Thursday, July 10, 2008

Being Used by Information

How do people use information?

It's a topic that's as rich in experience as it is fertile in detail. Endless fascination is just the beginning. There is no limit to the educaton you'll receive if you take your eye off the raw, untreated info pipeline and keep the other firmly glued to what's been done with it upon arrival.

But what about information using people. Yeah, I mean stressing them out, wearing them down, forcing their hand at games they can play but they quit -- entirely too sure they're going to lose because they're up against Big, Unrelenting Info.

This form of intimidation is similar to other "manufactured" forces of nature like the stock market, the economy, and any cultural institution too ingrained in our daily lives to imagine life without it -- insert favorite media here.

Insidious. Conspiratorial. As thoughtful as a stampede. As reassuring as a teleprompter. As pervasive as little plastic phones... Big Information is not owned by a ruthless corporation. It answers to no elected official. There is no plot -- it's not out to get us personally. But you will be deceived (not the wiser for it) without a plan for resistance. Anyone can play the victim card when it comes to being on the receiving end of Big Unrelenting Info. But how many of us can raise our H.I.T. game to a power where info submits to our will, not the other way?

First of all you have to know when you've been had.

Time = $: Well, for starters when you spend too much time researching something online? You mean you're spending MORE time on the web than you would have spent on offline research? Isn't the purpose to reduce the time in the chase and more on the prey? You've been had. Logoff.

Grammar Lesson: And why has it taken you forever to find out what you've learned online has no connection to why you logged on in the first place? The Google in a bottle school of query formation states that we're on a first name basis with our favorite search tool and that our minds are being read -- even if we can't articulate them well as search commands. Keywords we all know. But how about keyverbs? How many hits on that? Predicate nominatives? Subjective clauses? If you go back to brush up on your grammar lessons, please take Google with you. It can't tell the difference. It's in no position to distinguish actors from receivors -- or actions for that matter. Ask a search tool to understand grammar? You've been had. Walk around the room.

Instant Analysis: How about when you're so plugged in you can't separate proximity from meaning? The rush of catching up on the blog posts of our 5,162 closest colleagues is not achievable other than to check all posts as having been read. Does this innundation produce any prevailing messages? Anything to indicate what concerns you most since before you received the newest rush of postings?

Isn't the purpose of being plugged in to inform you of what tasks to prioritize or actions to take? Are you surprised that the closer we get to a real-time environment the more fake-time we're trying to protect. What do the actual consequence RSS feeds, twitterings, and text messages on the toilet hold for our analysis of the situations we are soooo on top of? Instantaneous does not square with a level-headed determination for what to do next. Quite the opposite actually. You've been had again. Now leave.

When are you on the receiving end of instant analysis? If you're a baseball fan rooting for a big market team that's underperforming look at the coverage -- every game past Memorial Day until the play-offs is a microcosm of the season. If you're a politico think of MSNBC's reduction of each news cycle and their awarding of daily verdicts and victors. Yeech.

All-or-nothing = nothing: The third sign is experienced when clinging to the intoxicating and delusional effects of information certainty. This happens when my students hold out for some dirt or insinuating tidbit about one potentially shady suspect in a criminal investigation. They keep hammering away at the same obscure person, never quite sure if they've made a positive ID or whether they've scoured every last database known to the invisible web.

It's this kind of blind tenacity that people search firms like Intelius take full advantage of when they package the legal records of personal background checks. Got that wrong guy? Don't expect a money back guarantee. Not when you've been had by information.

The one recourse? Your own resourcefulness.

1 comment:

Marc Solomon said...

I love the blog! It's amazing what happens when you've been "had".

Katrina Pugh
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attentionSpin is a consulting practice formed in 1990 to create, automate and apply a universal scoring system (“The Biggest Picture”) to brands, celebrities, events and policy issues in the public eye. In the Biggest Picture, attentionSpin applies the principles of market research to the process of media analytics to score the volume and nature of media coverage. The explanatory power of this research model: 1. Allows practitioners to understand the requirements for managing the quality of attention they receive 2. Shows influencers the level of authority they hold in forums where companies, office-seekers, celebrities and experts sell their visions, opinions and skills 3. Creates meaningful standards for measuring the success and failure of campaigns and their connection to marketable assets.