Skip to content
Oct 14 / Viji Iyer

Evolving data lifespans

Photo by Steve Bailey

I was sitting with my laptop browsing the other day and realized at the time of shutting down, that I had two windows and at least a dozen tabs within them open simultaneously. As a personal browsing style, this is typical of me toggling between a bunch of data at the same time. I bet a few of you out there relate with that reading style! It dawned on me that, how we receive and consume data these days has evolved radically!

Merriam Webster defines lifespan as – the average length of life of a kind of organism or of a material object especially in a particular environment or under specified circumstances. That implies it could be the amount and duration of time any data or information lives and is considered new, recent or relevant at that point in time.

Come to think of it, it’s incredible to see how the lifespans of what we consume as information these days is constantly changing and evolving with our times.

Here’s some food for thought-

Lifespan of a Book Perhaps Years
Lifespan of a Magazine Months
Lifespan of an Email Weeks (until it is archived or deleted)
Lifespan of a Headline News A Day
Lifespan of a Text Message Minutes
Lifespan of a tweet or Facebook Wall post Instantaneous

The mediums of disseminating information have evolved through the times and how we consume and preserve this data has concurrently changed with it. Originally, our primary source of information came from books. We depended on those hardcopy books to refer about all things under the sun and they monopolized our attention lingering on as a living document for several years. They had the longest lifespan and served as our single most relevant source of gathering data and assimilating information. With changing times, our sources for gathering information diversified, creating myriad absorption avenues and each constantly competing for our attention.

Consequently, what we consider as hot, current or relevant information keeps condensing and their lifespan shrinking. We tend to absorb information from one source and swiftly move onto the next source that wins our attention. The technological advances have been instrumental in defining how and for how long a document lives and is considered relevant by its audience.

For better or for worse, we are living in an age that’s constantly engulfed by competing information. The constant stream of data never sleeps! Turn on your Twitter handle or browse your Facebook Wall at 2am, the stream of information flows ceaselessly. When you dip your feet in the Twitter stream at 2am, you automatically start participating in what is considered hot and current at that point in time. Interestingly, what is considered relevant now becomes passé fours hours later. You have now moved onto the next new thing!

What does that tell you about how we consume information in this day and age? Is it this information overload that is causing their lifespans to shrink? Has our attention span decreased or have we become more impatient wanting to move onto the ‘next thing’ as a result?

What do you think, what are your viewpoints?

Photos by Steve Bailey and Andreas Lunde
  • Stacey Alex

    The funny thing is that this post alerting us to the issue is part of it all.

  • On-camera Etiquette:The Dos and Don’ts of your Digital Persona | Viji Iyer

    […] This blog post was orginally written for SAS. They have been gracious in letting me repost it here. […]

blog comments powered by Disqus