The Peloton Report
Published in

The Peloton Report

Networks are weak at nurturing curiosity

While search technology made the process of seeking the answers to our questions easier and quicker, social technology and our networks have had a paradoxical effort. Has the ease of ‘asking’ numbed our curiosity to investigate unknown knowns for ourselves?

In the peloton, there’s an advantage to being in the mass — you don’t have to cycle as hard to go faster. But there’s a disadvantage, too — you go at the same pace as everyone else. There’s never a different view of things, never that insight to the moment where you should break free and make a run for it. It’s samey.

There’s a strange paradox at work here. We live in an era where information is more freely available and easily accessible than ever before. Learning has, broadly speaking, evolved in three stages.

First, knowledge resided in books or was held by experts. Students had to “knock” — to go looking — to find the answers.

Then came Google, and with it students learned to “seek” because it was right there at their fingertips.

With the advent of Facebook and other social networks, we’ve entered the era of “ask”. Knowledge resides in the minds of the network, so students can just throw out a question on their Facebook page: “Hey guys, how would you answer this question that our professor set?”…Students don’t read lengthy documents — like academic papers — any longer. They don’t go hunting for answers. They just put a question out to their network, sit back and wait for the answers to come their way.

Craig Blewitt. Thanks to Matt Esterman for the initial hat-tip to this.

It’s not just our students who have become this Generation Ask — their teachers, in droves, sit on Twitter asking questions to the network, whose answers are waiting there to be found. The technology of our networks risks turning us into lazy researchers, for one.

But more worryingly, not doing our own homework, our own research, and relying instead on what others perceive to be ‘right’, means that we don’t accidentally rub up against the interesting tangents that always come with one’s own, personal, more time-consuming research.

The unknown unknowns remain untouched in this age of the network, and each individual’s ‘ filter bubble’ merely narrows down those chances further. The more our networks act as a magnifying glass on the loudest voices, the less likely we are to see the bigger picture, the whole context, and gain the depth of understanding we would ideally seek.

Pic by Kate Ter Haar

Originally published at https://edu.blogs.com. July 26, 2015

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Ewan McIntosh

Ewan McIntosh

I help people find their place in a team to achieve something bigger than they are. NoTosh.com