We get stories much faster than we can make sense of them, informed by cellphone pictures and eyewitnesses found on social networks and dubious official sources like police scanner streams. Real life moves much slower than these technologies. There’s a gap between facts and comprehension, between finding some pictures online and making sense of how they fit into a story. What ends up filling that gap is speculation. On both Twitter and cable, people are mostly just collecting little factoids and thinking aloud about various possibilities. They’re just shooting the shit, and the excrement ends up flying everywhere and hitting innocent targets.
Apparently, the more mobile devices you have, the higher your perceived value of media is. According to BCG’s recent study, Through the Mobile Looking Glass, when you get a second mobile device, there is a 41% increase in perceived media value, a 40% increase when you get a third, and a 30% increase when you get a fourth.
Which makes sense, if you’re spending your days juggling four mobile devices and consuming media on all of them. What could be more important than the information nuggets you’re eating all day long?
Hopefully a lot of things, considering that the nutritional value of all the information we’re consuming could be very low.
The Guardian’s Rolf Dobelli explains:
In the past few decades, the fortunate among us have recognised the hazards of living with an overabundance of food (obesity, diabetes) and have started to change our diets. But most of us do not yet understand that news is to the mind what sugar is to the body. News is easy to digest. The media feeds us small bites of trivial matter, tidbits that don’t really concern our lives and don’t require thinking. That’s why we experience almost no saturation. Unlike reading books and long magazine articles (which require thinking), we can swallow limitless quantities of news flashes, which are bright-coloured candies for the mind. Today, we have reached the same point in relation to information that we faced 20 years ago in regard to food. We are beginning to recognise how toxic news can be.
Dobelli goes on to provide illustrative examples of the following:
Dobelli wants us to go without news. To be clear, he’s not arguing against ALL journalism. He supports investigative journalism, long-form, and books, but for the last four years has entirely removed the consumption of other (shorter) news from his diet. He’s since experienced: “less disruption, less anxiety, deeper thinking, more time, and more insights.”
FJP: Firstly, journalists simply can’t afford that kind of lifestyle and anyone active on a social network can’t avoid it. And great, illuminating, informative, well-reported, well-presented journalism is out there. But if we set aside the details of his argument (over which we could debate at length), Dobelli’s larger point (that our news consumption habits aren’t very healthy), coupled with the fact that we of the mobile generations perceive the value of media so highly, raises the most important question of all for people living in 2013: How can we construct healthy, anxiety-free, informative, enjoyable news diets that help us live better lives and understand the world better? News literacy. Just like we ought to do with food, practice consuming with balance and intention.—Jihii
Part of the reason why many people (particularly geeks) dislike talking on the phone is that it forces both sides to be present at the same time, instead of allowing a user to consume or respond to the information at their own pace — or multi-task while they are doing so.
Ingram is talking about synchronous vs. asynchronous communication (ie: phone vs. e-mail or text) and how the proliferation of different kinds of communication technology has allowed people to develop different affinities for communication etiquette (depending on age/industry/how connected you are).
Both are interesting reads. The bottom line is that people have different preferences and we need to keep that in mind when we communicate with each other. Bilton, for example, writes of his distaste for communication that wastes your time (ie: leaving a voicemail when you can just send a text). Ingram, in a similar-but-different example, writes of the patience we need to develop for those who might not be at the same technological level we are (ie: don’t expect your parents to text you if they are just getting used to e-mail).
Sort of Related: Our recent post on How to Tweet Like a Buddha. It’s essentially a list of tips on how to be mindful on Twitter. How to remember that behind the screen is human being with a particular set of values, habits, preferences, and a particular level of knowledge, tech literacy and access to communication. So, in the same way we are mindful of how the person in front of us is receiving the information we convey, it’s worth being mindful of the person behind the screen. It’s an important mindfulness, I believe, that is sorely lacking in our attempts to navigate the technological literacy divides of our time.—Jihii
This month Columbia Journalism Review has been sharing mini-lists of what their staffers read on various topics. Here’s today’s, “the neat-o list,” most of which we read too.
•Alexis Madrigal: A senior editor atThe Atlanticwho writes with playful enthusiasm about innovation, entrepreneurship, and creative uses of technology.
•Atlas Obscura: Brainchild of one of the obnoxiously fabulous Foer Brothers, this site lives up to its billing as a “catalogue of the singular, eccentric, bizarre, fantastical, and strange out-of-the-way places.”
•@brainpicker: A bit thick on inspirational quotes, but Maria Popova also delivers the steadiest stream of “interestingness” anywhere on Twitter.
•Ideas Market: Chris Shea’s excellent handbook of research being done will refashion your head into the shape of a satisfied egg.
•@kottke: One of the longest and best continuously running blogs on the Internet; a source for uplift and delight that rarely disappoints.
•Marginal Revolution: A showcase of the wide-ranging, urbane tastes of economists Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok, it’s the go-to blog for polymaths and aspiring James Bond villains.
• @wired: Still the hitchhikers’ guide to the future.
In 1912, radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi declared, “The coming of the wireless era will make war impossible, because it will make war ridiculous.” Two years later a ridiculous war began, ultimately killing nine million Europeans.
via Wilson Quarterly:
As we enter an age of increased global connection, we are also entering an age of increasing participation. The billions of people worldwide who access the Internet via computers and mobile phones have access to information far beyond their borders, and the opportunity to contribute their own insights and opinions. It should be no surprise that we are experiencing a concomitant rise in mystery that parallels the increases in connection.
Zuckerman takes us from the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran to the ongoing Arab Spring, and the different tools of communication that helped us navigate (and get lost or miss) it all.
A central paradox of this connected age is that while it’s easier than ever to share information and perspectives from different parts of the world, we may be encountering a narrower picture of the world than we did in less connected days.
Why worry about what’s covered in newspapers and television when it’s possible to read firsthand accounts from Syria or Sierra Leone? Research suggests that we rarely read such accounts. My studies of online news consumption show that 95 percent of the news consumed by American Internet users is published in the United States.
Increased connection doesn’t necessary lead to increased understanding, he says. But at the same time, “there’s never been a tool as powerful as the Internet for building new ties (and maintaining existing ones) across distant borders.”
FJP: Worth noticing: the reader comments. One laughs at the notion of a “serendipity engine” (which is the beside the point entirely) and another says that “our ability to find and disseminate information has surpassed our ability to understand.” That’s worth thinking about.
Zuckerman encourages us to “see broadly,” which isn’t a new idea. A well-known danger of the build-it-yourself media diet is that we tend to fill it with things we know we want to know about, and miss the things that might do us some good. So sure, developers can race to build tools that will help us discover the people and issues in hidden corners of the world, and we can keep at improving our consumption diets.
But a vital prerequisite to any such consumption modification is for us to acquire a mental disposition that requires a bit of practice. Perhaps Zuckerman’s most important point:
The challenge for anyone who wants to decipher the mysteries of a connected age is to understand how the Internet does, and does not, connect us. Only then can we find ways to make online connection more common and more powerful.
Outside the media world, who really thinks about that question? It’s worth asking, just to open discussion, and might give us a clue about how to understand all the stuff we’re so good at consuming and disseminating. To achieve success in any endeavor, we generally identify our intent first. So why not the same of the internet?
Here’s the PDF of his article. Print it out, put it in your pocket, put it on your ipad and re-read it a few times. Talk to people about it. We’ll keep thinking about it too.—Jihii
P.S.: Global Voices on Tumblr.