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On this day in 1789 the British Museum was opened. But American author Nathaniel Hawthorne was not impressed, writing disdainfully in his journal nearly a century later: The world is accumulating too many materials for knowledge. We do not recognise for rubbish what is really rubbish, and under this head might be reckoned almost everything one sees in the British Museum. And as each generation leaves its fragments and potshards behind it, such will finally be the desperate conclusion of the learned. (Found in my daily dairy by Jeffrey Kacirk).

 How prescient Hawthorne was. We are surrounded by ever more information (I won’t say knowledge) and it is increasingly hard to separate the wheat from the chaff.

 Corey Doctorow considers Writing as a Distraction in an interesting article and summarises the temptations that constant access to entertainment and sources of information and ideas can provide:

 We know that our readers are distracted and sometimes even overwhelmed by the myriad distractions that lie one click away on the Internet, but of course writers face the same glorious problem: the delirious world of information and communication and community that lurks behind your screen, one alt-tab away from your word-processor.

The single worst piece of writing advice I ever got was to stay away from the Internet because it would only waste my time and wouldn’t help my writing. This advice was wrong creatively, professionally, artistically, and personally, but I know where the writer who doled it out was coming from. Every now and again, when I see a new website, game, or service, I sense the tug of an attention black hole: a time-sink that is just waiting to fill my every discretionary moment with distraction. … I know just how short time can be and how dangerous distraction is.

But the Internet has been very good to me. It’s informed my creativity and aesthetics, it’s benefited me professionally and personally, and for every moment it steals, it gives back a hundred delights. I’d no sooner give it up than I’d give up fiction or any other pleasurable vice.

Someone  said that media literacy was not just about trying to navigate without a map – it’s like trying to find one’s way without signposts. This is, I suspect as true for young people as it is for me, despite their apparent superior  understanding of and sophistication in using digital technologies.

I echo Doctorow’s celebration of the benefits and pleasures of the web, as well as its capacity to seduce one away from deep thinking . I am ever more convinced of the urgent necessity to help learners to negotiate the way they use it so that they may resist its blandishments  (at times anyway)  and use it creatively but judiciously.

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