Navigating the superabundance of information

information in the world

by Camilla Simonsen

A new book about the ever increasing amount of information available in contemporary society and what it does to us is just about to hit the book shelves this February. It is called “Infostorms – How to take Information Punches and Save Democracy”, and is written by professor of formal philosophy at University of Copenhagen Vincent F. Hendricks and our Designing Human Technologies researcher Pelle Guldborg Hansen.

The new book has its own web-page and an introduction video in which Vincent F. Hendricks explains a few of the points from the book.

In the presentation on the web-page, it says that the book is a “detailed guide to navigating the bewildering superabundance of information in today’s globalizing world”.

They didn’t tell us that
The first chapter of the book, “Introduction and Manipulation”, is opened with a quote from American political comedian Joey Novick, saying that “the information in the world doubles everyday. What they don’t tell us, is that our wisdom is cut in half at the same time”.

The larger amount of information that is available to each of us today via the internet, social media and modern communication technologies is not necessarily making us better at making reflected decisions or wiser in any way.

As it also says in the first book chapter, “It is hardly news that others influence us … but it is news that modern information technologies have magnified and amplified phenomena for which social information processes threaten to distort truth, making us more vulnerable to err than ever and on a much larger scale”.

Democratization or the opposite?
The problem seems to be that even though we have so much information available, we are influenced by others in our ways of thinking and making decisions; and rational collective action does not necessarily spring from rational individual action. But which is what and how do the influences go?

It is not too simple, but what this book says is that it is definitely important to distinguish and try to explore these functions. Because “knowledge is not democratic, it is a regime”. And what we think we know by absorbing communication from the sources around us, and what we collectively decide to be true may not be so.

Again quoting the first chapter of this book: “It is often claimed that the information age, with its crowdbased information aggregators, has “democratized” knowledge. But knowledge and information are not the same. Plato had a hard time with democracy because truth can’t be determined by majority vote”.

With points of departure in philosophy, social psychology, economics and choice- and game theory, the book covers topics including the continued war efforts, the social media success, polarization in politics, stock, science and opinion bubbles.

The first chapter of the book can be downloaded for free here: “Introduction and Manipulation

And the whole book can e.g. be bought here.


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