Thursday, August 9, 2012

Information: The New Obesity


Unless you’ve worked past midnight the night before, your probability of being awake and somewhat alert by six a.m.is high.

Based on an essay you’d read some years back, you have come to reckon that by the time of your mid-morning break, you’d have processed close to a billion separate signals or sensory impressions.  Many of these occur below your level of consciousness until they present a statement of demand such as informing you that you need to pee or are thirsty or itch somewhere or perhaps would enjoy the companionship of a cup of coffee.

Other of these signals seem so ordinary to you that you take them as unremarkable, scarcely worth your notice except as a general sense of all systems being as much “go” as they are able of being.  You are in effect delegating the responsibility to them that they would tell you if there were anything unusual going on, a kind of metaphoric reminder that you could use some more sleep, more coffee, less pasta, and things of that nature.

This leaves you as a sort of CEO, your focus on concepts and activities best suited to keep you as an entity out in reality pretty much the way you are when those lesser signals and sensations are making themselves known to you.

This brings forth the question, Are you a benevolent CEO who is in touch with the workers, or do you with some measure of impatience wish to get back to winnowing out all but the choicest notions and projects?

You ask such questions because, as you read works of varying degrees of impressive merit, you’ve become concerned by the wealth, the plethora of unnecessary information, even unwanted information.  This material seems to proliferate in fiction, which comes as no real surprise to you because your reading is at about the seventy percent level of fiction and a mere thirty percent of nonfiction.  A significant reason why you read relatively less nonfiction is because of your sense of how much easier it is to skim the nonfiction, waiting for “the good parts,” which parts are usually of some dramatic—story—quality.

This leads you down the uncomfortable path you reach when taking the time to edit your own work before passing it along.  If the material under scrutiny appears to you gravid with information, you become concerned that you are more showing off than you are telling story.  Of course drama is an edifice of dramatic information, but when you are the builder, have you left too many instructions in the blueprints?

Some of this has to do with your having just read a novel by Peter Heller, The Dog Stars, a dystopia/nuclear holocaust and its aftermath story, written in an at once idiosyncratic and spare style to the point where you are more impressed by the evocative nature of the text than the actual story.

Some of this has also to do with your frequent awareness these days that when story is overloaded with information, the story seems to be like couples where the woman walks several paces behind the man or where children become embarrassed by being seen in the company of their parents and wish to make it appear that they are out with but detached from their parents.

We are inundated with information.  Information comes burbling out of NPR, of blogs, of Face Book, of Twitter, all its sources seeming to compete for status, wanting to be heard for the weight rather than the artistry of its arrangement.

You are clearly not satisfied here; the enormous presence of information has exerted some impression upon you.  This may be nothing more than a warning shot, fired over your bow.  But it is surely a matter you need to watch


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