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Mind Map of the Digital Age

A new map showing how the digital era is changing our minds and in particular about how new digital objects and environments are re-wiring our brains. Best viewed by people aged 35+ with full-time jobs and teenage kids.

Here’s another map meant to provoke debate. It’s not serious although a few of the issues it raises are. Interestingly, there appears to be an unease building up around everything from the Internet in general to Apple (no longer David but now a Goliath) and Google (when can we expect the next anti-trust case?) so perhaps this is quite timely.

Specific things the map seeks to explore include:

Constant connectivity means we are constantly distracted. It’s now difficult to be truly alone. As a result we never get a chance to think deeply about who we are and where we are going. This links to Nicholas Carr’s point in The Shallows that our thinking is becoming hurried, cursory and superficial. Interesting counter-point here. We have never been so connected and yet U.S. research is showing that we have never felt so alone.

24/7 access to everything is creating a culture that values immediacy over and above almost everything else. We can no longer wait for things to happen. Again, this can give rise to a lack of rigour and reflection but it can also cause serious mistakes. I’d predict a single-tasking movement as a reaction against multi-tasking.

Digitalisation is creating too much information and choice. There is now so much to consider that we take shortcuts to knowledge. The result is a convergence of sources, which may reduce creativity and originality. For example, only 1% of Google searches now proceed past the first page of results and academic papers are now referencing fewer citations–not more as you might expect.

Generational shifts. Teens figure there’s no point in learning anything if you can just Google it. Moreover, trends like digital instant gratification and the shift towards interactive media mean that teens no longer have the patience to sit quietly and read. Does this mean that we are breeding a new generation with plenty of quick answers but very few deep questions? What will this mean for innovation?

Virtualisation means that we are removing the physical interactions that both people and ideas require. (i.e. both people and ideas are inherently social). Companies think that they can scatter people all over the world, give them access to a computer and expect something of great value to happen almost instantly but it rarely does. Will we perhaps see a back-sourcing counter-trend within the world of innovation, especially where R&D becomes concentrated in a single physical location rather then being distributed geographically?

About the author

Richard is co-founder of Essential (essential-design.com), a Boston-based design and innovation firm that specializes in products and services.