In his book, Net Smart, Howard Rheingold outlines five literacies that each person needs in order to function in todays digital age. These literacies include: attention, participation, collaboration, crap detection, and network smarts. If, as a society, we do not become proficient in these literacies, Rheingold believes, “we could end up drowning ourselves in torrents of misinformation, disinformation, advertising, spam, porn, noise, and trivia” (5). Each of the four literacies is a skill that must be learned in order to operate in this new world dominated by technology. I believe that in order to live, learn and positively function in the digital age, I need to first focus on the first literacy Rheingold mentions: attention.
As I learn in this digital age, I want to be able to be able to use all of the literacies that Howard Rheingold lists, and I believe that to become proficient at all of them I must first master attention. As Rheingold points out, the technology we are using to, “communicate today is altering the way people pay attention—which means we need to explore and understand how to train attention now, so that we, not our devices, control the shape of this alteration in the future” (14-15). As a learner, I want to be able to use all the technology that is available to me today in a positive way and learn to maximize my learning through this technology. I want to be able to use the technology in an educated way, and I definitely do not want the technology to control me nor take up time in my life that I don’t need it to. I believe that learning to focus my attention on the right aspects of social media will help me on my way to becoming more in control of my interactions with technology, and therefore, I will get more out of my learning and life in general. Attention is, in my eyes, the first step to gaining proficiency in all of the five literacies needed to interact with technology at this point in time. In many ways, “attention is a literacy that can thread all the other literacies together and hence is fundamental to the others in several ways” (Rheingold 9). Once society has mastered attention we can effectively figure out which things we need to pay attention to and which are not needed, or in other words become proficient in crap detection. Similarly, with attention brings awareness of what is out there, therefore, indirectly causing network smarts. Finally, it is difficult to begin participating or collaboration without some network awareness. While all of these literacies are interconnected, I believe that the primary and most influential one in beginning to learn all of the literacies is attention and that is why I think it is the most important for me to focus on. Learning to become attentive and mindful in anything can be a hard process, but it becomes especially difficult when technology is involved. The first step to attentiveness is monitoring, noticing, and controlling attention. After observing attention, “it’s time to turn the tool of attention control... to the task of finding the information