Context Collapse

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about how we get information in the internet age. As a college professor I deeply appreciate the increased access to information and the fact that I hope to never again see a card catalogue. The problem I’ve struggled with the most is the way information is organized and the inhuman pace of the delivery platforms. In a recent short essay entitled “From context collapse to content collapse” Nicholas Carr says:

“I remember, years ago, being struck by the haphazardness of the headlines flowing through my RSS reader. I’d look at the latest update to the New York Times feed, for instance, and I’d see something like this:

Dam Collapse Feared as Flood Waters Rise in Midwest
Nike’s New Sneaker Becomes Object of Lust
Britney Spears Cleans Up Her Act
Scores Dead in Baghdad Car-Bomb Attack
A Spicy New Take on Bean Dip

It wasn’t just that the headlines, free-floating, decontextualized motes of journalism ginned up to trigger reflexive mouse clicks, had displaced the stories. It was that the whole organizing structure of the newspaper, its epistemological architecture, had been junked. The news section (with its local, national, and international subsections), the sports section, the arts section, the living section, the opinion pages: they’d all been fed through a shredder, then thrown into a wind tunnel. What appeared on the screen was a jumble, high mixed with low, silly with smart, tragic with trivial. The cacophony of the RSS feed, it’s now clear, heralded a sea change in the distribution and consumption of information. The new order would be disorder.”

I’m trying to find ways to reorder the input of information. That desire is one of the reasons I started this blog.

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