Reading Clay Johnson’s book “The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption” opens the door to an awakening and energizing experience and I have already become an evangelist for the message and thoughtful suggestions he has written. The Information Diet is truly an inspired book, but don’t just take my affirmation for it, go and read it for yourself. Well wait a few minutes before you do and let me share some of my own thoughts and take-aways from reading it. You will be supporting my own data literacy, a component of which includes creation and publishing one’s own synthesis of ideas.
The distortion of information and ideas as a result of misused technology and poor communication has been around for centuries; it comes with the existence of communities and civilization. Nonetheless, the bombardment of information at our fingertips in today’s internet laden, smart phone, tablet and wearable devices era is at a record high. The potential for our allowing and consenting to the vast, seemingly endless amount of information influencing how we live, think and interact is what’s most at stake here. Thanks to the brilliant points outlined in Johnson’s section “There is no such thing as information overload”, I chose my words carefully in the previous sentence.
Taking time to reflect on our current information consumption has great value because it gives us a baseline from which we can thinking about:
- how information may be positively and negatively effecting us, and,
- how to go about making changes for the better.
An over-indulgence in information consumption, especially if not carefully chosen, has physiological effects on our concentration, attention span and also, I believe, on our ability to be openminded and to listen well to others.
Looking at the brilliantly crafted nutritional information label on the cover of Johnson’s book, let’s focus on the following question:
How can we have “increased civic effectiveness” as an outcome for conscious consumption of information?
It’s an epic undertaking, and one that requires a strong framework of ethics, civility, and empathic communication. Pillars of culture that seem dangerously eroded in the current political environment. Nonetheless, or even more so because of this, every effort we put in to increased civic effectiveness is a worthwhile endeavor toward solving problems that matter and making the world a better place.
I circle back to reflection, analysis and synthesis of our current information consumption by way of these words in “The Information Diet” on page 140,
“Going on a healthy information diet restores our ability to be pragmatic. Let’s take our country back, not from the right or from the left, but from the crazy partisanship of both sides. Let’s give it to the stewards that have made the country so great, the pragmatists–the ones who want to create a more perfect union. A country with measurable results and demonstrably good outcomes.”
We have to take time to review how our own biases are happily affirmed by the media and information we choose to consume. I’ve felt generally confident in my ability to filter out the seemingly all-pervasive noise of advertising in our culture. And I feel an aversion to overly opinionated, mean spirited punditry. After reading “The Information Diet,” however, I felt a need to reassess my own relationship with the news I choose to read and the motivating factors when using social media.
Facts and well analyzed data must tell the truth.
Where am I filtering out information and viewpoints different from my own that may be worthwhile knowing about and engaging with? And how are the filters and veils through which we are all looking out into the world preventing us from working together toward a ‘more perfect union’?