Mountains of information

I’ve been a bit slack about posting for a little while, and you, my loyal audience, should try to bear with me. Not only does school and work take up a good amount of any person’s time, especially when that person is TAing, teaching, taking three classes, and editing journalism and media textbooks, but a monumental amount of time is spent thinking about the time I spend doing things and about how to be more productive.

Although the 40-hour a week job in an office with a water cooler where you hang around and harass the office manager is not my idea of a good time, it does give you structure and a pre-developed way to think about the time you spend: you’re at an office, doing a specific job, and when you leave that office your life enters a different sphere, even if you’re thinking about or doing work.

As anyone who is has spent a little time in graduate-land will tell you, though, life in academia is not so easily categorized. It’s a total mess, actually, and a good portion of my thoughts are more like meta-thoughts, trying to figure out how to organize my thinking to make it more productive. This type of behavior is, at its core, an epic waste of time.

I’m working on a new project, writing about the digital divide and questioning the technophiliac assumption that computers and the Internet are good for low income and developing populations (of course I think they are, but I want to start at the beginning) and then looking at the best ways people have found to implement technology in order to create actual social change.

My research involves scouring dozens and dozens of websites, and there’s quickly becoming too much information for me to handle. So I’m capturing web pages, or taking snippets from them, and trying to compile it all into a searchable database in Devonthink, a handy program that is, essentially, a searchable database. But now I’m finding myself thinking as much about the process as the subject of the research itself. Oy.

There are no perfect solutions, of course. But maybe saying this publicly will allow something to click in my brain and I’ll be able to put the obsession to rest.

In the meantime, I’ve been finding some great stuff. From the $100 laptop to media literacy education, there’s a whole movement out there to bring technology to the people through education and non-profit initiatives, away from the corrupting influence of big business and commercialism.

Check out these links if you’re interested. They’re just the tip of the iceberg. I’ll be posting them in the sidebar on the right soon after I spend a few hours thinking about the best method to do it.
Center for Digital Democracy
Who Owns What
India: Hole-in-the-Wall
BBC NEWS | Technology | Sub-$100 laptop design unveiled
Ubuntu – Linux for Human Beings
Clay Shirky’s Internet Writings
The Digital Divide Network
Equal Access

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  1. I stumbled across your blog a few months ago and have found many of your entries to be both thought-provoking and insightful. In many ways, I believe the Internet has allowed many different types of populations to gain recognitions and come togenthver to help create positive social change.

    personally, I’ve witnessed the utilization of online forums as a way to bring disenfranchised minorities together and create a think tank of information. For example, I was injured in a freak accident a few years ago and have been searching for information regarding stem cell research and advocacy groups. My present situation does not allow me to physically join and discuss advocacy methods with other spinal cord injured patients….I was lucky to find a forum and have since become an active member learning about politics, science and the other nuances of finding a cure for paralysis.
    in terms of social change… this forum brought together a group of random injured United States citizens together to protest in Washington, DC on April 12 for the Christopher Reeve paralysis act. Without the Internet, this would not have been possible in many of our thoughts and desires as a community looking to push forward both medical and social change, would not have manifested….
    I think you’re researching a great topic and are making a lot of poignant discoveries with your analysis of the news and Internet relations. Best to you and your work.

  2. as a sidenote, I’ve also personally been able to use my web site as a way of bringing different people together and sharing information and ideas.

    (to information I had a hard time putting my web site. Under the web site form leavve a reply)

  3. I too find information can be intimidating and overwhelming, and so too can the process of organizing that information. I’m right now trying this system developed by Stephen Covey, the author of The Seven Habits of Highly Succesful People, he has a system called Franklin Covey Planning Pages but this is just a way to help organize one’s life, which delves a little into organizing one’s information, but certainly doesn’t do so comprehensively. Sometimes I feel it healthy to be intimidated by the knowledge I don’t have, but when it manifest as actual anxiety, thats not good.

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