Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Blink and Blog: Two one-thumb up books

By now, I’m sure that most folks have heard the buzz created by the best selling nonfiction book Blink (The Power of Thinking without Thinking) by Malcolm Gladwell. I recently finished the book. I give it one thumbs up (out of two…..when I use both my hands since I’m currently a solo act). It is a quick read and interesting, although for me, the book died approximately 2/3 of the way in.

Although much of the buzz surrounding Blink is that it supposedly tells us how accurate first impressions, subconscious thinking, and our intuition can be, I found that many of the examples seem to allude to contemporary findings in cognitive psychology (CP) and information processing (IP) theories. That is, CP/IP research has revealed much about the development of automaticity of cognitive processes and how quickly/fluently experts (from the expert-novice research) can recognize complex arrays of information via pattern recognition mechanisms. To me this is not intuition. Does anyone remember Anderson’s original classic work (and ACT-R theory) on cognitive production systems?

Many of the examples of intuition and subconscious thinking (which has a Freudian connotation to many laypeople), IMHO, are actually good examples of the development of expertise and the automatization of cognitive processes, processes explained by contemporary CP/IP research. If anything, the examples used by Gladwell might serve as good “real world” starting points for instructional purposes in a class/seminar/lecture on information processing models and research.

I personally believe that Gladwell’s first book (The Tipping Point) was much better and should be required reading for anyone who wants to understand the development and spread of new social phenomena. I must admit that I am jealous. I wish I could take contemporary research findings and write in such a style to make the best sellers list…and make the beaucoup (thanks to my sister Kris for the proper spelling of beaucoup) bucks…it is an art.

Finally, I just finished Hugh Hewitt’s Blog (Understanding the information reformation that’s changing your world). Hewitt is one of the major league political bloggers. The book is worth the price, if for no other reason, to secure his list of recommended blogs that are changing the world of politics and the functioning of mainstream media. I must confess that my reading of Blog was my personal “tipping point” to start my blog.

Those from the left should be warned. Hewitt is a JND (just noticeable difference) from the right of the political center and some of his comments are a bit over the top. Yet, I think he captures the essence of the potential revolution that blogs (and the blogosphere) are serving in opinion formation. The book is a very quick read, largely because I found myself skipping many sections that were simple very long quotes from other blogs. I got the feeling that Blog was a hastily put together book….with the goal to be one of the first books on blogs in the bookstores (say “books on blogs in the bookstores” 10-times fast). Yet…I give Hewitt credit for capturing the emerging influence of blogs in all fields and endeavors.

I also give Blog one thumbs up…appropriately from my right hand, given his political persuasion.

1 comment:

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