Enough With the Information Overload Manifestos, OK?

August 24, 2009 at 1:42 pm | Posted in Attention Management, communication, Information Work | 1 Comment

Not So Fast: Sending and receiving at breakneck speed can make life queasy; a manifesto for slow communication”, By John Freeman (WSJ 8/22/09 p W3), is yet another “shake you to your senses” information overload 101 article.  I found it noteworthy because it explicitly defines itself as a manifesto, two years after I explicitly noted that getting away from manifestos is what is needed to make the best of the proliferation of information and content while minimizing its worst effects on businesses and workers. (Note: I avoided guru-tense and didn’t word that as “while minimizing the disastrous impact this is having on us and our ability to think and reason …”). 

I will read the book because it’s my job to read these things, but there’s no need to wait since a good book already exists on the need to slow down: “In Praise of Slowness”, by Carl Honore (my review is here).

Here is the comment I entered to the article on WSJ.com:

This is a very good information overload primer – particularly the parts about making conscious decisions about where the “finite well of our attention” is focused.  But what Mr. Freeman has done is provide a manifesto at precisely the time that the opposite is needed: for all the information overload pundits to put the evangelism aside and focus on a path to improvement that embraces both sides of this debate.

Getting heads nodding by describing what “we” are doing to “ourselves” (always in guru-tense) is easy.  Nomiki (who has commented a few times here) shows that not everyone should be included in that “we” as some have learned to adapt their expectations and tool usage to minimize their info-stress while not demonizing or sacrificing what the information age has to offer. 

After my first year of covering information overload I recognized that the evangelical aspect of the narrative that “Not So Fast” follows is counterproductive.  In fact, Mr. Freeman’s manifesto was published two years (give or take a week) after I published my “Manifesto-free definition of attention management”. 

An excerpt: “The debate is over whether we are at a tipping point that necessitates a radical change in approach – an ‘information intervention’ – or just seeing an incremental but manageable increase in information velocity. Those who argue it is an incremental increase often disregard the rest of attention management as the result of unwarranted alarmist thinking.

That’s unfortunate because this emerging field has a lot to offer regardless of whether one believes that we are at a hand-wringing crisis moment or not … What is needed, then, is a manifesto-free definition of attention management. One that doesn’t require purchase of a belief system to understand.”

For those interested in a manifesto-free approach to this situation:

Note: This is a cross-posting from the Collaboration and Content Strategies blog.

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  1. […] both sides of this issue feel the need to speak for all of society when they talk (as I mentioned here).  Do “we” care about information overload?  Speak for yourself or those you […]

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