Attention Span

I recently heard a story on NPR about technology addiction and the diminishing human attention span; one of the fascinating things discussed was the fact that humans now have a shorter attention span than goldfish (goldfish – 9 seconds, humans – 8 seconds). So much for one of my favorite one-liners: “I have the memory of a goldfish—Oh look, a castle. . .oh look, a castle.” It’s true! This has some pretty scary implications for old-fashioned education.

Technology is to blame: We are so bombarded with fast-paced information that we have to think quicker to decide what is most important to pay quality attention to. Most of it is advertising junk of course, but we don’t know that until we “take a quick look” (which is done unconsciously—beyond our control); it might be important information, and the quicker we are, the safer we are. If you are still reading this blog (one minute to this point), I should count myself lucky! Admit it, you are ready to move on to the next Facebook post, aren’t you?

On the subject of childhood exposure to technology, the interviewee recommended that children be eased into the modern high-tech world through Sesame Street, which has a slower pace. I remember reading a book 20 years ago that warned against that very show, because it was too fast paced!  What are we creating? What are we doing to our kids, and to our future as a species?

I heard another NPR story about the importance of good (and expensive) advertising to get a message out; if it’s not “in your face” it won’t be noticed (and you’ve only got 8 seconds to catch their attention). Great: So much for the “banjo renaissance” that we all hoped for! Any suggestions for how to get the banjo (or any other old and boring art form) “in the face” of tech-driven kids? Therein, Ladies and Gentlemen, lays the gist of the issue!

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