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Radio Berkman 161: A Brief History of Noise

August 5th, 2010

Listen: or download | …also in Ogg
Noise is distracting and irritating enough in the real world. Our focus is easily disrupted by unwanted clutter and sounds from our surrounding environment. So we often find ourselves turning to digital spaces to try control the chaos, and concentrate on tasks.

But noise still exists in the virtual world, and is often more insidious. Digital distractions disguise themselves as useful information — posts from friends on Twitter and Facebook, text messages, email, and instant messaging. Separating the noise from the signal is often an arduous and personalized task.

And as a new generation of youngsters grows up with mobile phones and uninterrupted network connectivity, researchers fret about a possible information overload and its effects on attention span.

Today’s guest, Kate Crawford, is an Associate Professor in Media Research at the University of New South Wales. She has spent some time researching how noise inserts itself into our lives, particularly through mobile technologies. She spoke with David Weinberger about the history of noise and how noise lives on in the digital world.

Reference Section
Kate Crawford on the web here
Catch Kate’s recent talk on Mobile Social Media and Attention
David Weinberger‘s and Ethan Zuckerman‘s respective liveblogs of Kate’s talk
Kate’s article Following you: Disciplines of listening in social media from August 2009 edition of Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies

Music this week from Clone: “Private Reserve” (composed by Kate Crawford and Bo Daley)

Flickr photo courtesy of thecarol

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