Jen (previously Edna Piranha)
The Megaphone Cyclone Interview
Tell us a little about yourself!
Hi, my name is Jen (previously known as Edna Piranha) and I am a digital media artist and software engineer based in Portland, Oregon.
Previously I focused a lot of creative projects in the direction of social networks and anonymity, experimenting with the prerequisites of limited identity, limited rooms and limited conversation. Limitations enabled a specific kind of methodology in testing efficiencies in communication among participants.
Currently, I am the founder of Surreal Capital, currently focused on digital media production and development of idle games in VR and Desktop platforms.
Do you have any strategies for dealing with information overload?
Great question! Over the years I’ve developed smaller processes to manage information — there tends to be an ebb and flow pattern of:
- overload risk, followed by
- compartmentalizing requirements by order of importance and then
- scheduling tasks to be executed
If the information doesn’t fall into the cycle above, I will tend to put it in the back of the queue since it has a higher risk of leading towards rumination and frustration. Therefore concrete, actionable goals are within reach and in the accessible horizon while theoretical, idealistic goals are beyond the horizon and not really attainable for the now.
On the flip side, what do you do when you feel like you’re missing out on information, left out of the loop, or not invited into the room where it happens?
I do other activities like meditation, exercising and avoiding social media for a slice of time. The value of information missed is only as valuable as you deem it to be. Think about it for a moment — if you deem information to be very important to you, and you deem that knowing the information sooner rather than later (or never) is critical to resolution, you need to question why the value is more urgent than other information. You need to question whether it’s a reaction of habit versus a reaction of essential need. There is a difference between being updated on someone else’s opinion of some information and their authority over that decision as it may affect your essential need versus being updated on someone else’s opinion of information that they have no authority over.
Would you be willing to feel FOMO (fear of missing out) more if it meant feeling overwhelmed less? What is the right balance and how is that different from what you are experiencing today?
I personally don’t find FOMO to be an objective goal I can reach with a practical resolution — the fear of missing out is in itself a fear of a potential scenario rather than a present situation. Fear of the theoretical potential of X happening versus fear of present actuality of X happening reflects the difference between what I consider reactionary rather than essential.
For example, I can experience FOMO from missing a social event with “very important people”. Now breaking this down, I’ve applied value to the participants by labeling them as “very important people”. Nothing in that label is actual truth or essential — I’ve temporarily assigned it as essential in my mind in order to trigger FOMO, given the situation in which I missed out on the opportunity to interact with them. I’ve tricked my mind into committing to this temporary essential need, even though I know that it’s temporary.
This isn’t essential and present-based — this is potential and future-based. If my perception of FOMO is a negative reaction to a circumstance, then it means I am unable to resolve the narrative, causing the fear of missing out. What I have to do to resolve the narrative and remove the fear is to remap my essentials in the present. What is essential is what I can do now, in the present with the information I have to live in this body — in this world. What is essential is maintaining balance and practicality and requiring only the information that I truly need to stay healthy and calm, not information that is potential and unknown, risking fear and anxiety.
4. What would your ideal method of communication look like?
Language is a very limited form of memetic communication. Adding to that, depending on which language you use and which culture and environment you evolve in, both language and world limits your mental framework for what you can actually say to someone else — outside of your own mind. So while language is quite helpful as a general tool, we need further subsets of language tools to really communicate our symbiotic loops.
Body movement and knowing how one’s body moves with the world is a key factor in providing another layer of communication — physical language. Movements are restricted by limits of our anatomical variations in our gravitational space, so the language of the body can have a wide range of positions (running/walking, jumping, kicking, etc.) but the range has hard limits (you can only be so flexible for instance).
Audio language not only includes spoken word and phonology, but also include music and sounds. Again in terms of ranges, audio has frequency limitations with respect to human hearing.
Visual language can include anything from written words to paintings to photography to even something as simple as a color. We know that many people are colorblind, so some ranges are more limited for some than others.
There’s definitely other subsets of language that we could add here — but the point is that language is not a one size fits all creation and every language subset has their range limits. Therefore communication cannot be assumed to be a one size fits all process. We need to think of multidimensional ways of improving the clarity of what we want to say to others and what they want to say to us. How would we do this? I’m not so sure! But to really explore this, I would start by asking questions about how our societies and cultures structure language subsets and their limitations. How do these limitations affect each communicator? How do these limitations learn to become multidimensional in an effective manner?
5. What are some good sources of information/communication that make you feel nourished, rather than overloaded? How do they achieve that?
I tend to frequent a lot of information about science, mathematics, biology and art, since I can remap it back into a work-in-progress template of a structure in my mind. If I learn something interesting about quantum physics for instance, I will try to map it back to some analogy or a ‘rough shape’ in my mind as it relates to other things I have knowledge and information in. The more I can relate these sets of information into a common mental map, the more clear the narrative becomes and the fear of overloading dissipates.
Which questions would you like to ask other people that do this interview?
- How do you define whether information has value at a given point in time?
- Do you feel that the value of human communication and feedback is critical in your decision making process?
- If you were alone on an island, how would your perspective of information overload change from now?
- How do you measure the value of information from online social networks?
- Have you ever felt conflicted about leaving a social network because of the information the network contains?
Read more: William answers these questions here.
Megaphone Cyclone is a series of interviews about information overload. We have a line-up slated, but we’re always looking for more. Please email email@example.com if you’re interested in being interviewed. Thanks!