I was reading the other Katharine’s post about the learning pyramid, which reminded me of my 1st or 2nd favorite scenario re: not committing anything to memory because we can always Google it.
Here’s the hypothetical:
If I know nothing about the Revolutionary War, how do I Google it ?
I wonder what Google thinks is wrong with “happen.”
4 thoughts on “Google that”
Not a good example, I think. That kind of history is easy: you care about when, where, what, or who, or some combination, and you can start by looking up the thing you care about.
For example, to find out what happened 200 years ago, try typing “1818” in a search engine. You’ll find out about the First Seminole War, Silent Night, the border between the US and Canada, and a variety of other things. (Note that “200 years ago” misses by as much as the distance between now and the Vietnam War. You need to ask the question that you really want the answer to when using a search engine.) If you want to know about US independence, that’s a really simple search as well.
The hard stuff is the stuff you didn’t know that you didn’t know. Example, if you don’t have a background in 18th century European history, you’ll have no idea how fascinating August II of Saxony is. And you’ll have no idea that you don’t know about fox flinging or the connection between European porcelain and alchemical charlatans.
Finding out about WWI is easy. It’s not so easy, if you don’t have the general information, to find out how the British used communications between Germany and Mexico to bring the US into the war. And if you don’t know about that, it’s really hard to know how signals intelligence might be important to international diplomacy today.
As a technical writer, when I start on a new project, I begin by trying to gather general information that I can use to build a framework on which to hang the specific information I need to explain the things my audience needs to know. Without that framework, all I have is random bits, which don’t work at all well to explain much of anything. The same thing is true of all sorts of knowledge.
And that framework is really useful if you decide to compete on Jeopardy. 😎
Which is to say that I agree with what I take to be your basic thesis, just not the way you express it here.
That’s what I’m saying
If I’ve never heard of the Revolutionary War … if I’ve never heard of war at all … I’m going to have to type a lot of years into a search engine to find out about it.
And shortly after writing this, I come across an article describing the difficulty of finding a thing based on Google searching by description: