Future Survuval Kit, Lucy McRae. Photo: Ariel Fisher

DAMN° 75

On Information Overload—Editors Note

March 2020
My attempt at a 2020 resolution is to introduce a structured system of information consumption. I’ve made a mental note of some defined and strict time slots for my daily tech activities: only newspapers before breakfast, no Instagram in the mornings, only dealing with emails and texts after a solid session of uninterrupted work.
And it strangely works. Slowly the all-consuming sense of dread – or occasionally panic – that I’m falling further and further behind with information is melting away. My desktop is no longer smothered in dozens of unread articles. Backlogging is banned.
Plus I have one weekly newspaper and a few monthly magazines delivered to my home. The ambition to keep abreast is more modest, but the strategy seems realistic. I talk more about what I read because I try to read, not skim. The trickier part is accepting that this is enough.  Admitting that I just can’t manage any more.
More data has been created and stored since the turn of the millennium than in the entire history of humanity. This data feeds information, which in turn creates knowledge.
But too much data feels paradoxically disempowering; it’s a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment.  The onslaught leaves no room for memories to consolidate. We hear from Simon Fujiwara in this issue on how art deals more intimately with memory to counter the pressures of a knife-edge present.
And of course it’s no coincidence that too much information comes coupled with a swelling addiction to mobile devices. Everything from gadgets to apps are masterfully designed to keep us coming back.
Back for more – for more likes, more comments, more headlines. News media is floundering. The fake and hyperbolic proliferate as even organisations committed to upholding the most rigorous editorial values are compromised by their dependence on advertising dollars.
And advertisers want clicks. Studio Cream on Chrome, for example, is experimenting with new formats of journalism, and we also hear from Dennis Elbers about the importance of always looking critically at statistics.
Because not even science fiction readied us for this all-powerful position information has assumed. And right now culture can only do so much – comment, react, communicate, make clear, and slowly around the edges design new formats and systems to redirect reality.
We have an interview with Kate Crawford on why having a proper grip on the backend of AI matters so much, and look at Domitille Debret’s work which reveals the importance of being data-informed rather than data-driven. Of course the danger is that it’s often hard to know when the former crosses over into being the latter.
We also visit BIO, the design biennial in Ljubljana, which was devoted to the topic of information, and also Design Museum Holon where Aric Chen has followed up the 2010 show State of Things with a brilliant new exhibition, State of Extremes. There we see Lucy McCrae’s latest work speculating on body products designed to counter the digital age.
By Gabrielle Kennedy
illustration by Olivier Heiligers, olivierheiligers.nl