Almost ten years ago, I used to teach a workshop called "Digital Information Coping Skills" for artists and arts organizations as part of a series of workshop on the theme of how to integrate the Internet into your (arts) organization's mission. Think Web 1.0 strategies and tools from both an individual and organizational viewpoint. I developed the information coping skills workshop after observing the "information overload" or "techno stress" reaction to the glut of electronic information coming into email boxes. It was the first inkling of what David Shenk wrote in his book "Data Smog: Surviving the Information Age."
That book uses the metaphor of pollution to explain the cultural impact of too much information (from the Internet) on society. He talks about the impact of too much information on the human brain and considers how the human brain may evolve over time as the Internet matures and the amount of digital information increases. The last chapter offers some practical advice, including the "Be Your Own Filter" and "Give A Hoot Don't Data Pollute." The book was written in 1997, so the practical nitty gritty was talking mostly about dealing with waves of email and human systems/skills - NOT automated software programs.
Some neurons in my brain made me connect back to Shenk's book I attended NDN's New Audiences, New Tools Forum. I think about the increasing connectedness that Peter Leyden described in his overview of networked politics (he used an incredible visually rich set of powerpoint slides that kept us engaged and this visual.) The panel "The Evolving Model Using New Tools" where Micah Sifry, Tracy Russo, and Jerry Michalski spoke also made me think back to that book again. (BTW, Dave Witzel did an awesome job of tweeting the key points)
Jerry Michalski use the metaphor of the global brain and mentioned that we were halfway through a transition process where we are renegotiating social contracts and connecting with people in a way that we haven't before. Jerry talked one benefit of this connectedness and openness is innovation or Cantabridgian Creativity. The idea that you can in a couple clicks go onto a site like Slideshare and see ideas on a topic from some of the best thinkers on that topic and recreate your own meaning of it. I had joked with Jerry that one downside is the inability to remember our calendar - and that with this socialness will our friends eventually collaborately remind us of our appointments. (It was funny at the time)
But the point is that knowledge is now externalized in our global brain of connections with our friends.
Maybe that's why Robert Scoble responded to a Twitter user asking if ever experienced information overload. He said no. I asked him, on Twitter, if he thought his brain had evolved. He said, "no my brain has not evolved, but my network has."
And, as our networks evolve and the tools to aggregate our friends activity streams - so does the amount of noise increase. Are we know evolving to Web2.0 version of information overload? Perhaps called "Networked Overload?" In this recent post from Read/Write Web called Too Many Choices, Too Much Content describes approaches to filtering your content and reducing the noise. The bottom line:
It's hard to say. Early adopters are not going to stop playing with every new service, but it's clear that we're getting to a point where tools that centralize, aggregate, but most importantly filter our content are going to be the ones that win out. There are only so many hours in the day, and, as it stands right now, every single one of them could be filled just consuming and interacting with content, social media, and web services. There's also this little thing called "going outside" that we would like to take part in, too. Hopefully we'll see the killer web app to filter the noise someday soon to help us do so, but it's definitely not here yet.
Given there isn't yet a killer app (or maybe there is) How are your filtering your networked content? What human skills or existing tools are you using to help you avoid networked overload? What are your best information coping tips and techniques in an age of social media and networked digital lifestyle feeds?