I’m fascinated by the sheer volume of information on the Web.
Many of us are at least partly familiar with the “Wikipedia effect” (captured succinctly below by xkcd’s Randall Munroe). You start off on one, well-intentioned search, and minutes (or is it hours? or is it days?) later you’ve found yourself reading up on something completely unrelated. It’s hard to say what causes such scattered thinking: part of it is interest, certainly, but there’s more to it than that.
There seems to be something intrinsic about the nature of Web-based information that allows for such a freeform approach to learning new things. Decades ago, when television allowed us to flip channels and potentially explore new (and unrelated) things, we remained hooked in to the whims of the channel operators. We might discover something new on the cooking channel, but it was dictated largely by whatever the cooking channel happened to have on. For those of us who grew up without cable– wow!– that cooking channel might not even exist.
Now, of course, things are radically different from the various forms of entertainment and knowledge accessibility our parents and grandparents enjoyed. Virtually all information online is put on equal footing (though it might be filtered and condensed by blogs and Google) and there are no barriers to discovering content that might previously have been hidden for nationalist, cultural, lawful or ideological reasons. This is an open ocean, and we rely far more on others to direct our attention.
“The biodegradable Discover Card is another way for environmentally conscious consumers to do their part to help protect our planet,” says Kelly Tufts, Discover’s director of marketing. The card, which “breaks down 99% [...] in nine months to five years”, will leave less of an impact on the earth than the other 150 card designs Discover makes available for purchase. But in a market and economy wracked by increasing consumer debt ($5710 in credit card debt per consumer in December 2008), is this really what we need?
If Discover was serious about helping the environment (while encouraging rampant overspending), they could do many things: move their other designs to biodegradable plastic, donate 1% (or some other percentage) to a “green” cause, or work towards environmentally friendly practices in their buildings and corporate mentality (which would discourage overconsumption). This card, in contrast, strikes me as a confused attempt to reconcile two very different modalities, with little benefit to anyone.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments!
via Inhabitat and Next Nature.