Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Rhetoric of Overload

The authors of The Social Life of Information caution against the cynical use of a diagnosis of "information overload" as a way to justify presenting fewer user choices or a narrowed channel that transmits less information of the kind dictated by corporate interests. It is interesting to see how the rhetoric of information overload functions in this advertisement for and how different this ad is from the rhetoric of Apple's 1984 ad, which seems to caution against overly homogenized sources of data.

I'll admit to trying out Bing for problem solving with a few sample searches and seeing that it did actually do a better job of getting answers for complex questions like "How do you get to the Bronx from JFK?" than its Mountain-View based rival. But -- much like a younger child -- it didn't know basic facts about relatedness that Google already knows, for example that "Liz Losh" and "Elizabeth Losh" are the same person. (This split personality was actually something that I used to exploit, before Google exposed my secret life as a digital rights activist and blogger to my academic colleagues.)

David Weinberger in a posting on "Bing, Google . . . and Kayak" points out that looking up "Bing" on Google and "Google" on Bing is a somewhat disingenous rhetorical exercise.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the vid!

Several of my colleagues and I are doing work with new media (I work on the literacies of new media, they work on virtual rhetoric--in fact, we need to 'talk' offline about some possible connections we might make), and this is just the sort of thing that fascinates me.

A small datapoint: my university uses eCollege which means until recently I've stuck with IE despite knowing how superior in many ways Firefox is because Microsoft products do not play well with others. However, recently, because it turns out that EndnoteWeb, which our library subscribes to, seems to work best with Firefox (to generate wonderful bibliographies from data searches), I switched to Firefox at work, figuring I'd use that for everything except my online courses.

The other day my friend found that her browser (IE) had automatically set to bing for searches: she prefers yahoo, and set it back. I told her Firefox didn't because I'd been using Google that day! The idea that the program was automatically uploaded (I know that's only one small issue) was just irritating enough: I told her about Firefox, and she might be using it in future.

10:10 AM  

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