INFORMATION OVERLOAD

Relax, it’s not one of those lame “today I freeloaded...” mention-in-exchange-for-a-freebie blog entries. I overreached myself attempting to blog from the BlackBerry. Hence the lo-fi image above – the Bold in its current incarnations seems to afford its indoor camera subjects with a cateract soft-focus tint. Mission aborted. As one of those rare good magazine weeks, this is the pile of print I’ve opted to absorb this weekend. Too much information. Except Wallpaper* – still too smarmy to warrant anything beyond a browse. I only bought it for the cover.

Back in 1996, when my internet use was confined to looking for nude female celebrity images that loaded…very…slowly, Sandbox Distribution, old TV theme tunes that wouldn’t play on RealAudio Player and haplessly trying to navigate Nike-based newsgroups, my computer habit was minimal. It wasn’t until an impassioned fanboy speech on Ras Kass’s Patchwerk career and Coolio affiliations that winter over bong hits caused my friend James to explain his fear that I could suffer some form of meltdown from “information overload” – he even cited some vague example of a university professor who’d been looking into the effects of, for want of a better term, memorising too much crap.

These were just THC-induced witterings, but I’ll be damned if it didn’t set my mind racing through the cerebral archives of drivel, pondering as to whether an overload of unnecessary pop culture trivia had taken up precious memory at the expense of logic. That was amassed from TV, magazines, newspapers, records and radio. In the year 2009, James’s presumably ill-informed theory feels marginally more credible. What would have been pondered then forgotten has now been Googled, skim-read and mentally stashed. It’s unhealthy. I’m not talking the ephemera that crams up store shelves or your email inbox that physically prevents you from finding what you want – I’m talking about what you actually absorb.

Alvin Toffler coined the term ‘information overload’ in 1970 for ‘Future Shock’ and Jacob Jacoby, Carol Kohn Berning and Donald Speller studied the relationship between brands assailing the consumer to the point of confusion in the mid ’70s. A fear of losing important knowledge due to the increasing number of published tomes incited Denis Diderot to commence editing work on the Encyclopédie in the 1700s, then the most comprehensive of the encylopedias, inspiring the makers of the Encyclopedia Brittanica later that century. It’s not a new concern.

Exactly how much information is your common-garden hipster, wannabe taking in every day? Those blogs just tick on by. 2006 seems quaint by comparison, now, in a state of flux, blogs can’t just focus on apparel, sports footwear and the occasional toys…now it’s furniture, film, art and music to make sure every concievable corner of the current meandering ‘now’ is covered. When “over it” is the new all-night campout for a sweatshirt, and worlds have converged to the point that even the most middle-of-the-road artist is clad in Japanese brands, niche went mainstream and everything everywhere seems ripe for the hype.

Just browsing the big blogs is a meandering assault-on-the-senses. Are kids storing everything and taking notes psychologically? And as a typical whiteboy obsessive when it comes to rap, even I had to jump the e-ship when the boom in rare rap blogs led to the deification of the likes of the medicore Justin Warfield, Top Quality and Miilkbone from certain quarters. Now hip-hop fans can partially digest three brand new mixtapes a day electronically next to the latest radio rip MP3, followed by the unmastered, then mastered in a three tier tactical leak over 24 hours.

Whereas I obsessed over “street culture” (apologies for the use of that nasty umbrella term), in the way that someone in a smalltown, unspoilt by the subject matter surrounding you does at my own voracious pace, poring over the occasional tape, ‘The Clothes Show’ segment, or magazine, now the pressure to stay on top of mediocre developments concealing the occasional nugget of significance for kids obsessed with the sprawling hype culture is information overload in full effect. Maybe the new generation have brains more attuned to the info onslaught.

I’ve given up trying to stay ahead. After hitting 30, it became apparent that I’d started jettisoning information to make room for new chunks of pointless data and niche reference points.  For the most part I need my information fix on paper rather than pixels these days for anything to stick or to muster my full concentration during commuter headphone solitude. Maybe I’m all out of trivia space – reading through Monocle each month, as I inexplicably feel duty bound, I can feel each word fail to stick in the memory banks and vanish into the ether. For all the solemn tone, it’s fluff. My brain just can’t be bothered with Libyan trade sanctions so it vaporises the letters immediately, but lets me blankly read nonetheless. Then again, that could just be my brain filtering what it know I’ll never need to recall.

Maybe one day, when you’re straining to recall the name of that GORE-TEX rival, that defunct record label, or that deceased skater who could’ve been a contender, like me, you’ll realise that you might have outrun your brain’s crawling evolution in the dumbest way possible. I just don’t think it was designed with these information-heavy times in mind. It might be ready in a couple of centuries. Until someone finds a way to psychologically zip archive irrelevance, there’s a sense I’ve forgotten more than I’ve ever learnt.

One day, a single attempt to cram a book’s release date into that psychological library of nothingness could lead to a Cassavetes ‘The Fury’ style human-firework. You’ve been warned.

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