You may or may not be a fan of Chuck Colson, but in his 18 July 2007 Breakpoint Commentary, Gorging On Politics, he makes a number of points regarding the flaw of the Information Age, the need to CREATE information to maintain flow and interest. He mentions Jacques Ellul’s book, The Political Illusion, which predicted this very thing. Colson’s Point?
But the real evil of the illusion is that it distracts us from other aspects of life.
Nicholas Carr is quoted saying that people are changing the way, and need, to remember things, because the majority of it is available on the internet. He also mentions that this means that “cultural baggage” (whether for good or bad), is being left behind as well. Of course, that also means long views and perspectives, something the Western World is already trying to leave behind at light speed.
Where ARE we going? Perhaps we ought to think about that. And that leads me to what I am finding out about myself. I love technology, but I’m really becoming confronted with what it is doing to me, my children, my country, everyone. At one point, Technological Enervation was going to be just a phrase, but now I’m changing it to a zeitgeist. This is the spirit of the age. Yay.
footnoteIn case you’re wondering the reason for the title name, it is from Johnny Mnemonic (an okay Keanu Reeves movie), where a guy has rewired part of his brain to allow him to carry data. He says, “Hit me,” right before more information is uploaded into his brain than it is wired to tolerate (thus we get the whole, “I’m gonna die,” suspense for the movie). And I’m sure at least one other person out there saw this movie, it’s not just me (I hope). The really funny part, is that the plot of the movie is about information overload.
Normally I think of Colson as a prattling tool (not to mention, felon) with delusions of rational thought, but I think he makes a few good points in this particular article with regard to the volume of political “information” being generated by the media.
Before we pile on too much, however, consider that a good deal of the din we hear is coming not just from “professional” pols and 24/7 shouting matches but also from enthusiastic bloggers. The wall of sound feeds on itself now that any of us can generate our own political noise by way of our blogs, podcasts, and web sites (Oh my!). Information junkies — those who voraciously consume “professional grade” information blasts — create screamfests of their own; cultivate and energize new disciples who often, in turn, start their own noise generation facilities. The result is a loud, dissonant surge of white noise.
(Ironically Colson is a part of the problem when he spews forth from platforms such as ClownHall and WorldNutDaily. I doubt he sees it that way.)
OK, so we agree that there’s a lot of noise out there and that people often get swept up in the excitement of it all, sometimes to the exclusion of other things that Colson feels are important. I, for instance, once went a week without bathing, eating, sleeping or feeding my family because of an intense online Sopranos discussions surrounding their series finale. (Won’t someone think of the CHILDREN?!)
Fortunately our technology offers solutions for “taming” the beast — and it is this very technology, I think, that contributes to a problem germane to your Technological Enervation meme: Filters.
RSS aggregation makes it possible for you and I to follow hundreds of blogs a day. It’s a brilliant (and really simple, hence the name) method for rolling up a lot of unrelated information into manageable chunks. The chunks can be filtered, sorted, and categorized to create a “custom” news source tailored for a specific individual’s taste. Cool? Yes. A potential problem? Possibly.
Filters keep out competing ideas, which can lead to news consumers getting a very narrow view of the world. To be sure this “idea filtering” is a self-imposed reaction to information overload, but it’s also myopic in a way. The result is a loud, narrowly focused blast of sympathetic noise (which, as it turns out is how one critic described the sound of a band I once played in). This, I think, has a “cocooning” effect. It separates as much as it unites. It sharpens points of discontinuity where there was once nuance of opinion and, unfortunately, sets us on edge with one another.
And that, in my opinion, is one way technology impedes the development of social connection.
I have to stop now because TT is watching Doctor Who nearby and I don’t possess an adequate filter for that. 🙂
Oh… and Johnny Mnemonic RULES!
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