Just say no to digital hoarding

Dominic Basulto at the Washington Post: “We have become a nation of digital hoarders. We save everything, even stuff that we know, deep down, we’ll never need or be able to find. We save every e-mail, every photo, every file, every text message and every video clip. If we don’t have enough space on our mobile devices, we move it to a different storage device, maybe even a hard drive or a flash drive. Or, better yet, we just move it to “the cloud.”….
If this were simply a result of the exponential growth of information — the “information overload” — that would be one thing. That’s what technology is supposed to do for us – provide new ways of creating, storing and manipulating information. Innovation, from this perspective, can be viewed as technology’s frantic quest to keep up with society’s information needs.
But digital hoarding is about something much different – it’s about hoarding data for the sake of data. When Apple creates a new “Burst Mode” on the iPhone 5s, enabling you to rapidly save a series of up to 10 photos in succession – and you save all of them – is that not an example of hoarding? When you save every e-book, every movie and every TV season that you’ve “binge-watched” on your tablet or other digital device — isn’t that another symptom of being a digital hoarder? In the analog era, you would have donated used books to charity, hosted a garage sale to get rid of old albums you never listen to, or simply dumped these items in the trash.
You may not think you are a digital hoarder. You may think that the desire to save each and every photo, e-mail or file is something relatively harmless. Storage is cheap and abundant, right? You may watch a reality TV show such as “Hoarders” and think to yourself, “That’s not me.” But maybe it is you. (Especially if you still have those old episodes of “Hoarders” on your digital device.)
Unlike hoarding in the real world — where massive stacks of papers, books, clothing and assorted junk might physically obstruct your ability to move and signal to others that you need help – there are no obvious outward signs of being a digital hoarder. And, in fact, owning the newest, super-slim 128GB tablet capable of hoarding more information than anyone else strikes many as being progressive. However, if you are constantly increasing the size of your data plan or buying new digital devices with ever more storage capacity, you just might be a digital hoarder…
In short, innovation should be about helping us transform data into information. “Search” was perhaps the first major innovation that helped us transform data into information. The “cloud” is currently the innovation that has the potential to organize our data better and more efficiently, keeping it from clogging up our digital devices. The next big innovation may be “big data,” which claims that it can make sense of all the new data we’re creating. This may be either brilliant — helping us find the proverbial needle in the digital haystack — or disastrous — encouraging us to build bigger and bigger haystacks in the hope that there’s a needle in there somewhere… (More).”