Friday, March 7, 2014

The Problem With Too Much Information

What good is information?

The internet promised to feed our minds with knowledge. What have we learned? That our minds need more than that.

Photo by Steve Prezant/Gallery Stock 

On my morning bus into town, every teenager and every grown-up sits there staring into their little infinity machine: a pocket-sized window onto more words than any of us could ever read, more music than we could ever listen to, more pictures of people getting naked than we could ever get off to. Until a few years ago, it was unthinkable, this cornucopia of information. Those of us who were already more or less adults when it arrived wonder at how different it must be to be young now. ‘How can any kid be bored when they have Google?’ I remember hearing someone ask.

The question came back to me recently when I read about a 23-year-old British woman sent to prison for sending rape threats to a feminist campaigner over Twitter. Her explanation for her actions was that she was ‘off her face’ and ‘bored’. It was an ugly case, but not an isolated one. Internet trolling has started to receive scholarly attention – in such places as the Journal of Politeness Research and its counterpart, the Journal of Language Aggression and Conflict – and ‘boredom’ is a frequently cited motive for such behaviour.

It is not only among the antisocial creatures who lurk under the bridges of the internet that boredom persists. We might no longer have the excuse of a lack of stimulation, but the vocabulary of tedium is not passing into history: the experience remains familiar to most of us. This leads to a question that goes deep into internet culture and the assumptions with which our infinity machines are packaged: exactly what is it that we are looking for?

‘Information wants to be free’ declared Stewart Brand, 30 years ago now. Cut loose from its original context, this phrase became one of the defining slogans of internet politics. With idealism and dedication, the partisans of the network seek to liberate information from governments and corporations, who of course have their own ideas about the opportunities its collection and control might afford. Yet the anthropomorphism of Brand’s rallying cry points to a stronger conviction that runs through much of this politics: that information is itself a liberating force.

For the rest of the story: http://aeon.co/magazine/living-together/the-problem-with-too-much-information/

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...