Digital habits*


March 27th, 2010

*With apologies to Nancy White for commandeering the title of her latest book

It’s Saturday afternoon here at Bells Beach. It’s not a particularly pleasant day – it’s grey, drab, damp and uninteresting. Friends who were here for a cycling event have left, the paper’s been read, the dishwasher loaded and gym done. The dodgy hamstring needs icing so I’m sitting on the couch with ¬†an ice pack strapped to my leg. The radio is droning on in the background. Hawthorn versus Melbourne. I think Hawthorn is winning.

And I’m nursing my laptop – cruising a few web sites I haven’t visited for a while and following interesting-looking links. I’ve found some marvellous stuff to read. I’m sure you do the same thing.

Got me thinking about this whole surfing thing (the electronic version, not the stuff that happens on the waves a few hundred metres away at the Bells Beach). And the differences to reading the newspaper. I’ve always read newspapers. Once, I used to buy three different daily papers and I used to watch the news on the telly – often on a couple of different channels to compare. Not any more. I barely have patience for televised news, and not much in the newspaper really catches my attention anymore. Why?

Most of what I read in the newspaper is well, not new. And much of it doesn’t interest me either. And I become increasingly frustrated at the process of the news – where a gatekeeper has determined what it is I should hear or read, who uses statistics and audience segmentation to determine what I should be interested in. In this era of ‘publish then filter’ I am responsible for what media I consume rather than the approach of ‘filter then publish’ where experts make decisions on our behalf of what’s readable and what’s not.

I’m learning to become internet literate. Just as I had to learn a new approach to ‘literacy’ when I took up birdwatching, so I am still learning the new digital literacy. I’m learning how to find trusted sources, and where great writing, photography and illustration lives. I get a thrill when I discover a great new blog, when I read something that stretches my thinking or challenges my perspective. I also find stuff that is appalling, outdated, boring, dull or full of hubris. Some things I don’t ‘get’ and others make me laugh out loud. I’ve made friends on the net – people who I’ve never met – and I’ve developed and deepened existing friendships. I’ve got work and I’ve shared my thoughts and ideas. I’ve helped others and others have helped me. I have access to a huge variety of ideas, thinking, perspectives, possibility. And I’m no longer contented to be a consumer. I see something I like, such as the Hungry Beast segment, and I want to know how it’s done. I want to be able to do it myself. And the really cool thing is that I can do it myself. We all can now. That’s exciting.

And here’s what I love about this photo. It combines wireless internet and live streaming of a conference half a world away, a now out-dated landline telephone, and a similarly outdated radio/CD player, a wireless temperature gauge and the never-outdated skill of baking.

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