Information Overlord

Amidst the steady swirl of information that the internet has wrought, are all kinds of ideas, tricks, and guidelines for addressing how to best “manage” the onslaught of information. Aggregators, search engines, and “smart recommendations” along the lines of “if you liked X, you’ll probably like Y” kind of thing that appear on Amazon and Netflix.

Likewise, Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point attempted (but did not succeed, IMHO) in laying out the internal logics of how and why ideas or fads take hold in the ways they do. (what was the Tipping Point of The Tipping Point? Just wondering).

And to the next person who can develop an algorhythm for predicting people’s tastes, she will win a Nobel Prize…. Is there a Nobel Price of commerce or advertising? But all these tools are intended to help sort through all this informaion, because, clearly it is some kind of a “problem.”

To face the problem, there’s a new organization called the Information Overload Research Group. You can find them here. Its an interesting cast of characters facing an almost insurmountable problem. Namely: we are invested and involved in a culture that produces more information than it can keep up with, and the internet is too good a vehicle for disseminating said information. The “solution” to the “problem” of information overload is not a more managable email-reading system (which is what the IORG offers by way of suggestion). It might serve as a short-term solution.

But we (and that’s the biggest WE possible. All of us involved in the internet in whatever way we are) do not understand — not at all, not even close — what this information explosion means, or how to navigate it. Yes, one strategy might be to be more judicious with your email, but it doesn’t address the larger, looming questions like:

1. How do people make decisions in the midst of all this information?

2. On what or whom do those decisions depend?

3. What is the place of “information” in contemporary culture?

I don’t know. But I’d like to find out.


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