Stranger than Fiction

As today dozens of notorious minds are having their say on how is the internet changing the way you think” –including personal favorites like Douglas Coupland I may as well go back to the post I was wondering about…

Lately, I started to ask myself if I was suffering from information fatigue syndrome. After a first sign of worry about my attention span, I started to seriously consider why was it that I recurrently surfed across about 1376 posts in one go and wasn’t really captured by any of the information displayed on them…

As Esther Dyson suggests, “many of us are genetically disposed to lose our capability to digest sugar if we consume too much of it. It makes us sick long-term, as well as giving us indigestion and hypoglycemic fits.”

Unlike Dr. Strangelove, I started to worry a little bit more about the information Unlike Dr. Strangelove, I started to worry a little bit more about the information neural bomb when I recently picked up a book that was kindly sent to me by its author – Markus Miessen, another of Beyond #02’s great contributors…

Now, this book, East Coast Europe, has a sexy idea, a classy pocketbook format, and, of course, it is supposedly filled with all these pearls of wisdom about European identity dislocating East. It should be interesting by all standards.

And yet, as if numbed by constant theoretical porn, or simply irritated by the laziness of the fashionable interview format, I found out that only three pieces of information managed to cut across the thin, yet resilient layer of my ennui.

One of these pieces was a speculation about Europe in 2050 by Can Altay – incidentally a future contributor of Beyond! Another was a multi-authored dictionary that is captivating because of its shrapnelesque conception…

And, finally, there was this news report actually taken from Wikipedia on how a statue of Bruce Lee being was erected in Mostar, Bosnia, about four years ago.

This was certainly stranger than fiction…

Like Nicholas Carr implies, maybe my difficulty came only from the fact that our reading habits are changing and we are becoming more prone to read on a screen, and online, and in “a welter of contending stimuli”, rather than enjoying to just sit back on a lonely sofa and plunge into a paper book offline.

On the other hand, we may as well be starting to get seriously bored with the stuffiness that surround us. Then, only a resilient interest in the absurd seems to survive, as if the absurd would remain the only titillating category that has some critical drive to make us wonder about reality. Like: duh.

Surrealists have used this device – they called it the paranoiac-critical method. Humour uses it to sometimes create a sort of subversive self-awareness. Like memory and the collective brain and all that, maybe our sense of humor as critical tool is also to be sharpened by the web.

The downside of the net’s information overload, besides this perilous ennui, this annoying syndrome of lively abundance, may be that, as Stephan Kosslyn puts it, “when I used to have dead periods, I often would let my thoughts drift, and sometimes would have an unexpected insight or idea.”

Because of information overload, “those opportunities are now fewer and farther between,” he concludes.

3 responses to “Stranger than Fiction

  1. Mafalda Rangel

    Internet is today’s Agora or public square. Instead of dressing your best cloths, you post a picture of your best angle or you start your own blog. Internet is not only changing the way you think, it’s also modifying reality. But I have a feeling that the value of the “real thing” will come again. How many times have you heard about friends going to “silence paradises” where they are alone for a couple of days? Too much virtual information and overload of technology has created another necessity: the need to be surrounded by nothing or anyone, the need of “low tech”.
    Nevertheless, I recently read that nordic schools want to adopt e-books as a way to save our planet avoiding printing. Miguel Esteves Cardoso has written last weekend that he thinks that e-books should be scanned every six months, in order to pretend to give us the feeling they get old (in jornal “Publico” 9th of January). Does it sound strange? Not to me. But I wonder if I will ever see anyone again pulling out a few pages of a favorite book or even underlining a quote that you were touched by.

    regards from Porto,

  2. I can definitely relate to the dangers of diminished returns with regards to my attention span. Getting a camera in my hand and walking around my neighborhood to document casual and uncelebrated architecture is a wonderful tonic to being sucked into the [wonderful] vortex that is the web.

  3. Pingback: I am still alive « shrapnel contemporary

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