It may be an old term but it’s new to me: data smog. That’s the title of the book in which author David Shenk describes a media environment that overwhelms us with information and to the point where it may cause “a variety of social and physical ills, including attention deficit disorder, loss of civility, lack of privacy, and even road rage.” That according to a 1998 book review.
Of course you may wonder why I bring this up now — other than to reveal my ignorance — especially when new regulations, issued by the Cognitive Protection Agency, have reduced harmful emissions of junk media. Not!
There’s the rub. We live in an age of hyper-industrialized media. News, information and entertainment messages permeate every waking moment. The tools of media creation have been diffused into millions of hands. We are all now potential media creators.
I certainly don’t want to arrest this development, even were it possible. But I respect the wisdom of folk sayings, in this case, “too much of a good thing.” And I wonder whether 24×7, all-intrusive media falls into that category.
I’ve taken a more structured journalistic stab at such concerns, but I feel both powerless and confused in the face of this media eruption. How will we ever know what we think, if we are constantly filling our ears or eyes with manufactured thoughts, and never hit the pause button to get some quiet time?
Obviously data smog is not a condition I’ll solve today or perhaps ever, but it strike me as a meme, along the lines of “attention economy” that helps crystallize what would otherwise remain vague concerns and thus helps us figure out how to deal with these phenomena in our private decisions and public policies.