Information Overload or a Search for Meaning? – The American Interest

Information Overload or a Search for Meaning? – The American Interest

The principal response to the anxiety about Information Overload has been a technical one, namely, trying to improve the processing and management of information. But the development of new techniques of storage and retrieval of information does not relieve their users of the burden of interpreting it and understanding what it means. To gain meaning is a cultural accomplishment, not technical one. Unfortunately, Western society has become estranged from the messy business of engaging with meaning. This sensibility is vividly captured by the oft-repeated idiom (‘That’s too much information!”), so common that it’s now often communicated in texting simply by thumbing out “TMI.” This idiom is often used playfully to warn about “over-sharing” personal details or inappropriate sentiments. But the very fact that the ambiguities of everyday encounters are expressed through a language that quantifies personal communication (“too much”) and reduces it to abstract information speaks to a culture that all too readily assigns people the role of passive victims of information overload.

The corollary of Information Overload is the phenomenon of what Nico Macdonald, a British writer on digital culture, has characterised as Paradigm Underload. Macdonald notes that the problem facing society is not the quantity of information but the conceptual tools and paradigms with which to “filter, prioritise, structure and make sense of information.” Unfortunately, without a paradigm, the meaning of human experience becomes elusive to the point that the worship of Big Data displaces the quest for Big Ideas.


Do You Read Differently Online and in Print?

Do You Read Differently Online and in Print?

The Internet may cause our minds to wander off, and yet a quick look at the history of books suggests that we have been wandering off all along. When we read, the eye does not progress steadily along the line of text; it alternates between saccades—little jumps—and brief stops, not unlike the movement of the mouse’s cursor across a screen of hypertext. From the invention of papyrus around 3000 B.C., until about 300 A.D., most written documents were scrolls, which had to be rolled up by one hand as they were unrolled by the other: a truly linear presentation. Since then, though, most reading has involved codices, bound books or pamphlets, a major advantage of which (at least compared to the scroll) is that you can jump around in them, from chapter to chapter (the table of contents had been around since roughly the first century B.C.); from text to marginal gloss, and, later, to footnote.

In the age of print, nonlinear reading found its most elaborate support in the “book wheel,” invented by the Italian engineer Agostino Ramelli in 1588: a “rotary reading desk” which allowed the reader to keep a great number of books at once, and to switch between them by giving the wheel a turn. The book wheel was— unfortunately!—a rarity in European libraries, but when you think about all the kinds of reading that print affords, the experience of starting a text at its beginning and reading all the way to the end, which we now associate with “deep” reading, looks less characteristic of print in general than of the novel in particular: the one kind of book in which, we feel, we might be depriving ourselves of something vital if we skipped or skimmed.

The quality of digital media poses one kind of problem for the reading brain; the quantity of information available to the wired reader poses a different and more serious problem. But it’s worth noting that readers have faced this problem before, too. Gutenberg printed his first Bible in 1455, and by 1500, some 27,000 titles had been published in Europe, in a total of around 10 million copies. The flood of printed matter created a reading public, and changed the way that people read.

Egalitarianism – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Egalitarianism – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Egalitarianism (from French égal, meaning “equal”) is a trend of thought that favors equality among living entities. Egalitarian doctrines maintain that all humans are equal in fundamental worth or social status, according to The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.[1] The Cultural theory of risk holds egalitarianism as defined by (1) a negative attitude towards rules and principles, and (2) a positive attitude towards group decision-making, with fatalism termed as its opposite.[2] According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the term has two distinct definitions in modern English.[3] It is defined either as a political doctrinethat all people should be treated as equals and have the same politicaleconomicsocial, and civil rights[4] or as a social philosophy advocating the removal of economic inequalities among people or the decentralization of power. Some sources define egalitarianism as the point of view that equality reflects the natural state of humanity.[5][6][7]

Didacticism – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Didacticism is a philosophy that emphasizes instructional and informative qualities in literature and other types of art. The term has its origin in the Ancient Greek word διδακτικός (didaktikos), “related to education/teaching,” and signified learning in a fascinating and intriguing manner.

Didactic art was meant both to entertain and to instruct. Didactic plays, for instance, were intended to convey a moral theme or other rich truth to the audience. An example of didactic writing is Alexander Pope‘s An Essay on Criticism (1711), which offers a range of advice about critics and criticism. An example of didactism in music is the chant Ut queant laxis, which was used by Guido of Arezzo to teach solfege syllables.

Around the 19th century the term didactic came to also be used as a criticism for work that appears to be overly burdened with instructive, factual, or otherwise educational information, to the detriment of the enjoyment of the reader (a meaning that was quite foreign to Greek thought). Edgar Allan Poe even called didacticism the worst of “heresies” in his essay The Poetic Principle.

Didacticism – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.


Ulysses (novel) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Episode 14, Oxen of the Sun
This chapter is remarkable for Joyce’s wordplay, which seems to recapitulate the entire history of the English language. After a short incantation in Irish, the episode starts with latinate prose, Anglo-Saxon alliteration, and moves on through parodies of, among others, Malory, the King James BibleBunyanDefoeSterne,WalpoleGibbonDickens, and Carlyle, before concluding in a haze of nearly incomprehensible slang.

via Ulysses (novel) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Literary theory – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Literary theory in a strict sense is the systematic study of the nature of literature and of the methods for analyzing literature.[1] 

However, literary scholarship since the 19th century often includes—in addition to, or even instead of literary theory in the strict sense—considerations of intellectual history, moral philosophy, social prophecy, and other interdisciplinary themes which are of relevance to the way humans interpret meaning.[1] 

In humanities in modern academia, the latter style of scholarship is an outgrowth of critical theoryand is often called simply “theory.”[2] As a consequence, the word “theory” has become an umbrella term for a variety of scholarly approaches to reading texts. Many of these approaches are informed by various strands ofContinental philosophy and sociology.

via Literary theory – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Intertextuality – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Intertextuality is the shaping of texts’ meanings by other texts. It can include an author’s borrowing and transformation of a prior text or to a reader’s referencing of one text in reading another.

The term “intertextuality” has, itself, been borrowed and transformed many times since it was coined bypoststructuralist Julia Kristeva in 1966. 

Kristeva’s coinage of “intertextuality” represents an attempt to synthesize Ferdinand de Saussure’s semiotics—his study of how signs derive their meaning within the structure of a text—with Bakhtin’s dialogism—his examination of the multiple meanings, or “heteroglossia”, in each text (especially novels) and in each word.[2] 

For Kristeva,[3] “the notion of intertextuality replaces the notion of intersubjectivity” when we realize that meaning is not transferred directly from writer to reader but instead is mediated through, or filtered by, “codes” imparted to the writer and reader by other texts.

For example, when we readJames Joyce’s Ulysses we decode it as a modernist literary experiment, or as a response to the epic tradition, or as part of some other conversation, or as part of all of these conversations at once. This intertextual view of literature, as shown by Roland Barthes, supports the concept that the meaning of a text does not reside in the text, but is produced by the reader in relation not only to the text in question, but also the complex network of texts invoked in the reading process.

via Intertextuality – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.