Sunday, May 31, 2009

Information Harvesting

It's very easy to harvest information these days - and I'm an avid delicious user as those familiar with this blog will know, which I've now combined with getting stuff from Twitter. Together with all my RSS feeds, that's more than enough information to process per day, quite apart from trying to do my work properly.

So to badly paraphrase Marx, the point is not to have lots of information, but to do more with it. Not only harvesting and interpreting information, but hopefully changing the world with it. There's no point having knowledge at your fingertips if you're not resolved to make something with it. Social media makes possible plenty of sharing, tagging, tweeting and repeating, but that's just the start. The real issue is how to construct new knowledge and useful ideas out of this enormous information flow. Which takes concentration and the avoidance of distractions. It's easy for the information ecology to just become a parade of diversions.

And the second point, which I'm very conscious of, typing with soil under my fingernails from digging in the garden for most of the afternoon, is that screen and web is only one small source of information. There are just as significant news feeds and inputs to be had from face to face, person to person, place to place, person to planet interaction. The web is one part of the knowledge ecology, but there's a bigger and wider social web that underpins it. What's important is to get a balance, and to make real time for considered thought and action. So an afternoon of potting up tomato plants and beginning to cut back the overgrown branches will also, hopefully, provide a decent harvest further down the line.

There's something very satisfying about aching muscles and dirty hands. It's not particularly healthy to live in a cleansed, sanitised, polished and endlessly mediatised world week in, week out. And so I think I'm going to try to weed out my information flow a bit and try to improve the signal to noise ratio, rather like need to cut back the brambles in the garden.