Is Data Overload Killing Our Creativity?

The Neurological and Creative Toll of Digital Overload

If you’re like a lot of people, during your work day you might check 40 websites. You could be switching between programs such as Word and Excel and your email application 36 times an hour. You probably stop what you’re doing — or at least pause — when a text message buzzes or an email comes in or your cell phone rings.

Matt Richtel, technology reporter for the New York Times, says in an interview on the NPR program Fresh Air that for all the productivity upsides to digital consumption, there are huge downsides, too, including changes in the brain that seem to affect not just the ability to engage in conversation but the ability to be creative, too.

“Twenty years of glorifying all technology as if all computers were good and all use of it was good, I think science is beginning to embrace the idea that some technology is Twinkies and some technology is Brussels sprouts,” Richtel says. “If we consume too much technology, just like if we consume too much food, it can have ill effects. And that is the moment in time we find ourselves in . . .with the way we are digesting, if you will, technology all over the place.”

Richtel notices, he says, that he’s “not quite as engaged in my world when I’m constantly using devices as I am when I’m away from them.” Away from them, “I can give myself over to conversations a little bit differently.”

Awarded a Pulitzer Prize this year for his Times series “Driven to Distraction,” about the dangers of driving while multitasking with cell phones and other devices, Richtel says that the digital glut appears to not just increase distraction but decrease creativity.


New York Times reporter Matt Richtel says that too much digital consumption and a steady stream of distraction appear to change the brain and affect our ability to be creative.

The Neurological and Creative Toll of Digital Overload

If you’re like a lot of people, during your work day you might check 40 websites. You could be switching between programs such as Word and Excel and your email application 36 times an hour. You probably stop what you’re doing — or at least pause — when a text message buzzes or an email comes in or your cell phone rings.

Matt Richtel, technology reporter for the New York Times, says in an interview on the NPR program Fresh Air that for all the productivity upsides to digital consumption, there are huge downsides, too, including changes in the brain that seem to affect not just the ability to engage in conversation but the ability to be creative, too.

“Twenty years of glorifying all technology as if all computers were good and all use of it was good, I think science is beginning to embrace the idea that some technology is Twinkies and some technology is Brussels sprouts,” Richtel says. “If we consume too much technology, just like if we consume too much food, it can have ill effects. And that is the moment in time we find ourselves in . . .with the way we are digesting, if you will, technology all over the place.”

Richtel notices, he says, that he’s “not quite as engaged in my world when I’m constantly using devices as I am when I’m away from them.” Away from them, “I can give myself over to conversations a little bit differently.”

Awarded a Pulitzer Prize this year for his Times series “Driven to Distraction,” about the dangers of driving while multitasking with cell phones and other devices, Richtel says that the digital glut appears to not just increase distraction but decrease creativity. Leer más “Is Data Overload Killing Our Creativity?”

Talk to Strangers – and Listen

The whole process traversed four stages that make recommendations effective: discovery, validation, confirmation, and actualization. We’ll look at all four, specifically in how they’re used in mobile situations.

1) Discovery: Recommendations need to be readily accessible. Right now, more technologically savvy consumers can find location-based recommendations easily through check-in services, Twitter, barcode scanning, and other means. To gain wider adoption, they’ll have to gain even wider distribution, especially through default mapping and local search offerings on both feature phones and smartphones.

2) Relevance: The recommendations need to resonate in some way with their audience. At Birch & Barley, there were more recommendations for the Brussels sprouts than brunch, but I quickly ignored them and forgot about the vegetables. Food’s a salient example, but this could relate to anything. When I shop at J. Crew, it won’t help if I only see mentions of women’s clothing. When I’m at a hotel, I’ll care more about the WiFi than the spa. Venues and location-based marketers will need to know their audience.


Originally published in MediaPost’s Social Media Insider

The whole process traversed four stages that make recommendations effective: discovery, validation, confirmation, and actualization. We’ll look at all four, specifically in how they’re used in mobile situations.

1) Discovery: Recommendations need to be readily accessible. Right now, more technologically savvy consumers can find location-based recommendations easily through check-in services, Twitter, barcode scanning, and other means. To gain wider adoption, they’ll have to gain even wider distribution, especially through default mapping and local search offerings on both feature phones and smartphones.

2) Relevance: The recommendations need to resonate in some way with their audience. At Birch & Barley, there were more recommendations for the Brussels sprouts than brunch, but I quickly ignored them and forgot about the vegetables. Food’s a salient example, but this could relate to anything. When I shop at J. Crew, it won’t help if I only see mentions of women’s clothing. When I’m at a hotel, I’ll care more about the WiFi than the spa. Venues and location-based marketers will need to know their audience.

3) Validation: Consumers must make sure there’s some credible reason to listen to the recommendation. If there’s one reviewer saying something that strikes a deeply personal chord, it may not matter at all who that reviewer is. In my case, there could be one tourist from Kazakhstan raving about fried chicken, and I’m fine taking a chance. Most of the time, other cues are needed. These factors include: quantity — the sheer number of recommendations listed; convergence — several reviews echoing similar notes; and proximity — how closely you identify with the reviewers. Leer más “Talk to Strangers – and Listen”