Info consumption styles

S. White brings the information overload discussion to another level:

“I’m talking about information after it’s passed through all my filters, stuff I’m eager to know about.”

A year ago, T. Zijlstra explained our inappropriate information gathering strategies by ascribing them to the previously prevailing scarcity of information. In our hunter-gatherer period (see also my #42), we had to hoard every available bit of the scarce good, while today we may filter it. But now S. White notes that even the filtered stuff is just to much, and many bloggers have discussed their RSS reading strategies, e. g. T. Green.

My view of the filtering strategy is that we should only consume what we really intend to thoroughly digest. and to burn/fuel its nutritional content and calories into energy and metabolism. Otherwise the information of high signal-to-noise ratio, will have similar effects as the type of food containing a high calories-to-chewing/ fibres ratio, e. g. chocolate.

S. White conceives the abundant information as events (whose experience makes time pass faster). I think this sounds more like undigested information, with the extreme of the yellow press type of information satisfying the “cognitive stimulation hunger” known from communcation theories, which will merely go into episodal memory. Digesting information, in contrast, will probably refine it and feed it into some kind of structured knowledge in semantic memory. (Of course, metacognition aspects may also have effects in the autobiographical episodal memory and then indeed appear as events).

My actual count, is only about 25 blogs that I regularly read (scan titles and perhaps abstracts to decide whether to scan their full texts), plus about the same amount that I only read when I am still “hungry”. (I sometimes thought that this may be not enough to get a wide range of views to balance biases. But it may be more important to read a few ones more thoroughly and hence with a critical distance, than many ones superficially with the fallacious impression of balance.)

There are people who have already much better adapted to the decreased scarcity of information, including the young folks from “generation Y” populating our university. One symptom is perhaps that they don’t feel obliged to reply to all messages as eagerly as we did because we tend to think that the received, valuable, scarce information is like a debt that should be paid back as soon as possible , like an egg that we borrowed from a neighbour and give it back the next day. These young have a more reasonable relationship and reply only if appropriate.

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