Monday, April 23, 2007

I Heart Information

by Brenda Roger

I love information. I’ve always loved information. Facts. Yummy. The word tastes sweet in my mouth. Living in the information age confirms for me that, although I prefer clothes and movies from the forties and fifties, I was born at the right time.

Not having information makes me homicidal. Lately, I seem to be caught in a tangle of situations without enough information.

I’m filling in at work for a colleague on maternity leave. Everyday, there are expectations of me that in order to be fulfilled would require specific information. The institution in question is about to borrow two vintage Mercedes Benz cars, and labels need to be written for the display. That task has fallen to me. I have a degree in art history. Cars are cool. They are sculpture. I like all things red and shiny. Cars are often red and shiny. How would that look on a label? Because that’s what I know about cars. Oh, and it is actually someone else’s job to be writing labels for the cars. It’s, uh, the car guy’s job.

On Friday, I was told to pull up the such and such agenda and then e-mail so and so about it. Did you understand that? If I quoted exactly what was said, you still wouldn’t understand. There wasn’t any information in the original version either. It was also, 4:30 on a Friday afternoon. Is that the best time to send someone an ambiguous email about a meeting agenda (with no information in it)?

I’m working on a timeline for the 50th anniversary of the Women’s Committee of the Carnegie Museum of Art. It is a thirty-foot long collage of pictures and newspaper articles. It has been somewhat fun, but I keep experiencing anxiety about putting the pictures in the right order. I agonize over whether something is from 1957 or 1967, and then I remember a very important piece of information –I WASN’T BORN UNTIL 1973! How would I know?

I have a blackberry. I would say that I use it, but I think I just have it. Last night, I tried to change one of the e-mail accounts on my blackberry. After forty-five minutes I had to call tech support. They asked me if I’m using a something or other, or a such and such. I didn’t even know what they were talking about. I just wanted to change “” to “” at the end of my email address. There was a space to enter the “ESN” on one of the login screens. Does anyone out there know what “ESN” stands for? Anyone? Anyone? After a frustrating hour of spewing expletives and being on hold, my blackberry is back in action. Now I can resume getting the informationless e-mails that flood my mailbox.

These are just examples that I can remember from the last three or four days. These instances have been flying at me rapid fire. It is making me homicidal. The next person who does this to me is going to be in for it. Luckily, I’m only armed with words, so here’s what I’m going to say:

Do you order pizza? How do you think it would work out if you asked the pizza guy for a pizza and gave him no other information? Based on the information you just gave to me, I would have to guess that when he gets there with a plain pizza, you are mad at him because he didn’t put on the pepperoni and mushrooms, and how dare he assume you wanted a large? Now, do you wanna try to ask me for that again?

Then I’ll take a deep breath and remember the words of the great orator, Pee Wee Herman, who said, “it’s like you're trying to unravel a giant, cable-knit sweater, and someone just keeps knitting, and knitting, and knitting, and knitting…………………..


Anonymous said...

While our information technology has improved, my belief is that our communication dilemmas are pretty much the same as they've been for that last 2000 years. The difference? Now we're expected to keep up with a much faster flow of information than ever before, and if we get something wrong, everyone knows.

Anonymous said...

I tend to conceptualize the problem of comprehending tech (and other) information in terms of the question, "How do I get to Erie?" Most people respond by saying, "I-79 North." What I need is:
1) learn to operate a motor vehicle
2) acquire a valid drivers license
3) acquire the use of a working vehicle that is properly registered
4) unlock the door to the vehicle
5) sit down in the left front seat of the vehicle behind the steering wheel
6) insert the key into the ignition
. . . etc. etc. etc.