In this article, the author suggests that since our way of consuming information is changing, browsing the web versus reading a book, the way we process geographical information is also changing to appeal to academics with shorter attention spans than their predecessors. For a very long time, it was believed that once the brain learned something, it was wired to remember it in a certain way. However, this isn't always the case.
|Retrieved from learning.blogs.nytimes.com|
Recent studies have shown that if information can be gained in a way that’s less time consuming, the brain changes to remember it in this simpler way. This is referred to as brain plasticity. While using the internet to learn things is much easier, the internet is also very distracting, which can change the productivity of our learning or work output. Richer countries that have consistent access to the internet have a multitude of information at their fingertips, but that can get extremely overwhelming and distracting. The internet is actually making people less attentive.
|Retrieved from nytimes.com|
In fact, scientists have concluded that the more overloaded the brain is with information, the less rational that person is. In this sense, our brains do act like computers. The more working memory (RAM) our brains have, the quicker they can come to a rational decision because they aren't processing other information in the background.
|Screenshot of nytimes.com|
This process is evident everywhere in the world. Are you more likely to check out the 8 page article discussing climate change or the 200 page article? The 2 page description of your illness or the 50 page description? The map with 5 location aids in the legend or 40? It’s much easier and quicker for the brain to process and remember less information. In other words, if we can get away with being informed and lazy, that’s the route we take.
Unfortunately, we can be manipulated with this practice. Many news stories these days have scandalous or misleading headliners because that’s all that some people have time to read. If you actually dive into the article, the title doesn't always accurately pertain to the text.
When looking at geography with this in mind, brevity is increasingly favored to make using a map easier. While this is helpful, it’s also disheartening and misleading because oftentimes, there’s much more information to share but that cannot be expressed quickly enough to please those short attention spans. This new distracted way of learning has changed people from looking at small random details rather than the big picture and has introduced a way of presenting information to the public, but lying about it.
|This map is misleading because it appears that CA, TX, FL, and NY are extremely dangerous places to live, when in actuality, the population is just much higher in these states than the surrounding "safer" states. Retrieved from Wikipedia.|
|This map is much more descriptive of actual state safety because it shows crimes per 100,000 citizens. Retrieved from Wikipedia.|
Schuurman, N. (2013). Tweet Me Your Talk: Geographical Learning and Knowledge Production 2.0. The Professional Geographer, 65(3), 369-377.