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It’s Not Information Overload. It’s Filter Failure

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Invormation Overload

Information overload has been around since the introduction of the printing press; so why do we still consider it to be a new problem?

Clay Shirky, New York University new-media professor, writer, and consultant argues that the problem isn’t information overload, it’s filter failure:

“What we’re dealing with now is not the problem of information overload, because we’re always dealing (and always have been dealing) with information overload…Thinking about information overload isn’t accurately describing the problem; thinking about filter failure is.”

Watch the video below to hear Clay Shirky’s well-argued points:

Clay Shirky - Its Not Information Overload. Its Filter Failure. Watch this video on YouTube

The  Gutenberg economic logic of publishing required that publishers act as filters. The Internet reduces the economic risks of publishing by allowing more and more information to be published at almost no cost.

This means it’s increasingly important for us to create better filters. Having access to information is great, but we need to filter and focus based on what we want to accomplish and what we need.

What kind of filters do you have in place to keep yourself from getting overwhelmed by too much information? Let me know in the comments.

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One Comment »

  • a j marr says:

    If fault is to be found with Shirky, as well as almost all other internet pundits on information overload, it is in their premises, not their conclusions. Almost all hold the implicit assumption that humans are sensitive to information as static facts. However, if informed by the most recent findings from affective neuroscience on human decision making, this position cannot be true.

    Specifically, Shirky (and nearly all of his peers) hold to positions that are not neurally realistic, and would have to abandon much of their opinions (and specifically the reality of information overload) if they were informed by the recent findings in affective neuroscience on how human minds actually process and choose information. Surprisingly, this argument can be made quite simply, and is made (link below) using an allegory of the Boston Red Sox pennant run over the years.


    (Alas, my argument at three pages is a bit long for a comments section, but perhaps not as a link.)

    A. J. Marr

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