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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Learning how to switch from affirmation to information..., February 20, 2012
This review is from: The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption (Hardcover)
The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption by Clay A. Johnson is one of those books I'd like to give to a number of people I know, and then sit down and make sure they read it. So many of the points he brings forth in the book are, in my opinion, the exact reasons why we as a society are in such a mess. We've traded information for affirmation and entertainment, and we've lost the ability to think about issues for ourselves. Of course, by viewing this book as I did, I'm probably perpetuating some of the very problems I complain about in others. :) But knowing there's a problem is the first step towards trying to fix it.

Contents:
I - Introduction: Lessons from Obesity; Information, Power, and Survival; Big Info; We Are What We Seek; Welcome to Information Obesity; The Symptoms of Information Obesity
II - The Information Diet: Data Literacy; Attention Fitness; A Healthy Sense of Humor; How to Consume
III - Social Obesity: The Participation Gap; Transparency; Bridging the Gap; Political Infoveganism
A - A Special Note: Dear Programmer
B - Further Reading

Johnson uses an analogy that compares information to food intake. If we eat wisely, then our bodies remain fit and we are healthy. However, if we gorge on junk food and empty calories, we become obese and our health suffers. He views information in the same way. Conscious exposure to different types of information from various sources allow us to form intelligent, considered opinions and positions. But mindless viewing of "news" that seeks only to solidify what you already believe pushes you into an unhealthy mode of information obesity... a condition where you believe anything you hear because you've lost your ability to think for yourself and to be challenged in your world views.

To break away from the endless distractions and constant flow of information from sources like email, Twitter, Facebook, and other constant sources of data, he recommends setting yourself up to where you actually have to make efforts to be exposed to certain types of data flow. When you're working, configure your environment such that you don't have email, Twitter, or chat clients open. Ignore the web and the endless diversionary trails it can present. When you *are* in the mode of reading and information gathering, purposely seek out alternative views that challenge your basic assumptions. Instead of taking a news story as completely factual, choose to dig back to the source information for the story to see where the bias(es) are in the reporting... and there *will* be biases. Especially true during this political campaign season, don't take a candidate's statements of "fact" as being factual at all. Compare it against the source of their information as well as against their own statements in the past. Again, *think* about what you're being given as information.

Personally, I came away with a number of insights that have changed the way I view what I read. Probably the biggest change for me is the differentiation between information and affirmation. Online sites track what you read and view, and over time will tailor what you see to provide more of the same. For them, it's profitable as you are spending more time on the site and they can get more advertising dollars. But unfortunately, you end up being exposed to more and more information about what you already believe, and as such you lose touch with alternative possibilities. In your focused world, everyone agrees with you, therefore you must be right. This affirmation of what you already believe is, once again in my opinion, most evident on media cable channels that offer up "news" that is biased towards a specific end of the political spectrum. All the "reporting" serves to affirm what the regular viewer already believes, so it simply solidifies opinions with no conflicting or constructive alternatives. Each group becomes more polarized in their world view, and the ability to discuss anything in a rational and considered way becomes impossible. The goal becomes how to show the other side exactly how wrong they are, and that causes the other party to dig in even deeper in their own defense. While I personally have a set of opinions and beliefs, I know I need to take conscious steps to allow conflicting opinions to enter my attention span and be judged on their merits, and not on my biases.

The Information Diet is not a large book, and you could argue that it might have been even more condensed without as much attention to the analogies to actual food intake and processing. But regardless of size, I think that the concepts and practices here desperately need to be practiced by far more people in order to stop the fragmenting of our society, as well as the ability of a few "leaders" to control the thoughts and actions of millions who don't or won't think for themselves.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Publisher
Payment: Free
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Thomas Duff "Duffbert"
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