Saturday, 7 November 2009

CONCEPTUAL CONSUMPTION AND THE BATTLE OF IDEAS

I recently found this clever infographic at thisisindexed and it got me thinking about information, and how we use it. Too much information is bad. Equally, too little information is just as problematic.

A recent paper published through Harvard Business School argues that "As technology has simplified meeting basic needs, humans have cultivated increasingly psychological avenues for occupying their consumption energies, moving from consuming food to consuming concepts".

The things we consume conceptually are memes. They are everywhere as we seek more and more conceptual consumption. There are more ideas out there than brains that can host them, which is why some ideas prosper and flourish, and others fail, and die. There is an evolutionary battle of the fittest happening on the web, and elsewhere everyday. We can now see what ideas are on the up, and which are on the way down using data visualisation tools, and even search traffic. Product lifecycles are much shorter now, musical sub-cultures come alive and then fade quickly, and fads and fashions disappear at the blink of an eye.

Is there an upper limit to how much, and how quickly we can process all these memes? There are more memes, and more people to connect with than ever before. Kenneth Gergen in his book The Saturated Self argues that we have reached a state of social saturation.

This all sounds pretty depressing, except for one silver lining, which is that we can now - more than ever befeore - process these memes collectively, using collective intelligence, and distributed brain power. Social media allows us to share and process memes. Think social boomarking on Delicious, and Digg, or Yahoo Answers, think Google search algorithms based on link popularity, think ratings, user reviews, and voting. These memes have forced us to our next stage of social evolution.

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