TNE: Distraction Span: call for contributions

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Call for Submissions

Distraction Span:
Technologies of engagement and opportunities for productive distraction

Cluster curators:
Alex Juhasz, Pitzer College <alex_juhasz[at]>
Brian Goldfarb, UCSD <bgoldfarb[at]>

We invite short, lively, multi-modal work that will kickstart new conversations that sidestep the panic over digital distraction: that is to say, the fear-inducing diagnosis that networked media is rewiring young minds, displacing valuable forms of engagement, and making sustained reflection a thing of the past. There is undeniably something new and challenging about the forms of multitasking and fragmented or interlaced communication that is fostered by the culture of new media. There is also something old about the panic over new forms of media and the perceived wholesale detriment they pose to learning and thinking.

We hope that Distraction Span cluster, on The New Everyday, will provoke both sustained reflection as well as disjointed rapid-fire thought on the topic in order to provide constructive frameworks for thinking about the meaning of digital engagement and distraction especially as they relate to the current debates and struggles over the direction of [public] educational institutions. We call on the participants in this discussion to move beyond distraction panic and offer views on how diverse forms of sociality that are emerging within a culture engaged in networked media can interface with the space of learning institutions.

We seek examples of pedagogic strategies and community media that collaborate with and motivate youth to creatively engage new media. We will ask youth contributors to share what they have made and what they use, how they think abut the media that surround them, and strategies they have developed to be productively distracted. If multitasking is here to stay, if we are increasingly in many places at once, how can we as members of learning communities best be here, and there, simultaneously?

Schools and institutions of higher education have always faced a challenge in attempting to narrow and discipline students’ attention. And it’s fair to say that learning is as much a result of disciplining focus as resistance to discipline. Successful education engages attention at points and encourages it to roam broadly at others.  While use of mobile computing devices and sites like Facebook and YouTube have grown to occupy significant amounts of time, it’s become a challenge to grasp the diverse types of activities and conversations they comprise, the types of connection they foster as well as those they seem to displace or disrupt. One characteristic of this distracted culture is a heightened fluidity between locations, something that is worth considering as we think through the fit between learning and the effects of globalization.

Proposed launch of cluster: late-March. Submissions due March 1. 1000 words (or shorter) and/or multi-modal production at that scale.

Recent articles relating to the topic:

* Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction, part of the NY Times Series: Your Brain on Computers
* The Attention Span Myth
* Multi-Tasking and Continuous Partial Attention
* Teacher Ratings Get New Look, Pushed by a Rich Watcher