Information, Sociability, Reality Check

I’ve been off RSS readers for a while, in part because of Google’s exit from the game, but also because of information overload. Thinking about using it again and revisiting some old stomping grounds in the blogosphere, I found Dan Cohen’s relevant comments on Ann Blair’s Too Much to Know. Seems I am in good company with my occasional ignoring of information—ignoring that I prefer to think won’t lead to, might even prevent, ignorance.

I treat Twitter rather cavalierly too, as if it were a place to hang out, learn stuff, share things, and then leave—sometimes for longer spells. If I view all these information inputs in social terms, this is a perfectly rational way to engage with the Twittersphere. If I worried about missing some bit of news, some fascinating article or weird event, I would never get anything done and my mind would become a still murkier mess. Besides, meaningful ideas and conversations tend to have longer lifespans, and they make themselves felt in other contexts.

Dan’s piece, indeed his whole blog, reminds me of another thing. Much ostensibly older writing on the web has value, and sometimes we should take a moment to read bits of it instead of gulping down and spewing forth a remixed version of the latest clever insight or rant. (I’m talking about myself here, bigly, uh, big league.)

Correction to “Governmental Data Erasure”

I was motivated to write about governmental data erasure yesterday because of an Internet Archive tweet regarding the preservation of USDA documents, whose deletion seemed clearly related to the Trump administration’s erasure efforts in other areas, but I was wrong. My general point about politics and information still stands, but I should have sourced examples of data erasure and rescue more thoroughly. Moreover, in the apparently clearest-cut case of the EPA, there might be a gap between initial Trump administration impulses and present reality. Even that situation is in flux, as the sum of the following examples from generally reliable news sources suggests:

The uncertainty, even chaos of the past two weeks has negative implications for the attitude of many toward the media, even if the chief beneficiary of this confusion, the Trump White House, is also its author. In such circumstances, it is especially important for all of us to be as conscientious as possible when using and propagating information. I will certainly try to do better.