Tag Archives: The Information

The Information and Data Overload

“’You hunch like a pianist over the keys,’ he wrote, ‘knowing what awaits you, thinking, Ah, the untold wealth of English literature!  What hidden jewels I shall excavate from the deepest mines of human fancy!’  Then come the macaronics, the clunkers, the flood of bombast and mediocrity.  The sheer unordered mass begins to wear you down” (The Information by James Gleick, 408).

This passage, in laymen’s terms, advocates that the large quantity of information that is currently available to the average Joe is a bad thing.  That centuries, or even decades, ago, information was made and written about because it was important – as opposed to today, where information is written about simply due to its existence.  I do not share this passage’s opinion.  Throughout the selection of The Information, Gleick seems to have a negative stance towards the wealth of information that is rapidly becoming available to us.  He comments on how people are “harassed” and must “cope” with this abundance of data.  Point being, I think the quote above is a fair summary of his view.

I, however, believe that there is no such thing as too much information, as the ability to quickly access and store info on a massive scale can only benefit humanity.  While Gleick’s holdbacks are understandable, they are unreasonable in my opinion.  For instance, while it is necessary to use blogs, search engines, or aggregators to filter all of this data, the user receives the most targeted information possible.  It is tough to not find what you are looking for if you use a search engine.  This kind of customizablity can only be seen as a benefit, but Gleick nonetheless counterpoints that “The need for filters intrudes on any thought experiment about the wonders of abundant information”(Gleick, 410).  While this is true, if someone is looking for information just to find new and interesting data, then it would not be tough for her to find it, as other sites – specifically designed to bring people to thought provoking information – such as Stumbleupon.com will inevitably come to existence to provide that exact kind of exploration of knowledge.

I do not think that information fatigue will happen in this new “Information Age,” as critics said the same thing about the printing press and even the inception of written history before it.  As the prologue mentions, “Information gives rise to ‘every it – every particle, every field of force, even the spacetime continuum itself’” (Gleick, 10)  Information is a fundamental part of our lives, and I think it is wrong to attempt to slap a limit on the amount of it we, as a people, should have access to.

The Path From the Printing Press

 

“As a duplicating machine, the printing press not only made texts cheaper and more accessible; its real power was to make them stable. ‘Scribal culture,’ Eisenstein wrote, was ‘constantly enfeebled by erosion, corruption, and loss.’ Print was trustworthy, reliable, and permanent.” (The Information, James Gleick page 400)

 

The printing press was one of the most influential and important innovations of all of human history. Though, there are arguments to where and when it first arrived, the impact it had on human advancement was incredible. Because of its efficiency it allowed many people, poor and rich, to learn, stay up to date, and access information. The fact that it allowed people to access information is the most important breakthrough that this invention caused. It caused our memories and history to rapidly move towards a future based on the truth of fact. In my opinion, this invention sparked the beginning of the information era.

Though, the printing press’ mass production of information lead to scientific and cultural enlightenments, there are some downsides to the fact that so much is open for the world to see. Years down the road from the printing press, people seem to run into too much information. At every turn, there is another spam email or another link to a bizarre activist site. People are constantly under fire from messages all around them and can barely process the most important ones. It is even hard to determine which messages are lies and which are trustworthy.

Due to the increase in available information in the years since the invention of the printing press, people can spend lifetimes only accumulating it. Some people think that the key to knowledge is only by gaining more information, but in actuality, knowledge is gained through practice, experimentation, and experience. Knowledge is the ability take information, understand it, and create something with it. The printing press started us on this road with available information, but it is our job to use it as knowledge and with enough experience, wisdom.

 

 

 

Too Much Information?

“Before Eisenstein’s work appeared in 1979, no one had attempted a comprehensive study of printing as the communications revolution essential to the transition from medieval times to modernity. Textbooks, as she noted, tended to slot the printing press somewhere between the Black Death and the discovery of America,” (The Information by James Gleick, 399)

 

While I was reading through James Gleick’s The Information this passage jumped out at me. After reading through the excerpt which kept talking about how saturated our culture has become with information over the past five hundred years, I came back  to this passage. It’s hard to believe that after five hundred years of information overload no one had really wrote about how the printing press and communication gave rise to modern times. This seems to contradict what Gleick is saying, because if we were really over saturated with information would not all views on history, including  Eisenstein’s, be available to everyone who is willing to search for it.  In order to reach an over saturation of information we would need to assemble every scrap of knowledge, and every single original idea. Although we have reached an age where it is much easier to find and access information about nearly everything, we have not reached this level of information. There are still a great many subjects on which we do not have any information at all. We are still searching for this information, and therefore have room for more. Only after we discover and create all of this information would our lives be truly over saturated. Until then our abundance of information can always be used to learn and create more.

Just as we are no longer astounded by the amount of information kept in books, a time will come when people will not be impressed with the amount of information the internet has to offer. Even now a generation is growing up to whom the internet is quite ordinary and who know how to navigate its vast collection of information. To this population information overload does not exist, they will be able to access information on the internet with ease. At the same time people who did not grow up with the internet are experiencing a very real information overload. There is more information than they are used to at their fingertips and until they will continue to experience information overload until they are able to navigate the immense quantities of information effectively and efficiently. Once this happens this information overload will pass until the next big information technology brings a new overload upon us.