[Air-l] article and discussion on 'information overload'

J Sternberg netberg at compuserve.com
Mon Apr 18 09:48:16 PDT 2005

For those interested in issues related to information overload, an 
eloquent discussion that stands up well to the test of time can be found 
in Neil Postman's 1992 book, _Technopoly: The surrender of culture to 
technology_ (New York: Alfred A. Knopf). Among my favorite passages in 
this book:

"From millions of sources all over the globe and beyond, through every 
possible channel and medium -- light waves, airwaves, ticker tapes, 
computer banks, telephone wires, television cables, satellites, printing 
presses -- information pours in. Behind it, in every imaginable form of 
storage -- on paper, on video and audio tape, on discs, film, and 
silicon chips -- is an even greater volume of information waiting to be 
retrieved. Like the Sorcerer's Apprentice, we are awash in information. 
And all the sorcerer has left us is a broom. Information has become a 
form of garbage, not only incapable of answering the most fundamental 
human questions, but barely useful in providing coherent direction to 
the solution of even mundane problems. To say it still another way: The 
milieu in which Technopoly flourishes is one in which the tie between 
information and human purpose has been severed, i.e., information 
appears indiscriminately, directed at no one in particular, in enormous 
volume and at high speeds, and disconnected from theory, meaning, or 
purpose.... We are a culture consuming itself with information, and many 
of us do not even wonder how to control the process. We proceed under 
the assumption that information is our friend, believing that cultures 
may suffer grievously from a lack of information, which, of course, they 
do. It is only now beginning to be understood that cultures may also 
suffer grievously from information glut, information without meaning, 
information without control mechanisms." (pp. 69-70)

Janet Sternberg, Ph.D.
Fordham University
Media Ecology Association

Jeff Young wrote:

> Hi,
> I thought folks on this list might be interested in an article in this 
> week's Chronicle of Higher Education about information overload and the 
> social impacts of technology. The article is free to anyone (even 
> non-subscribers):
> Knowing When to Log Off
> http://chronicle.com/free/v51/i33/33a03401.htm
> Also, we're hosting an online chat about the issues this Thursday:
> http://chronicle.com/colloquy/2005/04/overload/
> -Jeff
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