John Commonplacebook discusses Alan Moore, who’s just been named our “greatest living writer” by Salon.com. Along the way, John quotes Moore on the proper attitude toward information overload:
Connection is very useful; intelligence does not depend on the amount of neurons we have in our brains, it depends on the amount of connections they can make between them. So this suggests that having a multitude of information stored somewhere in your memory is not necessarily a great deal of use; you need to be able to connect this information into some sort of usable palette. I think my work tries to achieve that. It’s a reflection of the immense complexity of the times we’re living in. I think that complexity is one of the major issues of the 20th and 21st centuries. If you look at our environmental and political problems, what is underlying each is simply the increased complexity of our times. We have much more information, and therefore we are much more complex as individuals and as a society. And that complexity is mounting because our levels of information are mounting.
Personally, I’m much more impressed by John’s response to this quotation:
I was thinking about something like this the other day, but I came to a different conclusion. With the astounding proliferation of information around, we have essentially looped back to where we started from, i.e., with very little information that we don’t really know how to interpret. Consider the sheer amount of worldviews available to us: we could be Marxists, feminists, Buddhists, occultists, libertarians, cognitivists, Reform Jews, Wiccans, etc., etc. Which doesn’t even account for the variations in those worldviews themselves: what kind of feminists should we be, or Marxists, or occultists? There are variations within variations, a network extending to infinity in all directions. This is complexity so extreme it reduces to simplicity just as a lot of little pen-lines crossed will look at a distance like a black mark. We don’t know anything.
Thanks to mass communications, we emerge from the birth channel into a position of Socratic skepticism. I have high hopes for the “Internet Generation”. Moore, David Icke, Fritjof Freakin’ Capra, et al–these guys are still playing by the old rules, assuming that the people need a Shaman to drape the blanket of “coherence” over their scared little bodies, when in fact we are more and more comfortable at the room temperature of “particularity”. We are living through a second Reformation my friends.
The “ooh, there’s too much information–the sheep are confused” take on postmodernity (for Exhibit A of this line of reasoning, as it pertains to the tiny little world of comics criticism, see Heidi MacDonald) is the pathetic last gasp of would-be experts in a world in which “expertise” has been exposed for the chimera that it always was. Even God would be incapable of following every conversation on the Web. The internet is a powerful telescope zeroed in on human individuality itself. At long last, the dots have overwhelmed the lines that would turn them into false constellations of “meaning”–and the story of the 21st century will be the rise of intersubjectivity at the expense of Moore’s “connections”.
Good Afternoon Friends!