Icon of Understanding Information Exchange in Montana During the Digital Era Image of Laptop Man consuming and creating audio, visual, and textual information using laptop, tablet, smartphone, and newspaper.Icon of the outline of the state of Montana inside a televisionIcon of horizontal bar graphIcon of traditional vintage microphoneIcon of lotus flower

Understanding Information Exchange in Montana During the Digital Era is a research project inspired by the corpus of Ivan Doig and builds upon the research of Dr. Justin D. Shanks focused on information and society, as well as the technology of mindfulness and mindfulness of technology.

The Framework for the Mindful Consumption and (Re)Creation of Information seeks to present a mindful approach for anyone to use when accessing, analyzing, and sharing information. In this sense, mindfulness is meant to be an inclusive practice for individuals to apply increased awareness and purposeful action to what, when, how, and why information is consumed and (re)created through information exchange. Acknowledging the rich historical background, cultural traditions, and religious practices that are embedded within mindfulness, this project makes a purposeful decision not to align itself with one tradition over another or to prescribe specific practices instead of others. This decision was made in order to present mindfulness in an inclusive and approachable manner. In doing so, this project explores possibilities for uniting mindfulness and information exchange and also provides a framework for purposeful and engaged thinking about processes of information exchange in our contemporary digital era.


Data visualization depicting Framework for the Mindful Consumption and (Re)Creation of Information APPROACH #1: Focus on the Present Moment ISSUE IDENTIFIED BY PARTICIPANTS #1: Information in media is constantly changing STRATEGY #1: Focus on current information and what you can do to act upon that information in your daily life. Avoid dwelling on previous information or focusing on the future and how the news will or will not unfold. APPROACH #2: Set Limits ISSUE IDENTIFIED BY PARTICIPANTS #2: Information in media is neverending STRATEGY #2: Commit to a regular information exchange routine that emphasizes trusted information sources. Determine which information you will access, how you will review that information, and what types of information you will share. Identify how much time you will spend each day. It takes discipline to stick to a regular information routine, but doing so will help you to control the flow of information into your life and avoid feelings of overwhelmedness. APPROACH #3: Cultivate Self-Awareness ISSUE IDENTIFIED BY PARTICIPANTS #3: Consuming news and information causes a variety of physical and mental responses STRATEGY #3: Pay attention to how you feel (physically, emotionally, and mentally) while consuming or sharing information. How do you react when you read, hear, and/or watch information you consume and share? Observe and acknowledge these feelings and reactions. Take them into account when engaging with information. APPROACH #4: Maintain an Open Mind ISSUE IDENTIFIED BY PARTICIPANTS #4: Information comes from multiple sources that do not necessarily agree STRATEGY #4: Keep an open mind regarding the information sources you are willing to engage with. Do not engage only with information sources that reaffirm your existing beliefs. When consuming information, reflect on the historical, social, cultural, and other contexts involved in the production and presentation of that information. Seek out information from various sources -- sources that align with your perspectives and also sources that challenge your existing beliefs. Actively analyze information that you consume in order to understand its accuracy, viewpoint, and bias. APPROACH #5: Acceptance ISSUE IDENTIFIED BY PARTICIPANTS #5: Information from media is mostly bad and only sometimes good STRATEGY #5: Acknowledge and accept the diverse realities of people, places, and events before responding to information that you consume. Ruminating on what makes you uncomfortable without acceptance increases your own despair and anger and therefore inhibits informed, compassionate, and purposeful action. Being able to recognize reality and accept the accompanying unpleasant thoughts and feelings are prerequisites for engaging in positive action in daily life. APPROACH #6: Connection ISSUE IDENTIFIED BY PARTICIPANTS #6: Information is situated in and shaped by local and global contexts STRATEGY #6: Remember that all information is consumed and (re)created within the diverse, yet interconnected contexts of all individuals. APPROACH #7: Greater Well-Being ISSUE IDENTIFIED BY PARTICIPANTS #7: Information is biased, untruthful, and mean spirited STRATEGY #7: Engage with information that is based upon balanced viewpoints, conveys the truth, and cultivates kindness. Recognize when an information source exaggerates circumstances, acts without integrity, or belittles places or peoples. Consume, create, and share information that advances personal and societal well-being.

This project is particularly attentive to News: A Consumer’s Guide, co-authored by Ivan and Carol Doig. The book provides a guide for how to best read and listen to the news. Intended for the average citizen, the Doigs’ text also presents tips for examining accuracy, viewpoint, and bias. Although published in 1972, this text is surprisingly relevant to and useful for understanding our contemporary fast paced information environment that presents a vast quantity of information from multiple sources.

The Framework for the Mindful Consumption and (Re)Creation of Information includes approaches that can aid individuals, communities, and institutions in making more mindful decisions regarding the consumption, analysis, and (re)creation of information in the digital era. The approaches and strategies can be used individually and in any sequence. However, for maximization of benefit, it is suggested that approaches and strategies be used collectively. However, just as with any other skill, the mindful consumption and (re)creation of information requires practice. Through the collection of qualitative and quantitative data collection from 1,147 participants, this project makes an intentional effort to reflect the experiences, views, values, and aspirations of everyday Montanans who consume and (re)create news and other forms of information. The researcher’s perspective is rooted in the dominant discourse of academic research and scientific literature about historical and social aspects of information. As such, this perspective does not necessarily reflect the lived experiences of everyday Montanans. Therefore, in combining academic research and scientific literature with the lived experiences of everyday Montanans, this project articulates the following approaches and strategies to address issues related to information exchange identified by survey respondents and interview participants across the research.