E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

From the blog

Whatever Happened to Critical Thinking?

Gran Canaria - Guayadeque in the winter

One of the biggest challenges I have been facing in the last couple of weeks, upon resuming my blogging mojo, while reducing my own online presence in different media tools, has been re-building my own blogroll. Remember them? They were a really cool way to help you build community, through wonderful interactions and connections via comments, trackbacks, pingbacks and what not, around the stuff you were truly passionate about and loved writing on and on and on. They were, and still are!, one of the core founding elements of the so-called Web 2.0 spirit that, 22 years later, is still very much alive and kicking. Or so I thought, because trying to update my own blogroll has been quite a daunting task, not necessarily because of the quantity, but more because of the lack of quality, or, better said, lack of critical thinking, if I may say that. Whatever happened to it? Where did we leave it behind?

While going through the different blogs I was subscribed to over the course of last few years, trying to see which ones were still being updated on a more or less regular basis, I found out how plenty of them no longer were having recent, fresh content (say, in the last 6 months or so). And that was pretty ok, because upon checking their different Twitter accounts I was finding out that plenty of those bloggers have moved their blogging into someone else’s homes (Facebook, LinkedIn’s Pulse, Medium, etc. etc.). Too bad I can no longer use RSS news feeds to subscribe to them. You know, ‘RSS still works. It’s still free. It’s still unfiltered, uncensored and spam-free‘.

What was most worrying though was how plenty of those bloggers who are still blogging away in their own blogs weren’t, in most cases, sharing some of their own original thoughts, ideas or experiences about what was motivating them to write and reflect on in the first place. Instead, they were just regurgitating the content shared across from a small group of social media gurus, always the very same group, ironically enough!, hoping those blog posts would trigger, in the shortest time possible, some kind of ‘engagement’. Yikes! Why?

Busyness just trumped blogging’, was my first initial reaction thinking that, when knowledge (Web) workers are just too frantically busy, they stop thinking, reflecting or musing about different topics and, eventually, stop focusing on building up on what’s still considered one of the most paramount skills from any good blogger out there: critical thinking. Instead, we just ‘rant about politics and share cat pictures‘.

Mark Schaefer couldn’t have said it better as well on a recent article he published on this very same topic around critical thinking. To quote him: 

Although we have the infinite opportunity to learn and consider opposing views, the level of critical thinking may be no better today than the people who had access to no information in the 1800s. We’re too busy to think, too busy to dig for truth.

Ouch! That seriously hurts, but he’s got a really great point with that reflection, because, that’s exactly what we have been doing in the last 3 to 5 years with all of these so-called social tools. Somehow, somewhere down the line we all, collectively, decided to become the media. Actually, better said, we decided to become the mindless media commenting and regurgitating the very good old same discourse from that handful of social media gurus and celebrities, except that, in the process, we were determined to include tons of bullying, trolling, hate speech and, eventually, tons of hatred, specially, when we are confronted with opposing views to our comfort zone of thought. It’s just like we can no longer dissent with people in a healthy, constructive and critical thinking driven manner without being insulted in the process a few times here and there. And insulted doesn’t refer to just using foul language, but also to simple things just like ‘Oh, sorry, you are totally wrong’ or way off base just because you think completely different than what me and my social media gurus and celebrities think! Oh my my! 

I guess it must be rather tiring, and exhausting!, for those social media gurus to hear, or read, their own regurgitated thoughts by the thousands and thousands of times from their own minions, but I guess it’s something they have already gotten used to it, as they have already reached celebrity status and, of course, they need a mindless, vilified audience, more than anything else, because it’s easier to manage, even if by merely ignoring the whole thing, while driving traffic to their own personas. Good or bad, traffic volume still is where the game is at, apparently and sadly.

Mark himself highlights what may well be the problem when he writes: ‘We have more information at our fingertips than at any other time in history and the technology may be depressing our ability to think, process, and think critically’. Well, maybe. But somehow I keep thinking it may well not be technology per se the one to blame, but, once more, ourselves. We’ve always been very good at blaming the tools when they help us demonstrate, time and time again, our very own dysfunctional behaviours, more than anything, because, once we do that, we feel we no longer need to do anything else. You know, it’s the tools that don’t work, not us! It’s always the tools. Well, no, it’s not the tools to be blamed, but our very own behaviours, I am afraid.

We have stopped to think, process and think critically, as Mark mentions, because we are just too busy to build on our own thoughts and experiences and it’s much easier to build on everyone else’s, specially, when they are in our dear and beloved echo chamber (Retweets or reshares anyone?), and if it comes with a certain taint of celebrity status all the better. We no longer think, we just become amplifiers, for good or bad, although in most cases it’s for bad, because we seem to rejoice ourselves from that morbid sense of enjoying more of the bad news than the good news

But fear not, there is hope out there for us all to revert course, before it’s just too late. Actually, more than hope, there’s plenty of help going from excellent resources and recommended reads like ‘Net Smart’ by Howard Rheingold (I can strongly recommend as well this video clip on Crap Detection 101 (25 minutes long)) or the wonderful online course from Harold Jarche about #PKMastery. We just need to become, once more, the critical thinkers we once were, at least, at our very own online home(s), i.e. our own blog(s), more than anything else because we need to start rebuilding on that very much needed skill of questioning everything.

