Publish at May 20 2012 Updated December 16 2021

Informational food and infobesity

The analogy between information and food is rather fruitful. Improving your information cooking and gourmet skills

Fast food

The number of educational initiatives aimed at "media literacy" provides a clue  as to the importance of the use of electronic media for young people.

What is learned in these services?  One learns how to look for and find, to select and qualify sources of information, to use the Internet effectively and to avoid its traps. Above all, we try to increase critical thinking about both the messages, both those we receive and those we disseminate, and the media.

The analogy between information and food has been around for a long time.  We talk about infobesity, menu, cocktail, etc.; this analogy is particularly rich.

Culinary analogy

JP Rangaswami in "Information is food" points out that there is a strong biological correlation between the size of the stomach in proportion to the size of the brain: in the animal kingdom the bigger the stomach, the smaller the brain. He also explains that most food-related ailments are also found in the information world.

Those who have seen the documentary "SuperSize me" will recall the effect of a 100% McDonald's diet for a month: widespread physical and psychological imbalance: heart, liver, kidneys, libido, vitality and everything else. Rangaswami points out that the same kind of imbalance occurs with a month of FoxNews, for example, or other mono-oriented news sources that inevitably lead to deficiencies.

For overconsumption of information, then, we would speak of dieting and dieting. For the choice of menu or quality of preparation and presentation of information one would make the analogy with the Culinary Art.  As far as the production of information is concerned, one can as well cultivate organic, through in-depth reports, as GMO and monoculture through international concepts of reality TV, "star academies" and other highly productive hybrids. Production, distribution, processing and consumption all support the analogy very well. Right down to the expiration date; some information is very time-sensitive: who would invest in a company with information that is a year old?

The use of tools also participates in the analogy: mobile phone video capture or blogs correspond to the production of cooking compared to that of great restaurants made in studios and media.

Re-establishing control

 For Rangaswami and other thinkers like Clay Shirky, or David Weinberger, there is no more such thing as information overload than there is surplus food, water, or air. The problems relate only to our relationships with information and the effective or ineffective use of our systems of selection, qualification, preparation, dosage.

We can poison ourselves with food as well as with information. False information can ruin lives as well as businesses while good information makes them successful like fresh flour in a recipe. We can choke on information flows as we can sip its essence with pleasure just as we can drown in a river or quench our thirst.

For the mind, and also for computers, information is food. We think with the information we "eat".  We agree on a diet of quality, varied, balanced and in reasonable quantities.

Hence the role of "cooking teacher" for professors who teach how to:

  • seek and find information;
  • select and qualify information;
  • organize and process information;
  • produce and disseminate information;

to finally consume the information with all the benefits that one can get from it in one's learning and life.If indeed there is a correlation between the size of the brain and the stomach, perhaps effective diets should also consider the media diet: 25 hours of TV per week, it's crazy how it can influence the waistline!

JP Rangaswami "Information is food" on Ted


Habilo Media - Canadian Centre for Media Education and Digital Literacy

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