Streams of Content, Limited Attention: The Flow of Information through Social Media

danah boyd, Weblog, Nov 19, 2009
Commentary by Stephen Downes

"For the longest time," writes danah boyd, "we have focused on sites of information as a destination, of accessing information as a process, of producing information as a task. What happens when all of this changes? While things are certainly clunky at best, this is the promise land of the technologies we're creating... This metaphor is powerful. The idea is that you're living inside the stream: adding to it, consuming it, redirecting it. The stream metaphor is about reaching flow. It's also about restructuring the ways in which information flows in modern society."

But as the nature and flow of information changes from a model of distribution to a model of attention, society changes around it. Boyd raises four major issues: democracy, which is not ensured by flow; stimulation, which sees us changing to reactive, rather than reflective, actors; homophily, in which we tend to cluster with people like ourselves, and power, which accumulates with centralized information sources.
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