The medium and the message (part one)

30 years ago, one of the most important books on media ecology was published. Arguably even more relevant today, Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death describes a world where citizens are overwhelmed with information, so much so that they are unable to make informed choices. In our digital age, this should be read as prophecy.

Postman argues that too much information hinders our ability to act; we become increasingly unable to prioritize what we consume.  He called this phenomenon the information-action ratio, indicating the relationship between a piece of information and what action, if any, a consumer of that information might reasonably be expected to take once learning it.  A close information-action ratio means the majority of information we receive is relevant to our lives. Postman stated that before the rise of the telegraph, we as a society experienced a close information-action ratio, as all the news of the day came from sources physically close to us.

As our technological capabilities increased, so too did our ability to distribute information across time and space. Nowadays, we read about events happening all over the world, and this makes us lose our sense of what is immediately important to us.

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