Monday, January 02, 2017

The Intentional Information Diet

I read through Clay Johnson's The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption.  It could have been subtitled "A Case for Mindful Consumption" but then we wouldn't have the wonderful alliteration (three Cs) in the subtitle.

I like the analogy between food consumption and information consumption, including how both have gone awry and how we should get back on track with more conscious consumption, starting with an awareness of what we our putting in our bodies and heads.  I also agree that it is a matter of personal responsibility.  We can no more blame the junk food producers than we can blame the junk media producers for our consumption.  We have a choice, even if it takes some effort.  The path of least resistance leads us to junk, unfortunately, because that's what we crave, in news as in food.

Looking at my food consumption, I could quickly say that my worst habit is failing to consume enough water.  No need for fancy analysis.  I have known this for a long time and I have yet to find a way to adopt a healthy habit around it.  It's supposed to be simple.  Carry a water bottle around, drink all day.  It's not that simple apparently because I can't stick with it.

Drawing my own information consumption map also led to some useful insights.  In particular, I was able to identify a couple of distracting and unhealthy information habits.

Here's to 2017:  More water, less Facebook. It's as simple as that.  Simple.  I didn't say easy.

My approach to information consumption is slightly different, though.  I tend to have a strong "learning" focus.  My information diet is more intentional and targeted.  For me, being more conscious of the information we consume isn't sufficient.  I would recommend being highly focused in seeking out specific information, otherwise it's very easy to become overwhelmed to a lot of random, interesting stuff.  Some randomness is good though.  Total randomness doesn't add up to a lot of learning.  I would start with a mix of 80% targeted information meant to address a specific learning goal, making sure it's not all affirmation building; and 20% random information.  In practice, I'm not sure how that would happen.

In addition, the term "information" is too broad in this context of information consumption.  We consume information in the form of news, entertainment, communications, and all of it isn't necessarily coming from our computer screen and smartphones.

Related Readings:

  • Nicholas Carr, The Shallows: How the Internet is Rewiring our Brains,
    I had blogged about it here.   Clay Johnson's book came out a year later. 
  • Eli Pariser, The Filter Bubble: How the New Personalized Web is Changing What We Read.
    Take a shortcut if you'd like and listen to the TEDTalk: Beware Online "filter bubble". 
  • Cal Newport, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.

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