Tag Archives: information

Mind bubbles

Picture 1

Information distribution has changed dramatically over the last decade, but people really haven’t. Though there is more information and opinion available than ever before and though we may consume it differently, we actually select the information in ways similar to how we’ve always done it. Most people still read only sources that they ‘like’ and sources they ‘like’ most often offer information and opinions compatible with those of their own.

Picture 2a social network analysis of the purchase patterns of political books since 2003

Social networks, apart from niche ones like Ning or Twine (more semantically rather than socially structured), aren’t built around political compatibility, but my guess is that a lot of the networks would have a high degree of political homogeneity. People tend to choose or subconsciously migrate towards groups, neighborhoods and people who share their political views. Thus, if one shares or reads information through something like Facebook, there is a good chance that what you’re looking at comes from a person with views similar to those of your own.

RSS readers are an obvious example: we subscribe only to selected ‘liked’ information providers and the cycle goes on. With Twitter things seem to have a potential of getting more open since it’s a space of everything from everywhere with no clear thematic structure, but ultimately the system has a good chance of resembling the RSS system to the users.

In the age of disaggregation, the money is in giving people what they want. Unfortunately, what we want — and don’t think you’re different — is to have our existing opinions confirmed. You and I and everyone else are going to be far more likely to click through from a headline that confirms what we already believe than from one which challenges us. “I don’t need to read that,” we’ll say, “it’s clearly just biased crap.” The computers will see this, and any sort of recommendation algorithm will quickly end up as a mirror to our preconceptions.

So, provided we actually would like to do it, how could we break past the opinion and information bubbles we’re all in? Some, like Jonathan think that the solution is maps so that ‘instead of trying to decide what someone “should” see, you just make clear to them what they could see.’ This could work since visualisations can be very impressive, but from my experience they’re more of a thing you look at once or twice with interest and then walk back to your safety net. I, for pure user convenience sake reasons, think you could have a system that searches for an alternative version of whatever you’re reading and lets you click a link with a headline on a sidebar to create a mirror of what you’re missing.

Would anyone actually want these kinds of services? Would it lead to a better understanding of things we might be fighting for and against on a regular basis in the political sphere? Opinions welcome!

[Via Jonathan]

Information deformation

‘The short film “Information Deformation” by Bill Farren (Education for Well-being) is a stark reminder that information doesn’t equal knowledge.’ The amounts of information thrown at us every day through news, blogs, feeds, Twitter (and what else you may be using) is overwhelming. The question is how much of the information we can take in and how much depth of understanding we may be losing due to this amount. The film deals with the differences between Slow Knowledge and Fast Knowledge. “Fast knowledge is focusing on solving problems, usually by one technological fix or another. Slow knowledge has to do with avoiding problems in the first place.”

[Via Design Mind]

search + data = information

Google is probably the single most common point of start for research in any sphere. Google’s mission of organising the web is still making our lives easier every day. Now Google is heading down the road of making public data searchable, comparable and available as visualisations. Right now the available data includes unemployment  and population rates from around the US, but Google says it’s only a start on what’s meant to become available. The visualisations include interactive charts that allow sets of data to be included or excluded from comparisons. Amazing stuff.

I would love to see something like this become available for European states and developing countires, whether through getting hold of sets of government data or for a start through a compilation of public bits of research such as the CIA Factbook. The linguistic barriers can be a problem, but with the increasing accuracy of Google’s automated translation software, this seems like a viable future development.

[Via ReadWriteWeb and Google blog]

I heart infographics


Infographics are probably the only medium of getting eye candy and information at the same time. You can find 50 great examples collected by Francesco Mugnai in this recent blog post. If you want to continue enjoying the fun of infographics there is also what started me on infographics in the first place, a blog written by Randy Krum called Cool Infographics that delivers nice pieces from time to time. Ning even has its own Visual Thinking Map networks that serves as a collective pool for inforgraphics. Rock on.

Internet population


Today another great infographic! Justin Wehr just posted this on his blog Wehr in the World. The graphs are a compilation of comScore data from the 15 countries most populated with Internet users. According to comScore, the number of unique users worldwide has just reached a billion, which still leaves  the world with only between 15 and 22 percent of its population on the Internet.


Using the comScore numbers, here is the breakdown by country and region (in unique visitors as of December, 2008; some of the numbers are rounded):

Top 15 countries, by Internet population:

  1. China: 179.7 million
  2. United States: 163.3 million
  3. Japan: 60.0 million
  4. Germany: 37.0 million
  5. United Kingdom: 36.7 million
  6. France: 34.0 million
  7. India: 32.1 million
  8. Russia: 29.0 million
  9. Brazil: 27.7 million
  10. South Korea: 27.3 million
  11. Canada: 21.8 million
  12. Italy: 20.8 million
  13. Spain: 17.9 million
  14. Mexico: 12.5 million
  15. Netherlands: 11.8 million

Worldwide Internet Audience

  • Asia Pacific: 416 million (41.3%)
  • Europe: 283 million (28.0%)
  • North America: 185 million (18.4%)
  • Latin America: 75 million (7.4%)
  • Middle East & Africa: 49 million (4.8%)

[via Wehr in the World & Techcrunch]

A Brief History of the Internet

History of the Internet is an encapsulation of the development of the Internet since 1957. The animation uses PICOL icons, which are meant to facilitate a standardised and minimalist form of communication in digital. The video is an informative and understandable explanation of the origins of perhaps the most important invention of the past century. Created by Melih Bilgil:

History of the internet is an animated documentary explaining the inventions from time-sharing to file-sharing, from arpanet to internet.  The history is told with help of the PICOL icons, which are also a part of my diploma. The icons are soon available for free on picol.org



Frontline is finally available to watch online in the UK! All these years there had been broadcasting agreements (or rather disagreements) between the US and the UK that made it impossible to stream in their content. But yay, Frontline is finally here! For those unfamiliar with Frontline, it is a section of PBS (Public Broadcasting Service), which is something like an American BBC. Frontline consists of an online database of documentaries on topics ranging from international conflicts to the history of christianity and the neurological background of teenage behaviour. Yay again!