Friday, May 6, 2011

Consume to Create

I'm trying to teach my students both good habits for consuming content (such as effectively using Google Reader), as well as to understand the importance of creating content regularly. I think something that will help here is to think in terms of consuming in order to create.

This is actually something that was done long ago in the Renaissance. It was the sort of habit that led to literary greats like Shakespeare and Milton. People in that period were eagerly consuming all of the newly rediscovered works of classical literature that were coming out through the new medium of the printing press. But the way that they learned to read was to do so precisely so that they could then use that reading to speak or to write. (In fact, they did a lot of imitation exercises that really made a close connection between the acts of reading and writing.)

As my students struggle to follow my direction to create content daily, they should really think of this as a habit to accompany their media and information consumption. There are great benefits to combining CONSUME and CREATE in this way. For one thing, it helps you to filter your information and media sources; it gives a purpose to consumption that makes it less random. It can also temper our media hunger, which can be insatiable. If I am in the habit of posting content regularly, I have to get out of the passive, lurker mode of taking things in, and change gears into the active, creative mode of posting and publishing.

Here are some examples of consume-to-create:

  • Blog reading.
    This can easily be seen as a "consume" - only activity. But try to think about reading other blogs as providing you something to write about. Sometimes, the best comment you can leave on a post is one like Bri Zabriskie did on Amy Whitaker's blog: "I spun a post of my own off yours."
  • Feed reading.
    As I've demonstrated to my students and talked about in my post about Google Reader, you can mark (with a star or with tags) any interesting item coming in through your feeds. A great tag to add? "to blog". After spending time browsing, reading, and starring/tagging various items, one can click on the starred items, or a specific tag (like "to blog") and pull up a smaller set of items that could prove the inspiration for a personal post.
  • Bookmarking.
    Bookmarking is a critical skill for CONSUME for many reasons, one of which is that a good social bookmarking system can help you to CREATE blog content. For example, when Sam McGrath found an interesting item on the NPR website, he created a Diigo bookmark, using the "send to blog" option in the Diigo toolbar to create this post on his blog. Because it is possible to link one's blog to Diigo, you can actually create and post to your blog from within Diigo, very easily. 
This is a limited list and is mostly geared around reading and producing blog content. There are certainly many more kinds of input to consume and various ways to create. But since my students are blogging, I thought these are good examples.

Are you thinking about how you can create content while consuming? It's a different way of thinking, part of what I call the "New Media Mind."  How are you doing so?

1 comment:

  1. I find the more I read or view the world around me the more my mind thinks, "How can I blog this?" Although I do not blog every single thought that I have, I do think more of how to share the things I learn online. As I consume, or read other blogs or things from other classes I am starting to connect them more to each other. This is something that I haven't ever really done. Usually my classes are separate entities and very rarely do I cross over in my thinking about them. By combining them I am learning more.