Clay Shirky About Filter Failure

Clay Shirky gave a talk entitled “It’s Not Information Overload. It’s Filter Failure.” at O’Reilly Media’s Web 2.0 Expo. The following paragraphs constitute a short summary I file here mainly as a reminder for myself. I encourage you to follow the link and listen to the talk in its entirety (23:51).

Information overload has become a common place and an excuse for our inability to deal with the reality described by this chart, Shirky says. New techniques from the printing press to the internet change the way information is delivered and who filters it. The publisher used to take all the economic risks and therefore had a strong incentive to filter content for quality, These incentives are now weaker than ever because the cost of publishing dropped. Nowadays, it’s up to the individual to filter content coming in and going out. He illustrates his point with three great examples:

  • Spam which is an example of inbound information flow,
  • Privacy (Changing “relationship status” on Facebook) which is about managing outbound information flow and,
  • Using online social collaboration tools in College and being accused of cheating (Chris Avenir’s story)

Relating to this last one, Clay Shirky also stresses how dangerous over-reliance on metaphors can be when one uses them to make decisions about the new networked environments.

I also include several links to articles that reference the talk and where you might find additional value (either in the posts or in the comments):