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6. Over-Production and Information Overload

 Vocabulary List, Cambridge English:
Preliminary and Preliminary for School Vocabulary List 

After memorising thousands of words from a school’s vocabulary list, there is still a huge gap between this and the practice of typing the ‘correct word’ in order to find the object that you are referring to in an online search engine. For example, Amazon currently has 564 million products on their electronic commerce database but what ‘name’ should we type into the search bar in order to find the particular item that you want? In Google, the most popular result will become the most visible product. The most clicked item will register higher up on other customers’ searches and this in turn will incur better customer ratings due to exposure to more people. In this instance, the most visible product becomes the ‘truth’ of the search as it becomes the item that we are enforced to believe is the best. On the online sales platform that is Amazon, the manufacturer/seller who uploads the product becomes the one who defines the object’s name and the parameters of the customer’s search. The product’s name on Amazon can be quite subjective (or colloquial) and site-specific affair and, as a result, can be quite hard to locate. An Amazon search can be like trying to hit a target with an arrow without necessarily knowing where the target’s location is, so you have to keep on shooting until you hit something solid. This tests the customer’s knowledge, logic and vocabulary in relation to the name of the product, as you have to be accurate and get your arrow (name put into search) right over the right target (match with the seller) to succeed. Your vocabulary is essential, as it is the list in your knowledge bank that you refer to in order to get to the object you aim to purchase.

For example, if I want to find a specific flavour and brand of a tea, but I have forgotten its name, I will enter an unlimited amount of related terms; tea, black tea, purple box, strong flavour, smoky, triangular tea bag… and the more insecure I am in knowing the thing's name the more walls will obstruct me in reaching the object. On the online search engine, it has become an informal law that if the user does not have the correct name of the thing then the corresponding item will not turn up for you. As a result, the over-production of manmade things is now diminishing our human control in relation to recalling objects; there are too many options or possibilities for each product. Humans are in an era of over-production and information overload. Alvin Toffler describes the consequences of an excess of information in, Future Shock (1970):

[…] information overload occurs when the amount of input to a system exceeds its processing capacity. Decision makers have fairly limited cognitive processing capacity. Consequently, when information overload occurs, it is likely that a reduction in decision quality will occur.[1]

Humans are not able to absorb an overly complex array of information or thousands of options, so the information that each human receives will be subjectively filtered. Imagine that a group of people are trapped in a rainstorm, but they want to harvest the water. The amount of water each person is capable of catching in a single bucket cannot represent or harness the whole rainstorm. On the other hand, as the result of information overload, publications are not the only possibility for receiving information anymore. Information now has plural channels for obtainment; social media platforms, websites, news, e-books… However, due to the over-production of things, objects and products, there is an excess in the supply of objects. It is easy to drown in information if humans do not find navigational tools by which to frame their knowledge consumption, ‘culture is perishing in overproduction, in an avalanche of words, in the madness of quantity’[2] says Milan Kundera in The Unbearable Lightness of Being (2009). Humans are living in an era in which for many the number of consumables is increasing and overwhelmingly available, which causes objects to depreciate in value. For example, when a white shirt is damaged, instead of fixing it, contemporary humans are more likely to buy a new one and this exemplifies the unlimited duplication of the replaceable. This then produces a question around the value of a white shirt and the way in which we consume: what are we humans searching for?; What are we so anxious to discover or consume?; Do we want to, and more importantly can we, know or obtain everything?


[1]Alvin Toffler, Future Shock (New York: Random House, 1970), 350.

[2] Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, trans. Michael Henry Heim, (London: Faber and Faber), 53. <> (accessed 04. December. 2019)


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