TMI – Too much information
We have all heard or said this expression in different situations. When someone shares too many details about a specific event, when we hear things we don’t want to hear, or whenever some piece of information is passed through our way; from offline to online, this expression has become even more prevalent in the information society.
Web 2.0 has brought about the possibility for any individual with access to the Internet to share information online, bringing to light and symbolizing the era of Informationalism. Information is the new currency of the 21st century, as sociologist Manuel Castels has stated in his work. Information today is created, manipulated and distributed for purposes of economic, political and cultural activities. There is just an endless amount of information for any one human being to comprehend. Maybe too much information. Due to technological advancements (and with the continued evolution of communication technologies) it is easier to share information, and then store it on a virtual cloud accessible at any point and place. This abundance of information is the result of technological advancements, and only by them can it be managed.
Sophisticated algorithms, semantic web, and dynamic web, are only some of the technologies called upon to try and manage the flood of information that users are facing. Today, with the advent of HTML5, a new language is being formulated in order to provide websites the capability to “understand” and “talk to” each other. But this movement extends past just browsers and websites; it touches mobile devices, tablets, and there are talks about it reaching even to TV.
Over the past several months we have witnessed changes in the UI’s of some of the web’s leading sites: facebook, YouTube and twitter. In order to make the amounts of information manageable for Internet users, sophisticated algorithms gather, process and decode and recode the information and chose the best way to present it to whomever asks for it.
This is where care is needed. The choice of what information to be exposed to, it seems, has been taken away from users and placed in the hands of programmers. Dynamic, evolving and self-learning social networks are already at work, studying the usage patterns of Internet users. Are these the new gatekeepers of the 21st century?
These facts raise much concern over privacy issues, what information is gathered and how it is used. facebook, for example, has been criticized on more than one occasion for the way it is using information for advertising purposes. We know that Google search results are based upon learning algorithms that narrow down potential sites based on the user’s preferences, location and other factors.
For now users may still feel “free” to surf the web and gain access to different sites, but a serious question must be raised here: How do we know what information is not presented to us? When great power, such as information, is placed in the hands of corporations such as Google, facebook and other social networks and search engine giants, one cannot overlook the threat to the freedom of information and the great responsibility these companies have towards their users.