Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Too Much Information - Dave Gorman ****

It might seem odd to feature a book by comedian Dave Gorman on a popular science site, but this is a book about information, information technology, media and its impact on us as people - so entirely deserves its place here.

Admittedly, the book can often seem like a specialist version of the TV show Grumpy Old Men on the topic of information, IT and the media - and there certainly are some funny parts to it - but just as the subtitle suggests that Gorman is trying to think in a deluge of often unwanted 'information', itself of dubious nature, so it gives the reader the chance to do the same.

What comes through, as is usually the case with Gorman, is an obsessive fascination with detail (which, if you're a geek like me, you will probably share). He picks up on a piece of information and pulls it apart to destruction. So, for instance, he riffs (there is really no other word for it) about the oddity of the band Scouting for Girls putting out a 'greatest hits' album in which clearly (and he has a chart to prove it) most of the tracks weren't hits at all.

Some of the content of Too Much Information is pure grumpiness, as in the plea for Twitter users to gain some perspective and stop thinking it's funny or clever to change words by prefacing them with 'tw' to make them special-to-Twitter. People, he assures us, remain people, not 'tweeple' or (shudder) 'tweeps'. Elsewhere he comes up with a fascinating analysis of why all HTC mobile phones show a particular time in adverts, uncovers the bizarre ways that celebrities are exploited by (and exploit) the media and ponders the social impact of the 'next customer' separators we use on supermarket conveyor belts.

The stories, as they effectively are, range in length from just one page to at least ten, and often hit the spot, though with 40 different, loosely collected topics, the book can feel too bitty and lacking cohesion as you read through it. Even so, I found many of the subjects fascinating, some informative and almost all of them enjoyable. 

If you've never taken the time to step back and think about what being in such a connected, information rich world does to us - and how people and companies try to manipulate us through that information - it really is time you did so. And Dave Gorman is here to be a grumpy guide to that voyage of discovery.

Paperback:  

Kindle:  

Audio download:  
Review by Brian Clegg

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