Data Overload: Reflection

“Information overload” is a term that was coined by Alvin Toffler, which refers to the excess amount of information that our generation receives due to various advances in technology. This excess of information can make it difficult for an individual to make decisions or comprehend issues.

We live in the 20th century, which is also known as the information age and the rise of the internet and other advances in computer technology such as search engines, features of mobile phones that provide constant/instant information feeds, and social media websites.

With the invention of search engines, we have access to virtually any information that we want to receive. We have instant access to news from various sources. When we want details about an individual or a news story that has just broken out, we can do a Google search and are instantly provided with large amounts of articles, online news publications, blogs, and various sources of information on the topic. Some of these sources are credible, while some might be biased or filled with mistakes. I have witnessed this aspect of the information overload taking effect on society and the lives of myself and those around me by causing us to make mistakes and incorrectly identify facts or sides to a story.

Another factor contributing to the information overload is the ease with which our generation can recreate and send information. We now have the ability to instantly recreate and send information through the use of email and the sharing of links to information on social media websites.

Facebook has gone even further in encouraging the information overload by creating a new feature where users are notified any time that one of their friends has read a certain news article online. For example, when I log into Facebook and view my news feed, I receive a notification that says “Paul Bauer just read an article called ‘Jersey Shore cast member reveals that she is pregnant’ on Yahoo! news”.  Facebook users have the options of sharing the articles that they read with their friends, and just by clicking on a news article online all of the individual’s friends are exposed to that article.

Another factor contributing to the information overload is the increase in channels that can communicate information to us. This includes the rise of emailing, RSS feeds, instant messaging, text messaging, and telephones. We live in a generation where individuals cannot live without having email access on their cell phones. People want their phones to vibrate every time that they receive a new tweet or have a new Facebook notification. I feel that this can be beneficial in some ways, while it can also be detrimental. It can be beneficial in the sense that we are able to work faster and achieve more when we are able to instantly communicate.

With the wide variety of channels that we can use to receive information, it is both difficult and overwhelming to keep up with the rapid rate at which we are receiving the information.  Receiving such a high volume/rapid rate of information through so many channels also takes away from the time that we are able to put into face-to-face communication.

What do you think? Is the information overload a genuine cause of concern for our generation, or just another concept that exaggerates the negative effects of new technology?

Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy

I recently read an interesting book called “Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy”, by Jeff Chester. Jeff Chester is the director of the Center for Digital Democracy, a Washington D.C. based non-profit dedicated to encouraging democratic expression in the digital media era. The book brought up various provocative points about the democracy in the new digital era. Chester expresses how we are being indirectly targeted by corporations and media companies who are trying to sell their products, and asks whether or not this is ethical.

We are led to believe that we have increased freedom as technology increases and the internet is becoming such a powerful force in our daily lives. However, with the growth of the internet, are we actually losing freedom? Thins such as the “AD-ID”, created by one of the many advertising associations,  monitor our browsing habits and collect detailed information on us, allowing advertisers to target us more aggressively. Chester asks whether or not this is democratic, and makes it clear that in his opinion it is highly unethical and is slowly depleting democracy. I feel more of a moderate view towards the issue in that I feel that while advertisers are in some cases targeting audiences too aggressively, we still ultimately choose what persuades us.

I sincerely feel that regardless of how much an ad is forced onto my brain, if I am genuinely uninterested in the product or unimpressed by the ad, I am not going to buy the product. Advertising and marketing are meant to persuade and used to position a product in a way that makes it desirable, but they are not capable of brainwashing consumers. I ultimately felt that while he did present some interesting views and raise some interesting questions, many of the points were more radical than my personal beliefs on the subject matter. However, I still felt that the book was a good read for anyone interested in the effects that the increased use of internet and digital advertising is having on consumers and society.