Mar 10 2009

Finding things Out

Jamie Barrows


I find that a great part of the information I have was acquired by looking up something and finding something else on the way.
Franklin P. Adams

Read the above quote the other day and thought it was particularly true in the Internet Age. How often do you go online to find a bit of info, only to learn 10 different things that you weren’t even looking for?

I know it works that way for me.

Jan 19 2009

When is too much information, too much information?

Jamie Barrows


I read an interesting rant over the weekend. It’s titled "Is this the better world you were talking about?" And the main theme seemed to be the information glut that we are daily exposed to. And the point seemed to be that the information glut is causing more harm than good.

I’ve written about information overload in one of my posts before. But other than claiming I need to be better at dealing with it, I am pretty strongly of the opinion that more information is better than less.

The author of the article makes the point that a huge amount of the information out there these days is exaggerated or overreported. And he’s right. A lot of it is just exaggerated opinions and fearmongering. Bias and sensationalism is rampant in our news media. But is that really a difference from the past or a problem that needs to be fixed? As I posted in one of my posts over a year ago, I don’t see that as an issue. ALL NEWS is biased by the opinions and beliefs of the reporter. That holds true no matter what the medium (TV, Newspaper, Radio, Internet, etc.) is. As long as you can identify the bias of the reporter and know that it is there, you should be able to get the facts out of the story.

And as for being overwhelmed by the information, it isn’t all that hard to just turn off the TV, or not read the article. If the weather channel is giving you too much information, just don’t watch it. If you are constantly getting sucked into the conspiracy theories of fringe groups, stop listening to them.

The way I see it, it’s just a question of developing proper filters. People need to learn how to filter out the fringe extremist groups and make sure they get their news from multiple sources to recognize and counteract the bias present in any one source. They need to be disciplined enough to turn off the news feed if it is taking over their lives or becoming an obsession.

There will always be those people who can’t or won’t develop decent critical filters, but that doesn’t mean the world would be better off with less information. If you look at history, you will see that in almost every repressive society, much of that repression was accomplished by a strict control of information and the means of communication. That kind of control, in our information rich and information overloaded society,  is no longer possible.

These days we have true freedom to express our knowledge and opinions. And the luxury of being able to choose our sources of information and control the quantity of the information we receive. I don’t think I would want to give that freedom up or go back to the days of limited information.

Would you? Is there such a thing as too much information?

Oct 27 2007

Does information naturally gravitate towards freedom?

Jamie Barrows

Internet Cafe

There is an old hacker saying, “Information wants to be free.” Now when I say old, I don’t mean old in real world time. I mean old in Internet time. Where if it is older than a year, it is considered ancient. The saying is kind of a cliche, but lately I’ve been wondering if there might be some truth to it.

The question is, does information naturally gravitate towards freedom? In an information based society like ours, the above question is very relevant and rather important. For thousands of years governments, religions, and businesses/trade guilds have used control of information to protect their power and position.

These days all of that is changing. As the information age comes into full swing, control of information is getting harder to maintain. And suppressing unwanted information is nearly impossible. The best anyone can hope for, is that the unwanted info will be forgotten. But you can’t remove it or hide it. So that information will always be there.

Every government, business, and religious group that relies on information control is feeling the effects today. Repressive, and even democratic, governments around the world that try to hide their policies and actions are finding that it is nearly impossible. New scandals and abuses are daily leaked to the Internet and spread far beyond the reach of the governments involved. Religious groups like the Scientologists that rely on secret knowledge for elites, are fighting a losing battle to keep that knowledge off of the Internet. Business models that rely on a monopoly of information are all feeling the pressure of competition from non-experts. Copyrights and patents are becoming increasingly hard to protect.

Basically, if it is information, it will end up on the internet at some point. And once it does, it will be there forever. I’m not sure what that really means for our society. I know that it means a lot of change for a lot of different areas and people.

By the way, here are a couple of video’s that illustrate the point.

The Machine is Us/ing Us

Information R/evolution

Jul 9 2007

Dependencies in the modern world

Jamie Barrows

Internet Addiction

Last week I was on vacation. The place I went was up in the hills and too far out for DSL or Cable internet access. So I was stuck with very limited dial up as my only choice for internet access. I had forgotten how incredibly slow the internet is when you are stuck on dial up. It was so slow, that I really couldn’t use it for much beyond simple email. So in effect I had no Internet access for the whole week.

Until I didn’t have it, I really had no idea how dependent on Internet access my daily life had become. Being without Internet access was a real problem. Every time I wanted to do or know anything, I would want to look it up online. But I couldn’t. Directions, movie times, restaurants, schedules, orders, maps, and just general communications. I had to try to remember how I would have found the info without Internet access. Sometimes, I just decided it wasn’t worth knowing or finding out because it would be too much trouble to get whatever info I wanted.

I’m so used to having all of the info available to me online, that I don’t even realize how often I use the Internet. I use the it for all my banking, planning, scheduling, news, and communications. I also use it for general trivia and curiosity whenever I see or hear something I want to know more about. Without it, I felt lost and cut off. Sure I have a cell phone on which I could call anyone I wanted. And the place I was staying at had satellite TV. If I wanted news, I could pick up a newspaper or watch TV any time I wanted. But it wasn’t the same.

I couldn’t read a headline or hear a news blurb, and look up 30 different stories on the topic or event. I couldn’t instantly look up historical background on the city, company, person, nation, or item in the story. Even worse, I couldn’t get the story reported from several different political, social, and demographic points of view. All the news I got was limited and filtered through a few mainstream outlets.

If I wanted to go somewhere I had never been, I needed to ask someone for directions rather than simply looking it up. I’m so used to looking up directions online before going somewhere, that I don’t even own a map anymore and I almost never ask someone for directions. I usually just ask for an address.

I had to call places to find out times and schedules because the information wasn’t right there in front of me just a search away. Movie times, store opening times, calendar events. Even phone numbers for stores and businesses. I had to discover all over again how to find things in a phone book(a huge pain in the neck). All the info I needed was either unavailable or had to be discovered in ways I don’t normally use.

This whole problem kind of surprised me because I hadn’t really realized how dependent I was on the Internet for everything I do and learn now. To think that just 10 years ago, I was barely using it for email, and now I have trouble functioning without it. It makes me think I may be just a little too dependent on it. I guess I’m sort of addicted.

So how necessary is the internet to your daily life?