We talk about providing access to everyone — the life-sustaining basics like clean water, air, food, health care. But we also provide community access to information, and that includes electronic access.
Joshua Meryowitz discusses the homongenizing effects of such unfettered access to electronic information and experience. He suggests that because the electronic information and experience is available to most people, regardless of demographic and geographic lines, we have come to believe in a broader yet shallower definition of ourselves.
To me, this is another way to look at information overload. Because we have access to a seemingly infinite amount of information, we value our access to it more than we actually process and digest the information itself. In a similar way, we value the overarching commonalities we have with people halfway across the globe more than the unique characteristics that make us individuals. Jason Lanier warned against this thinking as well. He suggested that electronically, people are considered merely a part of some sort of information soup, where everyone’s the data and information simmers together, and then is ladled back into spoons and called an identity.
I’ve always believed that leveling the playing field is way to promote the ideas and contributions of people who might not otherwise have their voices heard. But now it seems that we can’t hear anything of substance above the (electronic) cacophony.
It is certainly important to find broad connections to each other as humans, but it’s equally imperative to find out and celebrate what makes each person unique. So we need to learn when to be still and quiet. We need to learn to stop filling electronic space with words and images just because we can. We need to try to first understand ourselves outside of technology before our identities are comprised of a compilation of electronic bits.