research or info porn?

It’s about 10 at night and I’ve probably spent at least six hours today perusing through my google reader, listening to podcasts, checking my email, and skimming the online news headlines. One could easily classify my web activities as what Tools for Thought blogger Andre Kibbe calls  information porn:”gratuitous reading used to alleviate boredom or anxiety rather than enable positive change or solve a problem.”

Like Andre, I am addicted to information. The first thing I do in the morning, before brushing my teeth or eating breakfast, is switch on my computer. Now I wouldn’t necessarily say all my web activities are gratuitous. As a student of the humanities, it is important for me to keep up-to-date on the latest global trends and patterns, whether related to economics, design, politics, science, marketing, or something seemingly mundane. My reading material goes beyond books and academic journals and extends into all forms of expression, including the web. But still I can’t help but wonder how much of this reading is actually productive?

Do I need to add another feed to my google reader? Should I click on this link? How much of this information is actually useful?

Where does research end and leisure consumption begin? Perhaps they are one and the same. Critics might say cultural studies research is an elite form of information porn created by middle class academic hipsters to escape the  banality of the real world and make themselves seem more enlightened than everyone else. While this may be true in some postgraduates, I would like to think cultural studies research is a source of productive information that has the capacity to transform the way everyday people think and act in the world.

This kind of research can only occur if we maintain a critical awareness of the ways in which we consume and produce information. This is why Andre suggests batch reading instead of instantaneous consumption. For example, instead of spending an hour or two reading each day, Andre would read an entire book in one sitting. This made him a much more conscious, deliberate, and efficient consumer. For him, “reading [was] no longer an involuntary response to stimulation.”

Of course, there are other strategies to avoid overindulging in information porn, but what matters is that we constantly evaulate the utility of information and its potential for change. But having said that, everyone needs little escapism every once and a while.

Advertisements

Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: