I wrote a while ago about our new paper on the dark side of information: information overload, information anxiety, information avoidance and the like.
Subsequently, the University’s press office picked this up as something likely to have mass appeal, and a short piece has appeared in the University newsletter.
The process by which this appeared was interesting. Having had some exposure to university press officers in the past, I was well aware that they mostly believe, probably rightly, that their job is to get the general public to take an interest in academic affairs by any means that they can. In practice, this means relating the academic matters to one or more of a numbers of triggers, typically war, children, sex, death or celebrity, ideally with photographs. Academics generally resent this, unless they have the good fortune to be, say, a Professor of War Studies or a Reader in Celebrity Death. We generally say we don’t mind expressing ourselves in a way that the individual on the Clapham omnibus would find appeal. In practice, we feel uncomfortable when asked penetrating questions which ignore all our assumptions about why some things just are important, or when we’re asked what exactly the further research we’ve recommended will find out, and who really wants to know.
So I did my best. And I hope somebody likes the result.