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Everything Overloaded

A.C., a good friend, and I were conversing recently when the subject of information overload came up. Information overload is probably not a term i would have coined, nor is it something that i’d likely use– probably because most of the people who i’m in direct, conversational contact with could stand to add any information to their brains that they can find– let alone to worry about the issue of overloading on information– so, i wouldn’t expect it to come up. I guess that’s really just an excuse for trying to play it off like i don’t follow the pack– meaning, i think the term Information Overload is a relatively new, common colloquialism– and for whatever the reason, i tend to warily avoid using them until i’m quite sure what they mean. I suppose i’m satisfied with it now enough to discuss it.

Information Overload

Why the sudden popularity of “Information Overload”? It’s hardly arguable that it’s directly proportional, not only to the sizable increase in the amount of readily available text, images, phone numbers, names, addresses, products, and prices, etc.; web pages in general as connected social bookmarks and tags services, and a slue of other ways of connecting he or she who wants it, to whatever the item of desire may be– methods of searching which have only in the past few years become popularized such that they in many ways have probably taken the place of search engines in a user’s standard research routine.

what once was a battle over which search engine had the most advanced technology, the fastest servers, and the fastest data retrieval, along with the most accurate, up to date search term matches, is no longer necessarily a question of ..will i more likely find it on Google or Alta Vista?.. but perhaps who is it that is most likely to have bookmarked this?… When searching bookmarks, or tags— which exponentially multiply the bookmarked term’s relationship to other terms and contexts– this is when the information overload creeps in.

No longer are we looking for a direct relationship, as in the years B.I. (“Before Internet”– ie. the olden days) as our Mothers as Fathers sought the information for their Education. We don’t get a direct, denotative definition of the word, but instead the word as so many others before us have defined it; instead of a few synonyms, we get all of the contexts into which that word might be placed, and accordingly, all of the other words from those different contexts, in the form of tags because of the very nature of the social bookmarking concept.

When considered alongside of those numbers of associated relationships– the vast, virtually innumerable connections from word to word, meaning to meaning, context to context, it becomes a bit more easy to perceive, and accept the reality that we sometimes are indeed overloaded with information. Maybe it’s not the most accurate term to describe the phenomenon– considering that one would think that too much information about a thing, or things, could never really happen. how could one have too much information about a potential cure for cancer? how could i have too much information about how to compose a symphony? it’s doubtful that anyone would agree with the idea of too much information, if you look at it as i’ve just suggested.

Then what do we truly mean when we complain of information overload in regard to the internet, and browsing and searching, etc.? It’s probably a little more accurate to say “contextual overload”, or that our stream of consciousness has been flooded, and now our thoughts are flowing all out over the containing walls, into the streets, and finally other tributaries, mixing the fresh water with the rain water with the sewar water; mixing the simple with the complex, the saltwater with the freshwater; and many other dichotomies, and metaphor for this point i’m trying to make. what is it then, truly, which is overloading us? is it healthy? what might be the social consequences, if any, and how many years until we find out?

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