Friday, May 7, 2010

Skills at Ignoring and Filtering

black locust tree in bloom

I've been wondering if selective attention can be tied to information literacy.

Here is what I mean: When people interact with information, sometimes that information is

(1) Redundant (already known)

For example, this week while driving on the highway, I hit a clod of dirt that had fallen off a dump truck, and it knocked a fog light loose. I realized this directly after it happened because an alert went off, so I pulled over, got out of the car, and discovered the problem. I have ordered the replacement bulb. The car drives fine. But now every time I start the car, I get various A/V alerts that one of my lights is not working. I'm to the point where I'm tuning them out. Does this sound familiar to those who have to click through various known messages every day?

(2) Irrelevant (not needed)

For example, what if, on the fifth or sixth time visiting the same web page, you were given the option to rearrange the page elements in whatever way you chose? Wouldn't that be great? That way you could put all the things you actually use where it made sense for them to be. I for one catch myself repeating the same computer tasks according to habit. Once I've spent the time and energy figuring out how to accomplish something on the computer, I tend to do the same thing over and over again rather than figuring out how to do it a different way. (Unless I'm bored.) I realize it helps to acknowledge when we're doing this, so that we can encourage ourselves to notice things we may be missing, but unless there's a compelling reason it can be difficult to find the incentive for change.

Maybe in environments that are saturated with information, being skilled at ignoring is as important as being skilled at paying attention.

I'm still working on how this relates to the library. Apart from trying to be relevant instead of just more noise.

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