2010-05-03 Information Action Ratio
Listening to the Belgian news is often a bit surreal (this makes sense in the country of surrealism) as they talk about problems that we don't really care or this is not really impacting the citizen. Even if the media are claiming that Belgian politics (and by so the crisis just created by some of them) are affecting our life. But if you are listening to every breaking news, this is a majority of useless information that you can't use to improve your life or the society. Neil Postman described this in a nice concept : Information-action Ratio:
In both oral and typographic cultures, information derives its importance from the possibilities of action. Of course, in any communication environment, input (what one if informed about) always exceeds output (the possibilities of action based on information). But the situation created by telegraphy, and the exacerbated by later technologies, made the relationship between information and action both abstract and remote.
You can replace telegraphy by your favourite media but this is a real issue of the current news channel (e.g. television, radio,…). The information is so distant from what you are doing everyday. We can blame our fast channel of communication being very different compared to a book or an extensive article on a specific subject where the information is often well organized and generating thinking (that can lead to action). Why are we listening to information that we don't care? Why are we giving so much importance to that useless information? I don't have a clear answer to that fact. I'm sure of at least something, instead of listening/viewing useless information in the media like Belgian politics, I'll focus more on the media (including books) increasing my information-action ratio.
If you want to start in that direction too, I'll recommend Amusing Ourselves To Death written by Neil Postman.