Societal ADD?

According to Rob Kling, who is often cited as the “father of Social Informatics,” the study revolves around the various implications that new technologies have on individuals, organizations and society as a whole. While more eloquent definitions have certainly been developed over the course of the 20+ years since the study was defined, the basic fact is that technological advancements, regardless of their perceived direct impact, have an unperceived, often unintended, indirect impact.

Nick Bilton, in his book I Live in the Future & Here’s How it Works talks in the first few pages about the impact that technology has had on traditional media, and on consumption of information in general. He even went so far as to develop a menu of information serving sizes for what he has coined “consumnivores” who are “collectively rummaging, consuming, distributing and regurgitating content in byte-size, snack, size and full-meal packages.”

These information consumers of today are the target audience for content developers and being able to articulate a message in the form of a story in which they’ll be interested is critical. Bilton states that, “if we don’t, there are plenty of options available for them to consume – or, more likely, they will create their next meal without us.”

I took particular interest in the assertion that information must be delivered in the form of a story. One example of corporate entities using technology to tell stories about their products or services is seen in web video. Epipheo Studios, a company that I watch closely, has taken note of the message that Bilton has told and developed a new form of story telling called the “Epipheo”. You can watch a recent example here if you’d like.

Part of the message that seems to be at the root of Social Informatics is that we, as a society, are always trying to develop technologies that make life easier. After all, that’s what technology is for right? First we had e-mail and the company memo sharing applications like Lotus Notes, which made communication easier. Then we had internet access to library content and scholarly resources, which made learning and sharing information easier. Today we have so many tools that there are actually tools to help us manage our tools. In the Social Media realm, for example, we haveTweetDeckHootsuite and Ping.fm among others, just to help us keep our various social networks in line. How do we know when we have too many tools?

Additionally, a societal trend is I see is the constant connection we all have to our various roles. While at home I receive a constant barrage of e-mails from work, while at work I am constantly reminded of what’s happening in my social network, and the interconnectedness doesn’t stop with home and work. Our attention is constantly being sought by the ever increasing marketing innovations via text, email, commercial, billboard, radio, and the list goes on. At the risk of sounding like an alarmist, it seems as though our constant addition of new technology has only put us right in the middle of a path toward societal ADD. With advances in current technologies guaranteed to come, how will we find time to escape the finely tuned stories from which we can’t seem to turn away?

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