and knowledge organization are required. I fear, as search technology becomes better, the average person is going to expect the machine to handle the management of knowledge. That is the problem that I see.

The act of attempting to organize knowledge, is itself, a step in the process of understanding and applying the knowledge. Regardless of how well we suceed at it, our brains need that step. Without segue, consider that we also have spontaneous ideas sparked by irrelevant events. The cotton mill supposedly arose from its inventor watching a cat try and catch a mouse. Would you google that?

However, after observing this frustrated cat, he did have to know how to find the specific knowledge and materials to build the machine. My point being; creative ideas are great but will never produce a single item without, at some point, needing managed knowlede and data.

What some decry as "chaos" is just a complex system for others, and you can make complex systems tractable by acknowledging that they are complex and not trying to oversimplify ahead of time.

I'm not sure about search engines being much help, at least not search engines in general. (My current favorite search engine is the delicious plugin for firefox, because it leads with pages I've already bookmarked, and half the time I'm looking to remember something rather than to find it anew.)

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