Homo Communicans

The growth of the Internet and the popularization of computers and cell phones are contributing to a tremendous increase in the amount of data we store or transmit over communication networks. According to researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, one person on the planet now produces about 800 MB of information per year.

Homo Communicans

If all that information were printed on paper, the statistical Earthling would produce a stack of books more than 9 meters high each year! Interestingly, despite the popularization of digital formats, a sizable portion of information is actually printed – a resident of the U.S. consumes an average of nearly 12,000 sheets of paper each year, while a statistical citizen of the European Union consumes more than 7,200 sheets. Thus, the amount of data recorded on paper in the last 3 years increased by as much as 43%. The medium that is losing its importance is film tape. Because of the expansion of digital cameras and camcorders, people recorded 9% less data this way last year than the year before.

Since 1999, the amount of data recorded on paper, film tape, and optical and magnetic disks, has doubled. According to Professor Peter Lyman and his colleagues at Berkeley, about 5 exabytes of data were recorded on Earth in 2002. Just a few years ago, it was estimated that this is the sum of all words spoken in the entire history of mankind. This is an unimaginable number – the American Library of Congress, one of the largest institutions of this kind in the world, has in its collection 19 million books and 56 million manuscripts, which corresponds to 10 terabytes of information. 5 exabytes is a number 500 thousand times larger. And this is still only a part of information that flowed through computer networks and television, radio and telephone connections. About 18 exabytes of data were sent through these media last year. Phone calls accounted for the largest share, followed by email.

However, Prof. Lyman stresses that this ocean of information is not knowledge, but data. In order to comprehend and use it, we need access and search mechanisms that we do not currently have. In addition, much of the information transmitted is “reheated”. – Of the 320 million hours of radio programming last year, only 70 million hours, or less than 22%, was new material. For television, the proportions were 123 million hours and 31 million hours of new material, respectively. Completing the research report is a picture of the average American adult and their media activity. It turns out that U.S. residents spend an average of more than 16 hours per month talking on the phone, listening to the radio for 90 hours, and watching TV for 131 hours. 53% of American Internet users surf from home for more than 25 hours a month and use the Internet at work for 74 hours. If we sum up these data, it turns out that as much as 46% of Americans’ lives are spent communing with one of the information media.

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