Listen to the presentations at the Public Forum on Information and the Quality of Life

Listen to David Levy's remarks here. Brief introductory remarks by David M. Levy (professor, the Information School, University of Washington)
Listen to Bill McKibben's remarks here. "More, Faster,...Better?" by Bill McKibben (author of Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age and The Age of Missing Information )

In the opening address, Bill McKibben, observed that in today’s world silence, solitude, and darkness have become the rarest of commodities. We are constantly bathed in an “info-stream” of media and other information products telling us that “we are the most important thing in the universe.” The consequences of this continual immersion in largely consumer-oriented information and its message of hyper-individualism, he argued, are extreme: on a social and political level, great difficulty in enacting solutions that work for the greater common good (e.g. mass transit); on a personal level, a pervasive sense of overwork, overload, and burnout.

Listen to John Seely Brown's remarks here. John Seely Brown (former Director of Xerox PARC, author of The Social Life of Information)

John Seely Brown suggested that information overload is partly the result of poorly designed technologies that have introduced unnecessary complexity. The current design of laptop computers, cell phones, and PDAs force us to rely predominantly on our focal vision and fail to take into account our peripheral vision, our hearing, and our three-dimensional body-sense.

Listen to Carla Pryne's remarks here. Carla Pryne (Episcopal minister, Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Seattle; cofounder of Earth Ministry)

Carla Pryne offered some thoughts about coping with overload, fragmentation, busyness and speedup. Consider the Sabbath, she said. This institution, which is common to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, is an explicit call to slow down, to unplug, and to recover a fuller sense of ourselves and the world. Whether or not we participate in a religious community, or think of ourselves as religious, we might consider fashioning a regular “sabbath-like” practice, she suggested.

Listen to Kirsten Foot's remarks here. Kirsten Foot (assistant professor, UW Communication Dept.)

By way of conclusion, Kirsten Foot listed the major questions she had heard raised during the evening, and suggested that attending to these questions would be an important step in the process of moving forward. How, in the midst of so much information, she wondered, can we recognize “real knowledge,” knowledge that’s worth paying attention to? What kinds of ethical frameworks do we need in the current culture of hyper-individualism? What kinds of institutions do we now have, or do we need, that might offer a constructive response to the current concerns? How can we re-inhabit our bodies when the current mythology of our information technologies is that we engage with the world through our minds alone? What would it mean for the “have’s” of the digital divide to have more than just the technology; what in the end is most worth “having”?