Attention spans: the shorter the better

I’ll admit it right up front. I like new stuff. I’m not talking about shiny toys (although I like them, too) I’m talking about ideas. I like the fact that our paradigm seems to shift every couple of months. I like the fact that not only is change ubiquitous but the rate of change is accelerating every day.

For a long time I attributed this to being an early adaptor. But I can’t decide if I’m a true early adaptor or just have a really short attention span.

Historically, having a short attention span hasn’t been particularly useful especially when we had to focus on one job for 20 years and there were only three television channels. But the information age changed that.

People who study human brains say the fire hose of information that confronts us every day is forcing our brains to process information differently. We now live more moment to moment as dictated by the current data stream hitting us in the face.
Could it be that multi-tasking is actually multiple, micro spans of attention oscillating up and down the radio dial of life?

An art director once remarked to me that all photographers have ADD. She said it in a way that implied if I didn’t know this already….well, I must not be paying attention. Maybe she had something. Individual photographs are graphic representations of a moment in time….or span of attention. And we have been dividing reality into 1/60th of a second increments since Henry Bresson’s decisive moment.

Seeing the whole and its parts at the same time is a helpful skill for story-tellers (visual or not). Plucking significant moments out of time requires a thought process that’s part multi-tasking and part short attention span. Thoughts move laterally rather linearly.



~ by keithphilpott on February 29, 2008.

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