As PR for an upcoming appearance by James Gleick, whose new book The Information I am greatly looking forward to reading, Zocalo Public Square asked four or five folks “Can there be too much information?” It’s an interesting collection of responses. (Well, mine excepted.)
And underneath these interesting-in-themselves essays runs a different question when they are taken together: What the heck do we mean by “information” anyway? I’m not sure any of the respondents is defining it in the same way. The ways include: opinions, raw data, words, ideas, photos, switches and dials, and books. Of course, some of these are containers of information or examples of information. But they do not reduce to a single definition. (I believe Gleick’s book is at least in part about this ambiguity about information. It’s also something I’ve been researching for the past couple of years.)
As far as my contribution goes, I had to decide whether to provide an Everything Is Miscellaneous answer (we are learning to organize info in new ways) or a Too Big to Know answer (the quantity of info is changing the nature of knowledge). I went with the new book rather than the old, if only because I wrote the tiny essay within minutes after finishing revising the book manuscript.