The premise of the Information Diet by Clay Johnson is: ‘What if we started managing our information consumption like we managed our food consumption?’ And so it begins. This is a fascinating book framed as an open discussion in which Johnson carries along this metaphor of information intake being likened to nutritional sustenance. The initial chapters explore overeating and the obesity of America, but the reader is increasingly wondering how far the author planning on carrying this overeating consumption metaphor. As the narrative starts to move into the realm of information provision and the ‘industrialization of information’ the author’s intentions become clearer. The case study of AOL’s Blogsmith software that allows for the measurement of information’s impact on revenue and profitability highlights is quite fascinating and paints a picture of information becoming turned into ‘fast food’ — that is easily absorbed, desired, but of limited or destructive nutritional value.
The author lays out the threat by plumbing the intentions of many of the more popular information providers on the internet and through more conventional media and then shifts to discussing the ways in which we can and have to combat the information deluge for our own sake. The author makes frequent forays into his own experience to provide anecdotal evidence of the impact of ‘delusion’ resulting from becoming too deep in the political morass and likens this to a malady that increasingly effecting a greater proportion of the American populace.
This is a thought provoking book that poses a number of challenges to how we can maintain mental as well as physical health in a world that is ever changing how we receive and digest information. The metaphor is apt and exploring symptoms such as apnea, lack of concentration and providing remedies such as filtering, fitness and maintaining proper diet are intriguing. The use of information labeling — much like nutritional — is creative and although seemingly humorous…extremely apt.
All in all I enjoyed the reading experience and would recommend it for wide consumption. It reminds me of Information Anxiety by Richard Saul Wurman or even going further back to Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock. This is not the first attempt to diagnosis the problem and surely won’t be the last, but this interesting parallel with nutrition and diet is … please pardon me for this… great food for thought ;-)