20 August 2010

Outlier unsubscribes

It's too late in the current green game to resurrect the three Rs-reduce then reuse then recycle in public discourse. I for one have a basic need to reduce and reuse. Not because I'm so green (although by American standards I am), but because I get to rearrange my world and in doing so live it differently. I have three D's: delete, ditch, donate.

I've unsubscribed to emusic.com. I've had an annual subscription since 2006, when I used to get 40 songs a month. This year, it's down to 24. I have over 3000 songs (9.6 days listening worth) on my hard drive, more buried somewhere on a backup. The relationship I have to music has evolved into one in which I'm always looking for new stuff, and not enjoying the stuff I have. I don't make thoughtful CDs for friends anymore; I don't listen into music like I used to.

There's research suggesting that brains can only handle so much cognitive busy-work. Managing megabytes of files and their meta data seem to be cognitive busy-work. In addition, empirical studies have shown that having too many choices can lead to mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. Processing choices in which the differences between them are qualitatively insignificant amounts to busy-work too.

In the scope things large and small, trivial and meaningful a lot of technology involves what could be described as busy-work-level cognitive tasks. Take MS Word. There are your thinking and writing, and then there are the layout and form. Word has more settings than a jumbo jet has parts, (said MS a decade ago) which sounds impressive until you ask "so what?" College students (even in graduate school) can't write.

Or take social-software, like blogs, wikis, YouTube or Twitter, where busy-work is concentrated in the social functions of the technology, such as posting, tagging and commenting on content, and listing and retweeting. The payoff is touted as social capital. I'm still unsure how much capital I actually need, and evaluating the value of what I do have. I did a mass delete in June, it helped.   

Nein, emusic just gave me 15 free songs again. They really don't want me to unsubscribe do they?