Thursday, September 09, 2010

The web and the silo of the self

Our digital tools of connection and discovery - the web and its reliants - are not here to make our lives faster.

Whenever it feels that is what they are delivering this is more a result of the sometimes over-stimulating abundance of choices they uncover - and our fear of missing out on something.

That abundance has always been here. People who face the same issues as you existed before the web enabled us to discover each other rapidly and effectively. Sources of information we could refer each other did too.

The existence of the abundance is not the cause of our occasional feeling of being swamped by opportunity - or information overload, as the less-connected world would have it. (image courtesty eggman)

Enabling the discovery of all our available, relevant connections is also not the cause of the 'drowning' sensation.

Some of the solution is effective filtering.

But the greater key is attitude towards our personal responsibility for knowledge acquisition and retention.

In the silo'd world of one-to-many channels (broadcast/mass production) we felt the pressure to acquire and hold the knowledge we needed in the silo of ourselves.

In the many-to-many networks of the web we are allowed a more distributed view of knowledge.

Humans who share lives each hold composite pieces of a shared memory - which can be readily assembled into a greater and agreed whole.

Mark Earl's book Herd describes this. You will recognise it in the experience of swopping stories at a family get-together. Each member of the group recalling a different detail of the same story - completing the jigsaw for all to see.

The web offers a similar opportunity for knowledge - with each node retaining for recall important pieces of a billion jigsaws; nodes being people, documents and things.

For an individual to know everything at once is an impossible godlike dream.

To know that everything known is knowable by us all is a reality of the web.

Those feeling swamped should stop setting themselves impossible personal targets and start accepting their part in our collective knowledge bank.

What you know and are willing to share is more important to all of us than what you don't.

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The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?