Concentric Circles of Information

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Humans are complex. Information processing boils down to the path of least resistance. There are steep diminishing returns to information consumption. We’re usually, at least historically, pretty good at balancing the books. Social media has made staying in balance more difficult. The internet has converted all global matters into local matters. Events feel visceral to us even though they are happening 7,000 miles away.

I think about information architecture as concentric circles, each person surrounded by their own set. Information lives inside each of those circles.

  • The smaller circle contains what I must know to survive.
  • The next one is what I must know to be successful.
  • The third circle contains what I think I should look into.
  • The fourth circle starts to get to the parts I unconsciously ignore.
  • The outer circle contains what I know I should ignore.
  • When you run out of circles, you arrive at the unknown and the unknowable.

Pulling oneself and others across those circles requires energy, either on the persons’ part, or on the information providers part. Energy is limited, and the first law of thermodynamics reminds us that energy can’t be created nor destroyed; therefore it needs to be moved, from one place to the other.

In practical terms, someone who leans out of of the first few circles too much knows little about too much and not enough about anything.

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