This is the second of my four part interview with Clive Thompson, as we sat between our T-Rex and Apatosaurus. This segment focuses on public thinking.
As we are sitting here on a Thursday morning, the initial school groups that we saw have moved on, and now the tourists are coming in, the adults. And they are not only taking photos, they are doing something else on their phones. We can’t see what they are doing, but we can make some guesses.
They are probably posting publicly what they are doing, right? This is one of the great shifts in our behavior. We are now engaging in a lot of what I call public thinking: when something interesting occurs, you now have the ability to broadcast that to the world, to interested friends, to interesting strangers, and to share what you are thinking or seeing.
I actually did see, as I was walking in here, someone making a Facebook posting. Just as I was approaching the museum. There was a group of college students, and two of them were taking a picture of the other ones in front of the Teddy Roosevelt statue upfront. And one of them was writing a little note about it. I couldn’t read the note (I wasn’t being that naughty) but they were writing some notes about it.
And so this shift is very interesting because, for a long time, the average person didn’t really do much expression at all, and almost no public expression. You basically went through high school, you finished college if you went to college, where you sort of wrote papers where you tried to formalize your knowledge or share that knowledge with someone else, but once you finished college or high school that was basically it. You didn’t really write anything down, you didn’t express your ideas because there was no venue for it. There was no way to publish what you were thinking about. And this is always something very hard for journalists and academics to understanding, because we spend our lives constantly writing and writing and writing and putting things before audiences, but for the average person this was simply not a common experience at all.
So we have in the last 15 years this sudden vertiginous shift to where people routinely are writing down their experiences, their thoughts, and putting them out for other people. If you talk to psychologists about what happens inside your head as you do this, as you are here in the museum and you are looking at the dinosaur and you are taking a picture and you are writing a note about it, a couple of interesting things happen.
One is what’s called the audience effect, Continue reading