[I'm not sure how much of a commentary I'm going to blog about the course of writing my new book, Too Big to Know. Here's a first post. It makes me personally uncomfortable to talk about this process, so I may not continue to do so. Also, please note the "2b2k" in the title, providing you with an instant way of recognizing posts you want to skip.]
I’ve spent a couple of days writing an opening that I think doesn’t work, although I can probably use it elsewhere in the book. And now I am stopped by the need to choose a fork.
The opening looks at the history of information overload, going back to the book Future Shock, and pointing to the coining of “sensory overload” in 1950. I look at how pathetically small was the amount of info that seemed threatening to us back then. And I point at research (especially by Ann Blair and Richard Yeo) on information overload in the 16th-18th centuries. (Yes, I have the Seneca quote as well). All this is in service of the point that information overload has changed now that it’s gone exponentially exponential [thanks for the link, Linda Stone] and is so much a part of our ordinary context.
Next, I think I want to gesture at one way of understanding the change: We now face “knowledge overload.” But, the point of the book is that knowledge is no longer what it once was, so I don’t want to point to ordinary cases of knowing things; I fundamentally disagree with the idea that knowledge is to information as information is to data. So, I’m thinking that I might here use an example that will show the reader that this is a real, concrete issue, and it is not exactly the issue that she probably assumes it is from the fact that I’m talking about “knowledge.”
Or maybe I should jump straight into explaining what knowledge has been, since I’m trying to get to a section on the history of facts.
Fortunately, it’s lunch time. I choose the metal fork!