information hysteria


The information

Andrew Wynter, The Nervous System of the Metropolis (1865) (via James Gleick, The Information, A History, A Theory, A Flood):

A great gap has just been filled up in our system of telegraphic communication. Cities can converse with cities, countries with countries, and even continents with continents; but house cannot communicate with house. We have the district telegraph, it is true, and by walking half a mile in town you may find a station which will send a message to within half a mile of its destination: but what is wanted is a system of telegraphy which shall dip its wires down into the library or warehouse — an elongation, if we may so term it, of our own nervous system, so simple in its construction that anyone can work it, so speedy that we may telegraph as quickly as we could write. We want, in short, in all large towns to abolish the messenger and district post…


Telling stories in an age of information hysteria

A few years ago I gave a talk about information design, and I began with this idea: that in the 18th century, the amount of knowledge that one was expected to have learned in a lifetime was equivalent to the amount of information found today in a typical edition of the Sunday New York Times. It’s a frightening thought, one that might be called information anxiety—”produced by the ever-widening gap between what we understand and what we think we should understand. We read without comprehending, see without perceiving, hear without listening. It can be manifested as a chronic malaise, a pervasive fear that we are about to be overwhelmed by the very material we need to master in order to function in this world.” That’s a concept developed by Richard Saul Wurman in his book Information Anxiety—20 years ago.

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NYC, Vancouver, Atlanta, Chicago, Brazil: coming soon.

The Inaugural Salon was a huge success. We raised $5,000 for City Year DC and enjoyed an afternoon of stimulating discussion, new and old friends and good food and wine. Chad Evans and I are moving forward and planning upcoming Salons in NYC, Vancouver, Atlanta, Chicago and Brazil. More about that soon.
I really loved giving my talk (“Telling stories in an age of information hysteria”) and it generated a lot of conversation. I’ll be posting it here this weekend.