Drowning in a Sea of Information

Drowning in a Sea of Information

Swanage Lifeboat (RNLI), Dorset by Jonathan_Doble.

A nightingale sang in Berkeley Square, the location of this morning’s Stone Club meeting, hosted by the inimitable and brilliant Carole Stone.  The question being discussed was whether or not technology is overwhelming us.  Our speaker was, Ian McCaig,  CEO of lastminute.com and the group proceeded to have a stimulating discussion over a delicious cooked breakfast. 

Over scrambled eggs, I confessed that, having replaced my Blackberry several weeks ago, I have not reactivated the email on it.  I can still access my webmail, I just don’t have the constant dripdripdrip of incoming messages.  Without doubt, this has been a blessing because I have enjoyed more books, newspaper articles, brainstormed ideas not to mention refreshing downtime as a result than I have in several years. 

One of the guests felt that the rise of the digital age was producing young people whose social skills suffer.  I disagree.  For years the UK has been churning out millions of repressed individuals who don’t know how to connect with each other. Through web technologies, relationships can be developed and people can discover their passions in life, including other people quicker and more easily.  Better still ,this can lead to face to face meetings.

Of course, as sure as a nightingale sang, someone slagged off Twitter.  This mildly annoys me as I compare it to someone slagging off mobile phones, which would be seen as a daft and grumpy comment. I encouraged them to see that Twitter, unlike email (portrayed as the villain of this morning’s piece), allows you to see only who you want to see.  It also encourages people to be brief, which is a blessing.  Many people use it to share links to things they find interesting, so it’s like a personalised news service, brought to you by some of the smartest people not only in your world, but also in the whole world.

Back when I were a lad, we used to be taught how to write letters.  We made sure that the address and the date were in the correct place and we knew when to sign off sincerely and when faithfully.  Yes sir, them were the days.  Today, we have tools (like email) which we are untrained to use.  I see trouble ahead.  Because one day soon,  we’ll have to admit that children need to be taught how to use email in the same way that their grandparents were taught to write letters and their parents weren’t taught to write anything .  This will be greeted by howls of derision and the politician involved will, sadly, have their head blown off by someone claiming, wrongly, that they are trying to replace History with Twitter.  In a world of information overload, if you don’t know how to get the most from search engines, email and, yes, Twitter, then you will drown a sea of information.  Ultimately, they are like essential fats or sleep.  A healthy balance is what we’re all after.  Too little or too much and we sometimes end up all at sea.

2 Replies to “Drowning in a Sea of Information”

  1. I think of the availability of information as a food buffet for the mind. You wouldn’t think of eating everything in the buffet (let’s hope not) but rather pick and choose what looks good to you in the moment.

    Similarly, having email, Twitter, Facebook, blogs and websites at our fingertips allows us to select those tidbits most important to us at any one time and leave the rest for others to consume.

    Too little and you’re left hungry…too much and you have indigestion!

  2. Rather than drown it would be better to swim in this expanding sea.

    Information is a good thing, by its nature it conveys value and power. What is not useful is meaningless data or content. The change we face is that a lot of traditional content has become meaningless and it increasingly fails to convey value.

    For example: Traditional media now have sacrificed proper journalism and all run the same stories using PR’s and newswires that are out of date by the time they are read. Take the weather, we can get a free update what the weather will be like from numerous sources. It isn’t content anybody would readily pay for. On the other hand detailed long range forecasts are worth a fortune to retailers, farmers etc.. who can gain a commercial advantage from this information.

    New technologies and behaviours mean we have to re-evaluate all the sea of data and content that is available to us. We need to use new technologies and learn new ways of managing to turn meaningless content into into information that we can profit from.

    The people who rubbish Twitter or Facebook don’t understand that this is about a broader trend than whether these are good companies or services. The world’s content is being surfaced now it is just a question of whether you are going to drown or bathe in it.

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