Networks, frames, and focus

By now I’m sure someone’s connected a pet collar with an RFID tag to Twitter so that you can follow their cat much more closely than Don Marquis followed Mehitabel.

My own Twitter presence has increased, with more than half my total coming in just the past five weeks. My hunch is that I send out more tweets but in a shorter span of time.   That’s because I don’t have Twitter on all the time — for me, it’s too much like a former job where I worked in a cube farm along with two or three dozen of my closest coworkers.

Sometimes you acclimate to a setting like that, and the voices and sounds blend into white-collar white noise.   For me,   though, that environment can offer far too many invitations to shift attention.

And that’s part of my own difficulty with always-on input from the outside world.

I watch less television because ours is in the basement (and because the technical name for the level of cable service we get is “cheapskate”).   I don’t keep news tickers or market quotes or instant messengers open most of the time.   This isn’t advice for you; it’s recognition of the things that tend to throw me off track.

I slid into these musing at the intersection of two ideas: Kevin Jones’s thoughts on Twitter Brain,    and Andrew Newberg talking about mediation and the brain at SharpBrains.

There’s commonality between the two.   Jones finds that using Twitter causes him to ask about new ideas, “How can I describe this on Twitter?” (meaning, in 140 characters).   Newberg points out that research tells us memory requires attention and the ability to screen out distraction.

Tweets — those that aren’t the “boy, what a great reuben sandwich” kind — require attention and focus, I think.   This morning I was working through my French grammar book, and I could feel the difference between copying an example and writing one of my own.   The latter task demanded more attention.

(It also raised the stress level a bit — not a bad thing for learning — because I don’t have an immediate, reliable source for specific feedback.   My take on that is, okay, my attention is heightened here, and that make make me more receptive when an outside example presents itself.)

Still, not everything fits into the 140-character format, nor should it.   Summarizing the flood insurance training program or the plot of Macbeth in Twitter* might help you clarify the 50,000-foot view, but in many cases you also want greater detail.

* Scots lord, misled by fate or hubris,
murders his way to the throne.
Guilt-ridden, mistrustful, becomes own worst foe.
Lay on, Macduff!

(137 characters)

Looking at that chart, I see the variation and the increase as tracking little social experiments. What has this kind of networking done for me? What could I do with it? And what fits into the frameworks I already use? Newberg has a comment on meditation that I think applies:

My advice for interested people would be to look for something simple, easy to try first, ensuring the practice is compatible with one’s beliefs and goals. You need to match practice with need: understand the specific goals you have in mind, your schedule and lifestyle, and find something practical. Otherwise, you will not stick to it (similar to people who never show up at the health club despite paying fees).

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