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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Information Overload

TEL-T101 Assignment that I received an A on. Fall 2010. Enjoy!

Information Overload
            According to lecture, information overload occurs “when a message or stimulus presents more complexity than we can remember” (Bucy, 2010). Put more simply, we feel overwhelmed when we are given too much information at once, and like a computer, we crash. Information doesn’t have to be just images, text, or data. Information can be other things such as work, school, people, or even city life as Stanley Milgram explains in his article “The Experience of Living in Cities.” Negative consequences arise as a result to all this stimuli. According to Milgram, physical and mental results include increased “cardiovascular stress,” “weakened vision,” “confusion,” “frustration,” and “impaired judgment” to name a few (Shenk, 37-38).
 We respond to stimuli in six different ways according to David Shenk. We spend less time with each input, save time and energy for important activities, block stimuli (i.e. via averting our eyes from strangers, etc.), and filter it (i.e. use text language or images in place of complex conversations, etc.). We also have institutions to care for the needy, and we redraw social “transactions” (i.e. face to face communication) for efficiency (i.e. send message via email or text). Besides these six, we could use multitasking, neuro-enhancing drugs, or other creative means to manage the information. Multitasking in particular is on the rise, especially among students like me because of increased confidence and expectations. Multitasking is “using more than one information and communication technology at the same time” (Bucy, 2010). For example, I could browse the internet while listening to music.
            Because of all these social shortcuts, we have a decreased sense of social responsibility and noninvolvement creating the Bystander Effect. The Bystander Effect is “a diffusion of responsibility” (Bucy, 2010) or the notion someone else will help out in a crisis. Milgram notes how deadly through the 1964 Genovese murder. Caroline Genovese was stabbed repeatedly over a period of hours in Queens New York. She was killed close to her home in a big neighborhood. Even though thirty-eight (Milgram, 1462) people heard her cries for help, no one called the police until it was too late. No one felt the need to help Caroline because she was a stranger, and none of her cries were directed to anyone in particular. Though terrible, Milgram stays objective and offers another reason than “callousness” (Milgram, 1463) for this incident. City people have “respect for other people’s emotions and social privacy” (Milgram, 1463). Stepping into a situation could be seen as inappropriate and meddling if one isn’t careful. People need to be weary and have discretion.
            So how did we get to an unfriendly, stressful, shortcut seeking world? Speed and technology are often blamed. Our world has sped up. Much like living in a crowded city, the media is filled with bustling traffic. Commercials and shots are shorter. Shows distract audiences from channel surfing by filling half of the screen with previews and the other half with ending credits (called “squeeze and tease”), or they have crude talent or crude content or both. I have learned that I am not too skillful in managing my media use and time which often leads to stress and information overload.
            In a typical week, I am likely to spend about 80.5+ hours or about fifty percent of my time on the computer. I use my personal computer for two things: the internet and homework. Besides checking my mail, I visit YouTube to listen to music or watch videos, and I visit chess websites such as Yahoo or to play a game. On the other hand, my homework is mostly typing papers or printing off my readings. Besides these two functions, I sometimes play the Sherlock Holmes computer game series, but I mostly play iTunes as background music for my homework or other activities. Besides my personal computer, I spend between two to four hours on Macs to edit footage for GameZombie, LLC.
            Besides the computer, I read mostly for class. However, I do read USA Today and The Indiana Daily Student (IDS) for an hour at least once a week. Currently, I have been watching more DVD movies on my laptop, thanks to convergence and boredom. I barely watch TV while I am at college. I usually watch TV when I’m bored at home. However, since House has started its seventh season, I will be tuning in for an hour each week as it is my current favorite show. In fact, I caught the first episode this past Monday, and I saw Fox’s “squeeze and tease.” Fox previewed the entire new season of House as the ending credits rolled. Of course, I paid no attention to the names as the montage of sound and images flashed by, promising an epic season despite a slow and mediocre first episode. Even so, the squeeze and tease didn’t keep me glued to my seat to watch the premiere of the next show following House. Sadly, that new show Fox advertised was forgettable even though there was a commercial for it each break time during House. Finally, I watch five hours of commercial free anime at Anime Club via projector. We watch downloaded anime or DVDs. I live a heavily mediated lifestyle that’s hard to control and at times I do feel overwhelmed.
