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The Shape of Information


To explain what I mean by info-aesthetics, let me start by noting something simple but nevertheless quite significant: the word “information” contains within it the word ‘form.” For a while now social theorists, economists, and politicians were telling us that we are living in a new “information society.” The term was first used already in the 1960s, even before computer revolution got underway. Today, a few decades later, what was once a theoretical hypothesis became a practical everyday reality that can be easily observed by anybody leaving in any developed country. All kinds of work became reduced to handling data on one’s computer screen – in short, processing information. As you walk or drive past office buildings in any city, all offices regardless of what a company does look the same: rows of computer screens and keyboards. Regardless of their actual profession, financial analysts, city officials, secretaries, architects, accountants, and pretty much everybody else engaged in white-collar work is actually processing information. And when we leave work, we don’t leave information society. In our everyday life, we use search engines and retrieve data from databases; we rely on “personal information appliances” and “personal information managers.” We complain that there is too much information to keep track or make sense - while the libraries and museums around the world constantly add to the global information pile by systematically digitizing everything they got. We turn our own lives into an information archive by storing all our emails, SMS, digital photos, and other “digital traces” of our existence. One day we get tired from all this so we start planning to take “e-mail free” holidays – but even this requires information work: searching for best deals on the internet, comparing fares, inputting credit card information into a reservation web site. In short, “information society” is where the citizens of the developed world live today, experiencing it in their everyday practice.

Article  2005