Showing posts with label Cut the Clutter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cut the Clutter. Show all posts

Friday, May 27, 2022

Book Insights 3/3: The Information Diet: A Case For Conscious Consumption by Clay Johnson



This blog is a only a summary note of the book and does not capture the full content and all the details.  
This blog is written for academic purpose, please do provide citation to the book The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption, Author - Clay Johnson, Publisher - O'Reilly, for referencing. 
I encourage the readers to buy the book for a detailed reading. 
It's available on Amazon Kindle:

 Clay Johnson in his book The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption, takes a very interesting position by drawing an analogy between the industrialization of food (the fast food culture) with industrialization of information (the hyper digital media culture)

Mindless eating of fast food (low nutrient, high calories) leads to weight gain/obesity. 

Similarly, mindless consumption of information (high quantity but low in quality) leads to information obesity. 

The author alerts the readers by pointing out human beings are hard wired to salt, sugar and fat. 

Similarly, human beings are hard wired for affirmation of their beliefs, fear, hate and gossips.

The appeal he makes to us is not to be passive consumer of media, rather to recognise we all have a 'choice' and to use this agency to decide what to consume? what to avoid? 

The book brings up the concept of Fiduciary responsibility i.e. media companies serve their shareholders by focusing on revenue and profit margins. This business model translates into:
  1. Tweaking news headlines to make it more palatable to it's audience.
  2. Create Link baits, as more clicks = more ads = more revenue for the media house
  3. Many media houses deploy multivariate testing. In the initial 5 minutes, 2 variant headlines of the same news are put out online. The headline which draws more clicks stays online.
  4. Experienced journalist are being replaced with network of less qualified, cheaper independent contractors.
  5. Content farming: The editors makes decision on 4 parameters: i. Traffic potential, ii. Revenue potential, iii. Turn-around-time and iv. Editorial quality.
  6. Deployment of SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
  7. Media content is catered towards the algorithms, SEO
  8. Churnalism: Simply copy pasting what's in a press release (permissible plagiarism) than value added news articles
  9. Advertisements, Sales have taken over as the primary driver. For free or low priced content, unknowingly the consumers are the products.
The author also makes us aware of Bad Science, i.e. vested interests coming together to fund research studies, favourable to them. He gives examples of:
  • US Big Tobacco companies creating organizations such as Center for Indoor Air Research and ARISE (Associates for Research in The Science of Enjoyment). [create doubts in the minds of smokers and non-smokers]
  • American Enterprise Institute (think tank) funded by Exxon Mobil, Philips Morris [anti-climate change lobby]
  • Climate Gate controversy of 2009, University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit.
This battle of Science and battle of Doubt Production, makes the information landscape murky.  

If you would have noticed, all the above points towards the external environment. 

The author, now makes us look inwards i.e. into 3 short comings of our nature which keeps us ignorant and ill-informed:
  1. Agnotology: The more informed someone is, the more hardened their beliefs become, irrespective of the information being factually correct or incorrect.
  2. Epistemic closure: Dismissing all other sources of information as unreliable.
  3. Filter failure: The bubble we create for ourselves, to avoid cognitive and ego burden.
Infact, social media feed algorithms are creating filter bubbles for us.

The author lists out the symptoms of information obesity: 
  • Distorted sense of reality, 
  • Loss of social breath (unable to nurture meaningful interaction due to the sheer overload of online network), 
  • Attention fatigue, 
  • Poor sense of time (screen addition, staying in virtual reality), 
  • Poor decision making. vi. Loss of productivity and efficiency. 
The author offers a solution to us by coining a new term 'INFOVEGANISM'

At the heart of this Infoveganism, lies:
  • Change the mindless/passive/auto-pilot consumption habits of media
  • Become conscious consumer
  • Follow ethics
  • Master data literacy
Mastering data literacy comprises of the following skills:
  1. How to search? (verify the source)
  2. How to filter? (think critically, make good judgement)
  3. How to process? (draw insights)
  4. How to produce? (as a content creator, focus on quality and value)
  5. How to synthesize? (connecting the dots and making inferences)
The author provides simple hacks for staying in control and to be mindful of our information diet:
  1. Prevent attention fatigue. In other words, we can maintain our attention fitness by i. Strategic allocation of our attention (choose what is important for you and filter out the rest), ii. Will-power, iii. Measurement (self-assessment of your media consumption) and iv. Elimination (based on self-assessment, minimize the unwanted/excess).
  2. Set daily time limit for online/screen time and stick to it.
  3. Sign up for advertisement free content
  4. Pay for consuming good content
  5. Set priority for yourself, use rules and filters to cut off unwanted emails, notifications etc.
  6. Operate out of consciousness, be mindful. Remind this to yourself and practice this habit.
The quote from the author Clay Johnson, sums up the message of the book:

"Obesity is a complicated problem. Obviously, obesity has to do with access, and obesity has to do with the economic conditions, but it sometimes also has to do with overeating, and the same thing happens with information. I think a lot of people don't have great access to information and good information, that's for sure, but also in the world of the internet, we have almost universal access to everything that we need. And that means that we have to make empowered decisions and informed decisions about what it is that we're consuming. It's the only way to sort of 'live right' online." - Clay Johnson

#information #informationoverload #InformationOverloadDay #conscious #Consciousliving #ConsciousChoices #Consciousminds