Attention Is Not a New Idea
Thanks to everyone who participated in yesterday’s discussion of Creativity with a Capital C as described by the criteria set out by Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who also wrote Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. As I enjoy rereading this favorite in this new time, I hope you’ll stay with me.
Unlike instinct, learning must be acquired by every new person again and again. As a culture gains more information, individuals must pay more attention or focus in on narrower domains of study. As a culture gets more complex subdomains become too huge for one person to assimilate.The more mature the culture, the more it favors specialized knowledge.
Csikszentmihalyi points out that
Nobody knows who last Renaissance man really was, but sometime after Leonardo da Vinci it became impossible to learn enough about all of the arts and sciences to be an expert in more than a small fraction of them. Domains have split into subdomains, and a mathematician who has mastered algebra may not know much about number theory, combinatorix, topology — and vice versa. . . . now all of these special skills tend to be acquired by different people.
Therefore it follows that as culture evolves, specialized knowledge will be favored over generalized knowledge.
Consider three people — a community builder, an event planner, and a social media manager. The first two need to focus their attention on studying one thing. Their jobs are defined and somewhat narrow. The social media manager must study both of those areas plus many others.
We need to master a domain before we can innovate or create new ideas. As domains add more information, experts are forced deeper into narrower bits.
Mature markets form niches — it’s the natural evolution. Limited attention limits our options. To know anything well we must focus on less.
At the moment, the social media market is young and not well understood. Relatively little information is available. As more information is added to the common pool, it becomes less possible for one person to be fluent in all of it.
Do you see social media domain splitting? Are social networking sites becoming more specialized? What we will be when the social media market grows up?
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Work with Liz!!