“Study after study in the 1990s asked potential users what they would do with the internet if they got access to it, and the commonest answers always clustered around ‘I’ll use it to find information,’ ‘I’ll use it to help me with my schoolwork,’ and so on. Whenever a poll asked people already online what they actually did, the answers were quite different. ‘Keeping up with friends and family,’ ‘sharing photos with others,’ talking with opeople who share my interests,’ and the like appeared near the top of every list. Because we’re so lousy at predicting what we will do with new communications tools before we try them, this particular revolution, like the print revolution, is being driven by overlapping experiments whose ramifications are never clear at first. Hence creating the most valuable from a tool involves not mater planes or great leaps foward but constant trial and error.”
—Shirkey, Cognitive Surplus 190-191
When I read this passage from Chapter 7, I immediately thought of the poll we conducted in spring of 2011 to determine what students at Seton Hill use their iPads for. Although I couldn’t find a copy of the actual graph that illustrated our findings, I can tell you that its a perfect example for what Shirkey’s talking about here.
When I found out we were getting iPads, I couldn’t help speculating just how useful we, the students, would find them in class. I still think they’re useful tools, and yet, I’m certain that we fall into the same category as those potential users who anticipated using it for all these great things…The iPad and all of its applications provide students with a never-ending supply of useful tools to help them through college.
I was one of those students who were determined to make the most out of my “investment.” I purchased iStudiez Pro, an app designed to replace a physical datebook, and I vowed to use it for all of my classes, as well as download as many eBooks for classes as possible.
I was an epic fail.
I used iStudiez for half of last school year. But, I found it far too easy to just “forget” to check the planner. I’d either forget to put the assignment in the planner or I’d forget to check for upcoming assignments—sometimes both. For me, having a physical notebook to write down my assignments has always been more effective. It’s still not 100 percent perfect, but it’s a lot easier to ignore an app on an iPad when there are too many other apps to count standing in my way.
The same can be said for reading textbooks on my iPad. During junior year, I purchased two eBooks—one for my science class and one for my first graphic design class. I used the graphic design book maybe twice, but did find significant use out of the science book. Again, I still didn’t live up to my expectations.
I can tell you that if I made up a log of what amount of time I spend using my iPad for liesure rather than work, It would be close to a 70/30 ratio. I definitely find it useful when I need to look up information during class, but at the same time, I feel more comfortable doing that sort of thing on a laptop. I hate sending emails on it as well—too bulky.
The whole point I’m trying to make here, is that we’re finding ourselves in a never-ending cycle. We’re doomed to spend more of our cognitive surplus doing meaningless tasks, such as watching tv or playing a game. As technology continues to grow and develop, it will continue to both help and hurt us in many ways.
I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel on this one.