Episode 10 of The Informed Life podcast features an interview with my friend, information architecture and user experience pioneer Peter Morville. Peter is one of the most thoughtful people I know about the subject of information management, and in this interview we discussed how we can be more mindful when living an informed life:
If we think about the questions around how we manage information, what tools do we use to manage information for our personal and professional interests, and then we try to apply metrics or evaluation, am I using these tools efficiently and effectively? Are these the right tools? It begs the question, the right tools to achieve what?… Are these tools and the way I’m managing information leading me in a positive direction where I’m learning and changing? I don’t think we asked these questions very often, but I think that if we want to sort of talk about the tools that we use to manage information, we have to be mindful of what is the purpose behind that.
Peter introduced me to Henry David Thoreau’s concept of the root-striker (“If you really want to solve the problem, you have to strike at the root”), an apt image for a discussion that centered on thinking deeply about the source of the challenges we face when living in an information-saturated culture. Overcoming these challenges requires that we acknowledge that the system isn’t set up to look after our interests:
The first step in protecting yourself from the information deluge is to understand and accept that nobody’s looking out for you, that you have to protect yourself, that it’s not all good. You’re not going to take any steps to protect yourself unless you feel that you have some something you want to protect yourself from.
He goes on to describe some of the practices that have allowed him to protect himself from some of the more noxious aspects of our “seductive information” culture, including meditation and taking sabbaticals from social media.
This interview made me reconsider the foundations of own personal information environment. I hope you get as much value from this conversation as I have.