Introduction and Welcome

September 15, 2010

Sometimes I feel exceedingly lucky to live in the Information Age and have access to the Internet: one of the most revolutionary, empowering, and exciting inventions ever.

Other times, I’m afraid we’ve created a monster that is sucking out our souls.

But most of the time (until I enrolled at an iSchool a year ago, anyway) I don’t even think about it. For over half of my life now, the Internet has been woven deeply into it. It’s my generation’s normal.

There’s no doubt that many of the high points of my life were made possible by the Internet. From being able to share my writing with people as far away as Australia or the Middle East, to living in Japan for three years—something I doubt I would have had the courage to do without e-mail and VoIP— to simply having access to far more information easier than ever before, I can definitely say that the Internet has been a force for good in my life.

That being said, I’m starting to feel like my Internet usage habits—no, scratch that, my entire paradigm of information absorption for education, social interaction, entertainment, and just general purpose use might be taking some kind of toll on me.

So I started this blog to explore those issues.

There’s a certain irony to that, given that one of the major things I am contemplating is whether we simply have too much information being constantly dumped in our laps. If you already have so much coming at you that you just can not take another blog, then I would strongly support your choice not to follow this one.

If, however, you keep managing to squeeze each new blog that interests you into your RSS feed, this might be for you—especially if you’ve ever felt that you’ll never be able to stay on top of it all, but want to keep trying anyway.

This blog will be my attempt to understand my own (and from there, my peers’ and society’s) Internet usage. From there, I’ll try to come up with some “best practices” for a life that maximizes the benefits of the digital lifestyle, while identifying and minimizing its drawbacks.

The primary question is, can we escape the latter without giving up the former?

A secondary question is, do you consider the same things “benefits” and “drawbacks” that I do? (And if not, tertiarily, can our standards mesh? What can we do when they don’t? What happens to society if we can’t answer that?)

To help me answer that second question, I hope you’ll join in the conversation by posting comments! (I flatter myself by presuming that my friends already know that I’m always open to a differing opinion, and that others will see me prove that. Which isn’t to say I won’t sometimes disagree vehemently; just that I won’t disagree maliciously!)

Here are some key principles I’ll have in mind as I ponder these issues:

  • Sometimes the new way of doing things is better, and sometimes it’s not. Knee-jerk reactions in either direction must always be suspect.
  • To some extent, we all get carried along by technological change. But we should fight being passively carried along by it; rather, we want to actively embrace it, when it’s good to do so.
  • Sometimes something might seem better but have unanticipated side effects or drawbacks to which we are simply accustomed; then again, sometimes something seems better and actually is better. And sometimes something seems to serve no real purpose and, indeed, has no real purpose. (Google Wave, I’m looking at you.)
  • Self-reflection is the way to improve one’s own life and technological practices.
  • Conversation is the first step to improving our collective lives.

And my ultimate goal?

To accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative…

and to control my Internet use rather than letting it control me.

With that, let the blogging commence. Welcome to Too Much Information, and I hope I’ll see you around!

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2 Responses to “Introduction and Welcome”

  1. (Google Wave, I’m looking at you.)

    LOL! I find it really interesting that only a year after its much-hurrahed launch, Google has semi-officially killed off Wave. (Now if only Buzz would follow… but that’s a different rant.)

    I’m really interested to see what kind of things you’re going to post here. I’ve been thinking a lot about these questions, too. I’ve run into roughly a gajabillion newspaper articles recently that are along the lines of “Those kids today with their internet! Everything’s different and I don’t understand it! Get offa my lawn!” I’m sure some of my reaction is a visceral need to defend my generation, but I do think questions of how the internet has and is changing the way people interact is worth looking at.

    The examples in my own life are plentiful. Having built my first website in 8th grade is one of the foundational pieces of my life. It sounds silly, but it’s true: that website a) allowed me to share my writing with other people, in a way that encouraged it and got me writing daily, improving at it, etc (and I’m now caught up in polishing a manuscript I hope to submit to literary agents next year!); and b) I… uh, work at a website now. The skills I taught myself for fun starting back then have become my day job. (And that could be another digression in and of itself — after all, the site I work for is all about making important information accessible to people who need it; how can we do that more effectively?)

    Anyhoo, as I said: having access to the internet as a pre-teen and teenager shaped who I am as an adult. (Assuming you consider me an adult. *g*) I don’t know quite what I’d be doing if I had grown up in another generation, but I think it’s fascinating to look at the ways the information age is shaping our generation and the ones that follow ours.

  2. I eventually plan to get to a segment where I muse about what having a website fairly early in life did for me, as it seems to inadvertently shaped my career path as well (though for a while I resisted this). I’d love to hear your thoughts on that when I do!

    It’s true about the “get offa my lawn!” older types. I have sympathy for them, having to deal with such a profound socio-technical shift later in their lives. It must make them feel really old. Sometimes I like to think that because our generation is not merely used to technology, but used to changing technology (upgrades + new techy things every year or so), so maybe we’ll escape this fate to some degree. But who knows what the future holds? In any case, I like to think that I’ll be able to be a little less biased about information technology than the older generation (who often seem like they either dismiss it entirely or really want to demonstrate that they embrace it for fear of seeming old), but in my case, this is meaning that I sound like more of a critic. I am going to make a point to post some positive things for sure, too.

    Thanks for the comments and for reading the blog!! :) Glad to hear someone’s interested!

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