The Impulse to Dive Deeper

This comes up in my feed today:


I go to retweet it, but stop. How do I know this is true? It’s a little alarm bell that goes off now when something seems just a little too perfect.

I right click on the image, search by image.



I look at the URLs, and I see “”.  I also note the “/news/ann-arbor/” file structure, which makes me think this is local news. That’s promising, if this is an account of a local story. I click through.


This is gold. A local account from a local paper of a story that happened locally years ago. The photo has a credit, and we have more information.

And I’m more informed now. I first looked at this photo and my mind naively assumed it was the South. Not consciously, but subconsciously. As I read the story I learn more about early efforts to celebrate Martin Luther King, new perspectives on how dangerous it was in some parts. I actually, I do a bit more than that, because the story makes me tear up a bit. Read it yourself, and you’ll see what I mean.

The whole process here takes a few minutes, and that’s only because reading the article takes a bit of time. The process of finding the article took ten seconds. In the end, I moved from senseless retweeting to actually learning something about our history.

I think some people think this stuff — Google Reverse Image, doing a Google Scholar search, looking up whois information on sites — is all just so *small* compared to Big Questions and Critical Thinking etc etc etc. And maybe it is.

But if you can imagine a life of these little habits, each one of which pushes you to dig a little deeper, explore a bit more, dive in a little further — I believe this is the way we start to build a better sort of society, a better sort of digital practice. We start with these habits, we move outward to questions, and deeper into reading. But without the habits, you won’t even start.








10 thoughts on “The Impulse to Dive Deeper

  1. I don’t know, Mike. I think the value in this story (your story) is not in the technical steps you took to learn more about this story…the value is in the choice you made to *care* about this particular story, and to care about its truthfulness and to learn about it beyond the headline. That’s valuable.

    Before the internet there were newspapers and they used headlines. Before Twitter there were human grapevines and they spread rumors.

    It’s useful to know how to trace credibility digitally… And to know how truth is distorted digitally…

    But what’s really happening here is something else. You have the dispositions of curiosity and skepticism, and you used them on something you decided to learn more about. Perhaps if it was a news article about a polar bear cub you wouldn’t have done all this 😉 We still need to talk sometime soon

    • I think my point is that habits of mind embed in habits of tech. I actually feel that if we aim to achieve a change in disposition we need to either address the environment (e.g. get Facebook and Twitter to design more reflective interfaces) or we need to hack the environment to accommodate it (as we do here). Impulses without the technology or method to pursue them die over time if we can’t show students to turn them into near-term rewards.

      So I don’t disagree, but I feel like disposition and technical affordance are two sides of the same coin.

      • Right. But you can’t possibly do these habits w every piece of information you come across…so you need to develop judgment in choosing which things to remain skeptical of unless proven, which ones are worth digging into, and which to just “let go”. And that judgment is not technical. When you talked about domain knowledge in an earlier post, that aspect is really important because domain knowledge informs our snap judgment and saves us time, right?

        Like, for example, I am v familiar w the Quran so if someone claims the Quran has text that does X I can almost immediately prove/disprove it. If I were less familiar I would need more time. If I were completely unfamiliar, what would encourage me to dig deeper vs take it at face value, knowing that not digging deeper i may internalize the superficial information? This is where our value orientation matters and it really isn’t at all technical. We can use the technical to help us pursue, but it’s not exactly the other side of the coin. It’s more like a tool among many to help w a broader goal. I just think the broader goal isn’t getting discussed enough. I just need to write this out more clearly and publish it! I know you aren’t disagreeing with me…but there’s something missing still

  2. Reminds me of the Flock browser, which IIRC had quite a rich sidebar… Is there a browser plugin that gives you a handy tools sidebar, I wonder, eg a landing area onto which you can easily drag images for reverse image search, or do a historical search for terms that returns chronologically ordered results (oldest first).

    • Jon Udell and I are working on a browser plugin that does some of these things. It’s in the chrome store called Digipo. We’d love your feedback on what it should do and how.

    • I don’t disagree. But again I’d just point out that too often we separate the doing and the thinking. And simple ways of doing lead to different habits of thought.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s