Information, Creativity and Cognitive Overload
The author of We-Think, Charles Leadbeater gave an impressive presentation at Picnic 08 this week. He looked at the new dynamics of creativity and innovation. He covered several subjects in his book including the prediction that many large media organizations (or ‘boulders’) are going to disappear in the next 10 years – covered by a sea of small contributions of content (or ‘pebbles’). But he warned that it’s all very well having a large amount of people contributing pebbles in the form of video clips, encyclopedia entries, blog posts and so on but now we need to match our contributions with our ability to collaborate to create something useful out of them – like encyclopedias, or games, or open source software. Leadbeater argued that this would involve collaboration that will be as sophisticated as our ability to participate – and pointed to the I Love Bees game that showed how 600,000 people tried to solve a puzzle together as an example of the sophistication we can achieve.
Clay Shirky gave a great speech at the recent Web 2.0 Expo which contains a wealth of insightful thoughts about our modern problems of managing information. He says that the issue is not information overload, it’s the failure of filtering systems. Shirky believes that information overload has been around since the invention of the printing press, and it’s nothing really new. What is the issue, is in the forms and flows that information is now taking. When information is coming and going at and from you from so many different directions, the social systems and filters that used to manage the flows breakdown from stress. He says we need to re-think a lot of things, including social norms, to understand and deal with all the new ways of living technology has provided.