On the Informationalization of Everything

Social media have been the focus of debates, discussions and academic as well as journalistic papers for some time now, and it seems that there is always something new to be said, something new to be discovered about how this phenomenon is evolving, and something new that emerges about the extent to which it can transform our lived experiences. Certain arguments and specific consequences of the web 2.0 seem to come up again and again, and not without reason, since they are multifaceted and constantly evolving. Of these, one that stands out is the discussion on information and the way it has been treated in the networked world.

I came across a very interesting blogpost recently that talked about the fact that Information wants to be Social. What does this mean? According to the author, we can plausibly view everything that exists as a form of information, including even our DNA and the atoms and molecules of which we’re comprised. However, he writes,

it is only with the recent proliferation of networked digitalization that we have been able to scale this to the degree, we are seeing the first glimpses of now. Until recently information have not been “downloadable” or accessible to us for distribution – or even open for reprogramming in the way we are seeing now. As we are able to capture and translate all types of information into a digital format and through digital devices, it becomes useful and it becomes a place where we can innovate new products and services.

While previously information was always separate from action – in the sense that we have only been able to generate information after the completion of an action – digital technologies have now made it possible to generate information in real-time, as the author writes:

Now we are making information available to ourself and to other before, during and after an activity. Information thus has become embedded in our activities, it has become instant and ongoing – and in a certain sense sometimes information is the activity. What networked digitalization brings to the equation, is that we now is able to generate, distribute and consume information in one and the same format – this changes everything. When our running shoe becomes “digitally enhanced”, running becomes an information activity. When our money becomes digital, our transactions becomes information, when snapping a photo on the iPhone we also capture time, location, altitude etc. – the photo becomes information etc.

Moreover, he claims, “everything can be digitized will be digitized.” So what does that mean, and how can we take advantage of this trend of the “informationalization of everything?” It seems that this can be potentially chaotic but also simultaneously liberating, given that in the past, information has been more scarce. What it comes down to, it seems, is the need for intelligent curation of this information, so that it improves communication and leads to meaningful action. For this, we need better systems and processes for utilizing the information gathered, especially socially relevant information. But what should these systems look like? David Weinberger provides some interesting insights in this video, where he talks about how the internet is changing knowledge from being an orderly, institutionalized and egalitarian practice, to a situation where knowledge is better because it is networked, chaotic, messy and anarchistic – and by that the internet scale knowledge into more actionable systems.

In conclusion, I’d like to end with the observation that the difficulty now seems to lie in determining how best to make information meaningful – how can it be contextualized to yield meaningful insights and solutions? How can we best navigate the wealth and chaos of information available through digitized, networked technologies and utilize it effectively?

About Ayesha Vemuri

Ayesha Vemuri is responsible for thought leadership and outreach efforts at CKS. She has undergraduate degree in Visual Art from Reed College in Portland, Oregon, where she also studied such varied subjects as biology, literature and the humanities. At CKS, she is responsible for curating the Design Public blog, managing our various social media platforms, organizing Pecha Kucha Nights and contributing to the intellectual content of the Design Public Conclave and other CKS initiatives. Find her on twitter at @ayeshavemuri.
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