Noise exhausts me. Particularly background noise. I have a husband who listens to the radio and television at the same time. I have a house full of children who enjoy the hellish din soft play centres. I have to overhear all the problems of my fellow travellers during my twice-daily commute. At times I’ve sat at my desk my my fingers in my ears wishing more people appreciated silence.
When I first started my blog I undertook a lot of research before I wrote each post. That quickly changed given that it took up time I didn’t have and my writing hardly benefited anyway. Since those early days there have been numerous times when I’ve published a blog and some kind hearted soul (I like to think they have good intentions) comments words to the effect of “this has been said before”. I’ve always wanted to know everything, and read as much as I can, yet that achievement has so far evaded me.
My first social media love was Pinterest. When I joined, my husband joked that I pinned so much because I was trying to organise the whole Internet. The crafty nature of Pinterest is the perfect representation of the tension between researching and doing. I spent so long pinning things I would like to make (nearly ten thousand things!) that I never actually made anything.
Clearly the same doesn’t apply to my academic research. After spending 16 years doing HR, I’m definitely ready to indulge in some research. When I first joined the University I found out about a technique called systematic searching. It’s based on the premise that somebody could repeat your research. So rather than randomly wandering around the Internet as most of us do, clicking through information just because it catches our eye, it’s really refining what you’re searching for and recording everything that search brings up. What’s irrelevant is then removed from the perfectly defined whole. Well, it’s perfect until something new is added, probably almost immediately. So even if knowing everything about something is possible, it is only possible momentarily.
This is one of the reasons for the proliferation of the type of “top tip” posts @perrytimms talks about in his latest blog (and yes I posted a similar format last week!). Our human minds, overwhelmed by the deluge of information, see some kind of summary post and think, great! We can spend just two minutes reading something purporting to tell us all the key points. Knowledge imparted. Or should that be opinion.
The danger is that we believe too much in our learning from these sources. We’re lost in the echo chamber, listening to the white noise. We need to be aware of our imperfect knowledge as it is that which leads us to continually reach out to others and learn. Something different, something new is required. Something that carves an area of silence in which to think. Watch this space.