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The Information Diet

When you’re young, you look at television and think, There’s a conspiracy. The networks have conspired to dumb us down. But when you get a little older, you realize that’s not true. The networks are in business to give people exactly what they want. That’s a far more depressing thought. Conspiracy is optimistic! You can shoot the bastards! We can have a revolution! But the networks are really in business to give people what they want. It’s the truth.

-Steve Jobs

Clay Johnson, founder of Blue State Digital (which ran online strategy for Obama’s 2008 campaign) and former director of Sunlight Labs, is writing a book called The Information Diet (website).

A preview of the first chapter was posted today. (The introduction opens with the Jobs quote above.) Here’s a snip regarding the thoughts that led him to leave Sunlight Labs:

Transparency wasn’t the universal answer I was looking for. You cannot simply flood the market with broccoli and hope that people stop eating french fries. If large numbers of people only seek out information that confirms their beliefs, then flooding the market with data from and about the government will really not work as well as the theorists predict; the data ends up being twisted by the left- and right-wing noise machines, and turned into more fodder to keep America spinning.

Some people may have heard me rant about the self-validating echo chamber (also: filter bubble) effect we have going on in our society. (Sorry, sweetie.) And hey, I’m guilty of it as much as anyone. The topic ties in neatly with the philosophical struggle I have with the more timesucking aspects of the internet versus my career as a web developer. (My love/hate relationship with social networks being one facet of that.)

In any case: I’m really looking forward to reading this book and seeing where Johnson goes with this idea of a diet from junk information.