I’m glad to have re-discovered Lee Bryant (@leebryant) today. Saw on Twitter the announcement that Headshift was acquired by Dachis group where Lee is Co-founder and Director. This jolted my memory back to reboot 9 where he presented ‘Why adaption is not an issue when use ase matters’. He showed the role of online communities in bringing back together the residents of a town devastated by war. With Kozarac.ba he showed that real human needs drive online participation.
In this more recent presentation, he articulates a lot of the things I’ve been mulling on lately concerning the flow and consumption of information as powered by social networks.
Slide 26: Info has variable velocity, but tools don’t. This is exactly what’s been bugging me — the crushing feeling of info overload I sometimes get when going through my feeds, tweets and updates.
On one hand, I enjoy this new flow of ideas. I don’t think this ‘flow’ should be read in the same way we read conventional uni-directional communication. New ‘info flow’ springs forth from multiple sources and is real-time. Before I can even read the article that a tweet pointed to, another 10 updates with links to all sorts of interesting content would’ve been served to me already, piling on top of the 200 more updates I have. In this new flow, I don’t think all messages are meant to be read. The currents may sweep something away before you’ve had the chance to read it, but those same currents (via social networks) will find its way back to you. This is pretty hard to get used to especially by those who grew up before the online wave. It’s hard to let go of information. We want to keep tabs, store it, mark it, not forget. We tend to treat info as if it’s not pollinated, remixed, real-time.
However, given that information has variable velocity — it serves different purposes and/or different contexts — the tools that shape and deliver them must adhere to this nature of information. This is why Lee Bryant (@leebryant) posits that “…we need better filters and radars; ambient awareness, intuition, decisions.” Social networks should ideally become our main information filters instead of mere information souces. Bryant emphasises that as information professionals, we should strive to “…build social networks as ‘architecture of participation rather than just create more media consumption”.
Social networks as info filters is something that should be taken into account in discussions on simplying choices for consumers and the need to equip users with decision-making tools, especially the more recent ‘slow communications‘, and ‘the war on flow’.