on media, technology & digital culture
Image taken from: http://www.businesscomputingworld.co.uk
The Internet is an organism. A vast living organism. We keep it alive by feeding it with information. If everybody decided not to upload another byte, the Internet wouldn’t necessarily disappear but it would come to a rapid halt. In that sense, the Internet is somehow stuck in the 1950’s, a time when doctors actually recommended cigarettes. Or maybe, in the 1980’s when fast food wasn’t considered to be extremely bad for your health so we just let it slide. I would bet we let it slide because we didn’t witness the consequences straight away. It takes time to develop lung cancer or become obese.
Such is digital information. It is quite obvious that most of the worlds knowledge is now categorized, somewhat cataloged and available at your fingertips. However, there is no actual consensus on the validity of that stream of information, just like there was no consensus on the damage made by fast food or cigarettes. Still, we keep stuffing our brains with everything we come across. We form opinions, reach conclusions and take actions based on the stuff we learn online, regardless of the fact whether that information is factual.
A lot of people are probably thinking: “But, at least now you can somehow check the validity of that data unlike before when you just read the newspapers and had no choice but to trust them.” No, you didn’t, but you cant do that now either. Unless you wrote the bloody thing and had a bunch of scholars nodding how awesomely correct you are. Today, we just skim through information looking for anything that would back up our already preconceived attitude on a topic we’re interested in. Hell, even if we’re not interested in something, the author will do his best to embellish the text with a random anecdote, a punchy line or a catchy joke. So, what is true and what isn’t? How do we know if we struck gold or not?
Image taken from: http://blog.jl-photographers.com/p/things-we-love.html
Anything can be proven within the appropriate set of parameters and everything can be debunked as well. Will this corrupt the outcome of human knowledge, present or future? Are current generations living a lie? I don’t think the majority of Internet users dive too deep into fact checking when they read something online. Facts don’t have to be completely wrong to give you the wrong idea. It’s more than enough for them to be misinterpreted. That’s why linking doesn’t really work. If you want to support your idea, you will surely find a poll or an article, or even a case study that could serve as a valid argument. The same goes if you want to debunk an idea. Everything seems to be everything these days. And everything is wrong.
Some people would argue that we are living in an era of information overload. However, in his book “Networks Without A Cause”, Geert Lovink believes “it’s not about information overload, but about filter failure”. We fail to prioritize our interests and goals. That’s why we skim through content. Instead of critical thinkers, we have become power readers and as much as that saves us time, our brain is actually doing less work because of it. It’s similar to taking the same route to work everyday. Generally speaking, your brain will be less exhausted if you do the same things every day. That will eventually make you dumber. So as much as information overload is good for our brain, it is filter failure that is responsible for not being able to actually learn much from it.
Written by: MB