Braintrain 101 : Infotention

It is all too often that our attention lays in astonishment at people in lecture halls. We HAVE ALL seen it before. People on their laptops with endless tabs sprawled across their browser, jumping from Facebook to internet shopping, news articles, Skype and even the stockmarket watch. The sheer level of multitasking expertise that users of the technological world have today should be considered as a serious and deadly skill…


It is this skill possession, the form of mental training and digital literacy, that is the basis to Howard Rheingold’s term- Infotention. 

“Infotention is a combination of attentional disciplines and information handling tools, a methods for turning information overload to knowledge navigation” (Rheingold, 2013) 

Augmented information that has resulted from growing cyber-commons on the internet have created a problematic issue, where most users are not able to differentiate clearly between the overload of information and the need to know. With the multitude of technological platforms that we have, we have evolved our brains to become a powerful network to switch between tasks.

 “Personal technologies today are prosthetics for our minds” (Stone, 2012) 

I, myself am often shocked to find the horrendous amounts of applications I have opened on my Iphone within the matter of minutes. And although it is easy for me to switch back and forth from Facebook, Instagram and the trending news headlines, I find that I do not possess the skill anymore to focus my attention to solely one application.

Evidently James Temple’s article: All those tweets, apps, updates may drain brain, addressed the growing nature of why our generation has such appalling long term memory and mental performance, as pinpointed by scientist at the University of California and San Francisco.

Infotention is our salvation from what psychiatrists have called “addict-like behavior when it comes to technology, unable to ignore its pull, even when it negatively affects them (Temple, 2011). And through this form of brainwork, and brain training redeem back our cognitive and attention limit.

“It’s that too few have learned and taught to others the skills we need to know if we are to master the use of our attention amid a myriad of choices designed to attract us.  A significant part of the population has not yet learned to decide when it is appropriate to share multiple lines of attention and when single focal point is necessary” (Rheingold 2012, p.15)

A simple wrap up of Rheingold’s: Infotention

Infotention mindmap, Photo: Gigi Chan

Joyce Valenza of the School Library Journal also summarises her experience in the problematic issues with multitasking and attention here in her article, Infotention and digital citizenship. (Click here for the link)


1.  Rheingold, H. (2012) “Net Smart: How to Thrive Online”, MIT press, United States of America

2. Stone, L (2012) “Conscious Computing,, accessed 12 April 2013

3. Temple, J (2011) “All those tweets, apps, updates may drain brain”,, accessed 12 April 2013

4. Valenza, J (2012) “Infotention and digital citizenship”, ,accessed 12 April 2013