Clay Shirky on the Need for Better Information Filters

Last month, Clay Shirky gave a presentation with the title “It’s Not Information Overload. It’s Filter Failure” at the Web 2.0 Expo. 1 Shirky admits up front at the start of the talk that the topic is something new that he is exploring, and as a result the ideas are not fully formed. (I get lost in how the last of his three examples applies to the topic at hand, for instance.) But his viewpoint is a refreshing way to look at the issue of “information overload” from a new perspective, and it is worth looking at even in this raw stage. For starters, he says that we’ve been facing information overload for the past 500 years — since the introduction of the Gutenburg movable type press gave readers more books than they could possibly read. What has changed in the last decade has been how past information “filters” are no longer effective.