I know of some social media web services whose explicit purpose is noise-filtering and content-focusing — e.g. Popego and Pixelpipe. But for now I can’t see good results coming from the former and there’s an interesting effect related to using the latter, as I’m generating a good amount of data clutter in my online communities and lifestreaming services. I’m currently using Pixelpipe to cross-post media content to various destinations and my Twitter account has now a considerable proportion of (often redundant) automated update notifications. (And now there’s Evernote, one more web service to help you generate automatic “content” for microblogging.) Actually, we can’t manage properly our ever growing online communities anymore (and, e.g., I’m on Vimeo just for the hype and two contacts), and I know that this can’t be completely explained by my deep rooted imperfect management skills, impulsiveness and limited time.
There’s another interesting information concept somewhat useful in this framework: exformation, described as explicitly discarded information, everything one don’t actually say but have in our heads, when, or before, we say anything at all. It’s said that the more exformation you generate, the better your writing, art, photography, etc. Rather naturally, our Twitter messages carry much exformation when communicating that wasn’t received by all our followers, even if they come to following us through our websites. Another aspect I don’t like in current lifestreaming web services is its growing use for sharing links when old services such as del.icio.us are much more effective in doing so (assuming the user has entered a somewhat detailed critical description of the website).
The argument for downplaying the role of the tech issues in the whole discussion about social interaction design brought to my memory some words put out by Theodore Roszack back in the eighties, basically that the essence of the progress in culture and human communications didn’t coincide with the progress in information technology. Quoth the aforementioned:
Any kind of experience — even "inner experience" not induced by external stimuli — may initiate cognitive processes leading to changes in a person’s knowledge. Thus knowledge/ideas can be acquired without new information being received. Understanding an idea means knowing the peculiar sources of inspiration of those who created and championed it, their vulnerabilities, and blind spots.
I don’t know if current social interaction tools are humane to the point we can make that journey through another mind in the light of other ideas, including some that we have fashioned from ourselves from our own experience. Roszack also stresses the complex interplay between experience, memory, and ideas, which is the basis of all thoughts. Take experience here to mean the stream of life as it molds personality from moment to moment, not the empiricist equivalent of mere information entries.
We don’t normally collect much experience of this sort. The turbulent stream passes into memory where it settles out things vividly remembered, half remembered, mixed, mingled, compounded. From this compost of remembered events, we somehow cultivate our private garden of certainties and convictions, our rough rules-of-thumb, our likes and dislikes, our intuitions and articles of faith.
Then human memory, the key factor here, is fluid, wavelike, drawn from private fantasies we hardly admit to ourselves, not separable labeled items subject to total recall. The ingredients of a lifetime mix and mingle to produce unanticipated flavors, and just in the right circumstance a single residue bubbles up into a well-formed insight about life, an idea/knowledge. None of this is data processing. It’s the give and take of dialogue between two minds, each drawing upon its own experience.