Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
One problem thought, is that the ease of all this information at our fingertips, turns us all into the sort of gatherers of "shiny nuggets" of information that we fancy.

You say that as if it were a bad thing.  I live for my shiny nuggets.  They are the driving force of my life.  I treasure my little hoard of shiny nuggets.  They are what give my life meaning.

I am reminded of the elementary school I attended as a child.  It was a small, rural school.  Class sizes were very small by today's standards.  Four teachers managed eight grades.  First and second grade in one classroom, third and fourth in another, and so on.  In each classroom one teacher alternated their time and attention to one class and then the other.  That meant the students had a certain amount of free time in class each day.  We could spend it reading, doing our homework, whatever, as long as we didn't disrupt the class or call untoward attention to ourselves.

In each of the upper classrooms the centerpiece of the room was a freestanding bookcase holding a World Book Encyclopedia.  Those World Books drew me like a magnet.  I spent many, many hours of class time just browsing one volume after another.  I was fascinated, then as now, by anything mechanical or scientific.  If the illustrations captured my interest I would read some or all of the articles.  As an added bonus, references in one article sometimes led me to other interesting articles.  I reckon I learned as much from those World Books on my own initiative as I did from the formal classwork.  They were a a great treasure of my childhood.  

Years later, when those World Books were retired from their place of honor in the classrooms, the principal of the school gave me one entire set as a gift.  He had been our seventh and eighth grade teacher when I passed through those grades and he remembered how much pleasure they had given me.  I still have the set to this day.  And I still treasure the many hours of fascination and the many shiny nuggets of information they afforded a lonely and introverted child those many years ago.

They set me on a path toward eclectic generalism that has stood me in good stead my whole life.  Over the years I have held a number of jobs in different fields by learning as I go.  Like those World Books, each new job has served as a learning experience that has left me better able to cope with the next that came along.  And my little hoard of shiny nuggets continues to grow to this day.

Oh, and these days I find myself browsing Wikipedia very much like I did those World Books.  One interesting article often leads to another and another and...  Looking up a simple fact often times turns into a great learning adventure taking up half an afternoon if I'm not careful.  

We all bleed the same color.

by budr on Sun Feb 4th, 2007 at 02:38:02 PM EST
Actually I do not know if it is a bad thing or not. It seems different thought.

I guess I was a bit inspired by this Boingboing post I read a bit back, about the changing patterns of reading, as witnessed by a high school librarian:

I also wonder what will happen to the products of our culture, if nothing is whole, everything is connected, derivative, and a reference to something else. It seems to me that by consuming and creating fragments, we are not putting ourselves into our products any more, only our interaction with other fragments.

Not sure if this makes any sense. And I am not really certain how I feel about it. Generally I see the increased interconnectedness of our world as a great thing, I just felt like exploring the negative aspects a bit.

by Trond Ove on Sun Feb 4th, 2007 at 07:12:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Your concern is very valid I think, as is the librarian's in the Boingboing post.  I was being a little bit facetious in going on about my shiny nuggets.

But not entirely.  I think the concerns expressed by the librarian, and perhaps yours as well, have more to do with the quality and accessibility of general education than with the ready availability of online information.  If all our young people have is an endless stream of trivia online, on TV, and in their classrooms,  it is no wonder that they don't read and don't have any sort of framework to put their shiny nuggets into perspective.

I think the wide spread availability of information online is on balance a good thing.  I think having the educational background to put that information to good use is a much larger and more important issue.

We all bleed the same color.

by budr on Sun Feb 4th, 2007 at 07:47:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
To add to that, there is so much information and so many topics available that although you can chose a few areas to specialise in, there would never be a hope of coming across a fraction of it all, if we didn't have those shiny nuggets in places like wikipedia.

Acknowledging the limitations of wiki, it at the very least introduces you to new things. And should you be inspired enough you have the choice of following it up in depth.

But absolutely, the constant stream of trivia coming at us all makes it far too easy to allow short attention spans and a preference for easy chunks of information to rule how we learn.  The skills to concentrate and critically analyse what we are reading are extremely important and the key issue is around whether or not this is being taught/encouraged properly.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Mon Feb 5th, 2007 at 07:34:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I also spent my childhood with Encyclopedia. I was asking my mother to bring me volumes of it from her work and she had to carry as many as 3 heavy books in her handbag instead of bread or sausages.

Since I got my first salary I began buying books but given my nomadic lifestyle it was difficult to arrange big library - I had to leave many books in my relatives houses.

That's why I am fascinated by Wikipedia with easy access from my laptop. Now anybody can look up Wiki and other reference works and find everything from medical science and latest political and economical developments to history of obscure Indian castes or South American tribes.

Diffusion of specialist knowledge or how it was called by Alvin Toffler shift from muscle power to knowledge power return us to the age of enlightened gentlemen who developed science as a hobby. It's not yet clear what kind of effects on XXI century society will be. I only hope that old fashioned concepts like 'nation state' will be weakened.


by FarEasterner on Mon Feb 5th, 2007 at 03:57:57 PM EST
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