Friend and colleague Simon Decreuze shared this excellent piece on Facebook earlier today. The problem with too much information is a great article from Aeon, totally worth the 7-8 minutes it takes to get through it. Why? Because for once, and unlike what the title might imply, it is NOT just another piece on FOMO, information overload, filter bubbles and the likes. It is a good and deep look at what it actually means to be faced with “too much information” and how it relates to WHY we actually want information: to make sense of the world we live in:
Knowledge has a point when we start to find and make connections, to weave stories out of it, stories through which we make sense of the world and our place within it. It is the difference between memorising the bus timetable for a city you will never visit, and using that timetable to explore a city in which you have just arrived. When we follow the connections – when we allow the experience of knowing to take us somewhere, accepting the risk that we will be changed along the way – knowledge can give rise to meaning. And if there is an antidote to boredom, it is not information but meaning.
For almost two years, I’ve been thinking of ways to fight information overload. My beliefs were subject to animated discussions with colleagues and bosses at my newspaper, in France. They also informed the innovation proposal I submitted to the Knight Journalism fellowship at Stanford, late 2011. And finally, I have proof that I have not been delusional or wasting my time all these years!
The introductory observation sounds *very* familiar:
“With email and the social feeds that followed, we increased the speed of our communications to instant. More recently, thanks to the shift to mobile, our exposure to these communications has proliferated, creating an ‘always-on’ society where interactions happen in real-time, rather than when we choose to fit them into our live.
Even when we’re not being demanded to provide real-time responses, we find our attention drawn to information streams as news breaks, conversations take place, and opinions are formed.”
This reminds me of one editor whom I discussed my project with and who assumed that the existence of this ‘always-on’ society was actual proof that the user/reader wanted to be constantly fed with content as events happened. I tried to argue that people were rather shaping their schedules and minds to follow the constantly in-flying flow of news and starting to suffer from FOMO or worse…
However, GfK noted that, lately, several “innovative new products and services have responded to this overload” – they range from Instapaper to The Little Printer, via Undrip and iDoneThis. I would add news services like Circa, Newsbound, Pocket and Summly to this list.
These tools – and the one I’m working on now – are doing nothing less than… “shaping the next stage in the evolution of information accessibility”, writes GfK.
And this represents a major challenge for content providers:
“With traditional consumption continuing to fragment and the growth of on- demand media, trying to integrate seamlessly with individual consumer lifestyles is no longer optional.”
Let’s just see how long it takes for them to figure this out… ;-)
How much are we, as news consumers, responsible for the permanent news craze that seems to overwhelm us more and more? Until recently, I had completely forgotten about the term “news junkie” and the pride I used to take in calling myself that. The phrase surfaced again in a recent column entrepreneur Steven Rosenbaum published on Forbes.
In Too Much News ? he makes several compelling points – a lot of which I agree with.
1. Technology allows us to push more and more information faster and faster:
Is there really ‘more’ news than there was ten years ago – or are there just more ways to get your “breaking news” zap of adrenaline?.
2. Like any good pusher man, news organizations know how to trick us into asking for more:
My email is full of reports like: “Well Known CBS Star Arrested” – with only one action required. “Who?” I’m supposed to wonder and click the link.
3. More information makes us less informed:
Today I have trouble keeping track of the shootings. Schools and colleges, movie theaters and wedding parties. Politicians on the corner, or criminals in Times Square. Each story is presented with breaking news headlines, and powerfully scary urgency. But with a lack of context, or perspective, the shear volume of ‘breaking’ stories all meld together – and solutions seem harder to comprehend.
There is good news however. At least if you’re in the business of creating content. Indeed, Steven Rosenbaum believes that in this world, the need for good filters is greater than ever. “Those organizers – journalists – are going to beat algorithms all day lone“, he writes.
I would add: this works only if you’re actually… a news junkie! Addicted enough to news to get through the trouble of seeking out the right curators, filters, human organizers. I fear that the vast majority of users, not that hooked, will just give up on being well-informed altogether.
[via The Bureau]