Information Gathering as an End in Itself

Sometimes you read something that nails a topic so well that it makes you shudder. That happened to me recently…

I’ve never understood the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard all that much, mostly for lack of trying, but I found this article – Kierkegaard on the Internet: Anonymity vrs. Commitment in the Present Age by UC Berkeley Professor Hubert Dreyfus intensely interesting.

Of all the attempts to explain what it is we’re doing on the Web these days I found the following insight by Dreyfus to be one of the most insightful:

“Such a light hearted leap into the deeper water is typified by the net-surfer for whom information gathering has become a way of life. Such a surfer is curious about everything and ready to spend every free moment visiting the latest hot spots on the Web. He or she enjoys the sheer range of possibilities. Something interesting is only a click away. Commitment to a life of curiosity where information is a boundless source of enjoyment puts one in the reflective version of what Kierkegaard calls the aesthetic sphere of existence — his anticipation of postmodernity. For such a person just visiting as many sites as possible and keeping up on the cool ones is an end in itself. The only meaningful distinction is between those sites that are interesting and those that are boring. Life consists in fighting off boredom by being a spectator at everything interesting in the universe and in communicating with everyone else so inclined. Such a life produces a self that has no defining content or continuity but is open to all possibilities and to constantly taking on new roles.”

When I read this, I shuddered. It describes me flawlessly.

So now I’m wondering, it anyone else like me? Does it describe any of you flawlessly?

D. Anthony Storm’s commentary on Kierkegaard

Published: January 5th, 2005