            I feel overloaded when I try to multitask two or more interactive cool mediums. For example, I cannot play two online chess games simultaneously. I usually lose both and become angry, frustrated, and stressed. I curse, click onto one new game, and play again, sadly. Also, if I am playing a game and listening to music when my roommate or friend talks to me, I give partial attention to her. I can forget and misunderstand the conversation. Recently, my roommate threw away a nearly full box of Aver’s pizza because I said “Ok.” in her reply to “I’ll be right back I am going to throw this away.” I was incredulous when she came back two minutes later, and I learned she actually threw away the pizza. Who does that?
 I also feel overwhelmed when I multitask while doing my homework. For example, I cannot listen to music with lyrics while I read a homework assignment in English because the words clash. I start rereading sentences and lose focus. However, I don’t feel this way when I listen to instrumental or classical music while reading or when I listen to any kind of music while completing Spanish homework or typing papers. When I can’t focus, I turn off the music, but when I can I turn it on as “background noise.” I also turn off my computer monitor because I have a distracting desktop background, and I am too easily tempted to just open a web browser and check email, watch a YouTube video, or play games. As illustrated in the class activity and as I have now found out in real life, I cannot respond to “text” (the word document), “do homework” (watching the YouTube video), and talk to a “friend” (a classmate) at the same time. When my roommate or friend talks to me as I am doing homework and listening to music in real life, I stop doing the homework and just talk to him or her. When I have a long reading assignment or a lot of homework, I take breaks before I feel overloaded. I play online chess, go to bed, or listen to music. I feel I have to block and get away from whatever medium is bothering me. When I become overloaded, I feel stressed, frustrated, and angry. At times, I feel like I “don’t remember anything” or that I am losing “my thinking capability” by being in partial attention. I don’t have Attention Deficit Disorder or any medical concentration problems, but I feel like I do at times because of the fast pace I do things or have to do things in order to catch up. I never feel like I ever get caught up when I get behind in something (i.e. homework). If I miss the boat, I just miss it. I can’t swim to it no matter how long I swim. Perhaps, what I feel comes from the “anytime, anywhere, anyplace, always on” lifestyle. If I weren’t continually distracted by information and communication technology, I could get more homework done and free up more time to do the activities I enjoy such as reading or need to do such as exercise more, but should I really blame technology or should I just blame people in general?
In conclusion, we live in a fast paced society where information and communication technology (ICT) is easily available. We are always speeding up and going somewhere, moving forward. There seems to be no “pause button.” We should be doing always doing something or have something to do. In fact, I feel guilty if I don’t have a full weekend of activities, media related or otherwise. Should we, as a society, blame ICTs? Even going as far as to making a time (i.e. day, month, hours, etc) nationally or within an organization (i.e. college, home, etc.) to stop or ban our use of them? I feel it is inherently a technology problem. We have the ability to carry around the internet via our cell phones or laptops. People are people, regardless. People will always vie for our attention no matter where we are. People have the need to communicate as it is within our nature. People don’t have good self control or much sense collectively speaking. For example, we have to constantly battle over what is appropriate for television and debate whether the First Amendment Right to Freedom of Speech applies or not. Technology has made our society better and worse. Because of technology, we have more conveniences, but we have developed the need to always get in touch with our employees or to always check in on friends, etc. We have higher expectations and more demands than anyone can possibly keep up, but we try anyway causing more stress and other physical and mental problems to develop. We are constantly adding more problems than technology and ourselves could fix.   

Works Cited
·         Bucy, E. (2010, September 9). Course  Lecture. Indiana University. Bloomington, IN.
·         Bucy, E. (2010, September 14). Course  Lecture. Indiana University. Bloomington, IN.
·         Milgram, S. (1970, March 13). The experience of living in cities. Science, 167, pp. 1461-1468.
·         Shenk, D. (1997). Data smog: Surviving the information glut (updated ed.). New York:

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