As if there aren’t enough examples of information overload in our lives. Our iPod’s hold 50,000 songs. Our cameras take 2,000 pictures. And the list goes on. And speaking of lists, I’ve grown to hate the list-ification of information. “10 Things That…” or “20 Reasons Why…” And so on.
And then you’ve got the grandaddy of all lists: Smashing Magazine. Mostly geared towards web design and development, their lists are frickin’ huge. I dutifully bookmark half their lists because…umm….I swear I’m going to need them later. I’m sure of it.
And so, I’m left with this big list of lists (or links to lists) that serves more as a sort of security blanket than as some valued information source. Just as Americans keep piling on stuff and putting it into storage (the storage business is booming these days), we just keep accumulating stuff with the desired intention to consume it later. The problem is we can’t possibly consume at the pace we’re producing.
So do we throw it all out? Nope. We store it. The same goes for information on the web. There’s too much of it…and in a lot of cases the stuff is actually pretty good. So we collect it for umm…future consumption (at least that’s what we tell ourselves).
The result is the de-valuation of information. It’s less about the quality of any discrete piece of content and more about the numbing consequence of sheer abundance. I’ll close with a quote from Will Sheff, the front man for the rock band Okkervil River. Here he’s talking about file sharing, bootlegs and digital media in general, but he stumbles on this very topic:
The Internet – with its glut not only of information but of misinformation, and of information that is only slightly correct, or only slightly incorrect – fills me with this same weird mixture of happiness and depression. I sometimes feel drowned in information, deadened by it. How many hundreds of bored hours have you spent mechanically poring through web pages not knowing what you’re looking for, or knowing what you’re looking for but not feeling satisfied when you find it? You hunger but you’re not filled. Everything is freely available on the Internet, and is accordingly made inestimably valuable and utterly value-less.