Umberto Eco is a professor of semiotics, philosophy and literature at the University of Bologna in Italy, and he is well known for his academic publications as well as popular fiction such as The Name of the Rose and Foucault’s Pendulum (which I am currently reading). In this interview, Eco discusses the Internet, information overload and filtering, hypertext , hypermedia and virtual reality. He was very open minded and articulate in his descriptions and criticism of the internet and information filtering, especially given that the internet was not very developed at the time.
“I am not saying that Internet is, or will be a negative experience. I am saying on the contrary that it is a great chance. Once we have asserted this, I am trying to isolate the possible traps; the possible negative aspects.”
Much time is spent discussing information filtering, and why it is necessary to go about such things and how it becomes difficult on a system like the internet because the amount of options is often overwhelming (like going to google and typing Umberto Eco and getting back 61,200 results). Another topic is communities on the internet. He is enthusiastic at the possibilities but he adds that the information still must be filtered. You must choose which posts and authors you wish to read, and we often choose them randomly, but if we had a filter we could know which posts are important and which are crap. Regardless, he likes the idea of finding new ideas and perspectives through the internet community. “Is that a substitute for face-to-face contact and community? No, it isn’t!” Fascinating stuff.