This is cross posted from a comment of mine to David Weinberger's blog post "[2b2k] Notes on the history of information overload"
Very interesting material. And very clever organized.
Indeed, progressive overloading is happening in many fields. And it was happening also in the past. (O tempora O mores!)
Overloading is actually produced by our inability to deal properly with too many incoming information streams. We try to keep up as we can, usually becoming inevitably less accurate in judgment and in quality of our attention.
Let’s simply consider the communication channels we currently have to deal with: classic books and papers, computer notes, emails, blogs, websites, phone, sms, chat, twitter… you say it.
Information cycle is also very fast. In my childhood I had pen pal friends all over the world, and it took months for us to exchange some message.
Now it takes seconds.
And this is amazing.
Our words were more carefully studied, slowly digested and consumed. Tiny non-explicit bits were decoded and ripped from pen tremblings. We were actually interpreting and creating inner meaning. (Was it useful?)
Alas, not that time anymore. Let’s not regret. World changed. We changed too.
Now our messages are swallowed and maybe digested (mostly un-understood) in a handful of milliseconds, decoded by hurry eyes scanning remote flickering screens.
And we are getting and filtering more and more, and each channel is full of noise. Overall Signal/Noise ratio is -probably- going down. But it is addicting.
(Oh yes, it would be nice to follow this and that.)
Simultaneous channels usage is currently happening to me everyday: reading or composing emails while writing a spec in another window, then answering to the fixed phone, and receiving another call on the mobile, and getting crazy, while people around me laugh.
But do not worry
It will get worse.
Let's enjoy it, and get organized.
Marco ( @mgua on twitter )
PS: David Weinberger is @dweinberger on twitter