My good friend, Anne Marie McEwan, once wrote that critical thinking is a ‘complex process of deliberation, which involves a wide range of skills and attitudes’ along with ‘checking for bias’, but she also ventured to state what critical thinking is all about and I just thought I’d take the liberty of adding a teaser here highlighting what she then gets to develop in more detail in this rather insightful and thought provoking article about acquiring and mastering such rather helpful and very much needed skill. Critical Thinking is: 

  • ‘A systematic approach to scoping and identifying the interacting elements of a strategic problem
  • Assessing risks in the process
  • Challenging assumptions (our own and those of other people)
  • Evaluating strategic options from among alternatives
  • Identifying and defending selection criteria
  • Reflecting on effects of paradoxes, constraints and incomplete knowledge
  • Using evidence to draw valid and justifiable conclusions in making a case for action’

So why am I writing about all of this, you may be wondering, right? Well, more than anything else as a reminder to myself to resist the urge of amplifying and, instead, fight the good fight of never conforming, of questioning everything, or understanding how critical both empathy and caring are when applying your very own critical thinking skills about what happens around you, whether at work or in your personal life and that, if anything, we always have a choice in terms of what kind of online digital footprint we would want to establish, treasure, cultivate and nurture over the course of time. Either regurgitating someone else’s thoughts and ideas that you may, or may not agree with, or, through sensemaking, build your own at your own home turf. The home you never left.

Our choice.

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10 comments

    1. Hi Dennis, thanks a lot for dropping by and for the great comments! I take you shared a similar comment twice thinking the first one didn’t go through. They were trapped in the spam queue and just approved both of them. Let me know if you’d want any of the two to be removed, please.

      Yes, I couldn’t have agreed more with you on that statement of spending a lot less time in media tools. I’m doing that myself for a good few weeks and enjoying the result: tons of extra time to spend it doing other, perhaps, more interesting things, like outdoor activities, reading more, blogging more, and the usual work of freelancing I’m certain you are well familiar with. It’s funny to think how much time we use to spend at someone else’s home giving up on our very own spaces, and really glad I’m getting plenty of that back!

      Hope it will sustain itself for a good while! That seems to be the new challenge at the moment 😀 heh

      1. yes drop the second

        the other thing that is taking time is my transitioning to a new blogging platform that is much more friendly to mobile — going from Squarespace 5 to Squarespace 7. That last 5% of the transfer is taking more than 50% of the time but the results are worth it I think.

        1. Many thanks, Dennis, for the heads up! I have now removed the duplicate comment. Oh, yes, I know what you mean in terms of the move of blogging platforms. I went through the same exercise a while ago and, eventually, I found it so daunting with the little time I had left I decided to stick around with WordPress and make use of the shiny mobile plugins available and so far so good! Fingers crossed…

  1. Yes I agree! With more and every kind of information available, the need of critical thinking is more than ever before,so that we can filter the truth out of random content . This needs to be taught especially to our children, who are more vulnerable to all kinds of ideas, opinions and information floating around on the Internet. Moreover, regarding social media, the farther you distance yourself from it, the more learning opportunities you have!

    1. Hi Zainab, many thanks for dropping by and for the kind comments! It’s greatly appreciated. I supposed you shared one comment after the other thinking the first one may not have gotten through, if that’s the case, please do let me know and I’ll remove one of them. Both were caught on the spam queue and had to approve them, which I have just done. Sorry for the inconvenience…

      I am really glad you have mentioned how we need to educate children on making sense of the (Social) Web for a smarter use of the social tools available, because coincidentally, a good friend of mine, and long time KM blogger, Lilia Efimova, just blogged about this very same need about #PKM for kids (PKM as in Personal Knowledge Mastery coming from Personal Knowledge Management) from a Twitter conversation she had with another good friend, Harold Jarche, who is just about to resume his excellent online course around #PKMastery.

      If you ask me, schools, colleges and universities, etc. you name it, should have such online, or face to face, course to share and educate our kids on working smarter, not necessarily harder making use of these media tools, but then again it shouldn’t just be restricted to kids. Adults should take such course(s) as well. I have done that myself a couple of years back and it was one of the best online courses I could have ever taken. Highly recommended and by far from any other course on a similar topic!

      Thanks again for the wonderful feedback! 😀👍🏻

  2. Hi Luis — I share your interest in critical thinking and blog about it at gtraviswhite.com/critical-thinking. I’m not sure how to use a blogroll but, if you can give me a brief tutorial, I’d be happy to link up with you. Cheers, Travis White

    1. Hi Travis, thanks very much for dropping by and for the kind comments! Greatly appreciated! I just read through your blog post on critical thinking and I enjoyed it very much, not only because of this quote ‘Critical thinking is also thinking about knowing’, but also because of how it permeates throughout the entire piece that important notion of question everything in order for critical thinking to come out in our conversations. Splendid! Thanks again for adding further up into the conversation!

      About your query on the use of blogrolls, a blogroll is, essentially, a list of links, i.e. blog links, that one would want to promote across as recommended reads based on different types of affinity, common interests, connections, etc. Eventually, it’s like sharing all of your favourite reads in blogs, or whatever other Web sites.

      Creating a blogroll is relatively simple, you just have to gather all of the RSS news feeds of the blogs you follow and use an RSS feed reader to aggregate them together. From there onwards, every single RSS news feed reader has got the ability to export those subscriptions into a single file in .OPML format which is what you can share across for others to enjoy and subscribe to with their own RSS news feed readers or you could show them as well in your own blog that you referenced above from that blog post.

      Hope that all makes sense… If you are wondering about RSS news feed readers and how they work, one of the most popular is Feedly and if you take a look into its tutorials Web site you’d find tons of good resources on how RSS feeds, and blogrolls work. Let me know if you would have additional questions or need further help. Happy to where I possibly can.

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