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QUESTIONS ABOUT INFOMAGICAL
1. What is Infomagical?
Infomagical is a week of experiments designed to help you find focus and discover the magic of clear thinking. Think of it as a digital literacy campaign... on steroids.
2. What's wrong with information?
Absolutely nothing. Information, learning, and curiosity are all great things – arguably the most important things for a functioning society/world/human race. But as studies are starting to show, new channels of information are messing with our ability to process what we consume. There’s pressure (social and personal) to make sure we never miss an email, status update, or that Netflix show that everyone is talking about. Eventually, we complain of feeling "maxed out" or say we "don’t have the bandwidth." Infomagical is a project about being better informed. We're fighting information overload, otherwise known as "infomania" – not information itself.
We're also not here to judge which kinds of information you consider important. More on that later.
3. OK, but why should I sign up?
A life spent skimming is sad. When we purposefully choose and focus on the right information, information overload disappears. You’ll know it when you feel it – maybe you’ll get in touch with an old friend, or learn a new language, or think through your experimental graphic novel. Or maybe you'll watch a cute video that calms you down before you go to work in the morning. What's "right" depends on your goal.
We don’t know if we can cure information overload/infomania, but it’s time to put our symptoms in check and a higher value on taking the time to synthesize, interpret, and reflect on the information we take in every day. This project puts what researchers do know to the test, and the larger our "sample group," the better the, ahem, information we'll have about the problem.
4. How does Infomagical work?
You can sign up for the project at wnyc.org/infomagical. Each Monday, we'll start the project over with our first activity, and guide you through the sequence via emails. (When it launched, we offered a text messaging option, but that's no longer supported.) Beforehand, we encourage you to listen to our big launch episode explaining the research behind our methodology. Then, during Challenge Week (Monday-Friday), we'll guide you through a series of challenges and exercises.
4b. Where do I find these emoji you've promised? (added 1/27)
4c. Am I supposed to keep up each challenge for the entirety of challenge week? Or do they end when the next day's challenge begins? (added 2/3)
We designed each challenge to last a day – not to compound over the week. However, if you'd like to keep them up, please do! We'll give you special bonus Infomagical points.
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE TEXTING SYSTEM
When Infomagical launched, we offered a way to do the challenges by text. That option is no longer active - but you can still do the challenges via email.
Here's how it worked: People who did the project by text became part of our data set; we measured what effect sticking to an information goal has on participants’ information overload, and seeing what sorts of lifestyle changes do to our stress levels. The sign up process asked text participants to choose one of five goals ("information priorities") to serve as a touchstone throughout the week. They got a daily assignment (“behavioral modification”) in the morning to keep you on track. Those responses fed into our results episode.
5. I feel weird giving you my phone number. Is it safe?
If you really don't want to do this through text (or if you're out of the country), we're setting it up so that you can receive the challenges through newsletter as well. Just toggle over to that option in the sign up flow.
6. What are the five goals? Why do I have to choose one?
Your goal is a filter for the massive amounts of information out there. Decide what you want the content you consume to do for you. This goal will keep you from falling down information rabbit holes during Infomagical week. And yes, you have to choose one – that's the definition of focusing! So go with your gut and decide on a priority. You can choose to be:
- More in touch with family and friends.
- More up-to-date on the news.
- More creative.
- More in tune with yourself.
- More knowledgeable about a specific subject.
6b. Can I change my goal after I've already signed up? (added 1/25/2016; updated 1/27)
If you want to change your goal, text "GOAL" back to the number that sent you your welcome message.
7. When are the challenges? What are you going to ask me to do?
8. How will we know if Infomagical worked?
We’ll be checking in every day during Challenge Week with participants who sign up via text.
At the end of each day, we’ll text two questions:
- Were you successful in sticking to your information goal?
- How overloaded do you feel now?
We hope to be able to quantify how many participants stuck to their information goal and, of that percentage, how many felt less overloaded. As we saw with our Bored and Brilliant project, data only illuminates some results – so we’re also going to collect participants’ stories throughout the week. Afterwards, we’ll present both the data and stories to psychologists, technologists, and data scientists, in order to start a long term, cross-sector conversation about how we manage information and our gadgets going forward. If you have a good story for us, talk to us here.
UPDATE (5/16): Here are the results from our first group of participants.
9. Isn't it ironic to use text messages/newsletters/podcasts for a project about digital information overload?
Yes. Technically, it's a paradox. It's also proven to be the only thing that works – turning your information portals into focusing powerhouses.
10. Why did you call it Infomagical?
Yes, we're being a little bit tongue in cheek. We're also paying homage to Marie Kondo's "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up," and all the people who told us it would take a miracle to clear out their heads during Bored and Brilliant. You'll be hearing from Kondo during the series!
But we’re very serious about helping people become their own best filters, to find focus more easily, and discover what we are calling “the magic of clear thinking.”
11. How does the texting system work? Who built this?
12. Do I need to pay for texts?
Your carrier's standard texting and MMS rates apply (we'll be sending you some small images). There are no additional charges.
13. If I sign up and want to stop, what do I do?
Just reply to any Infomagical message with the word "Stop."
14. When will I be getting texts?
You'll get one in the morning, some time after 8 a.m. in your local timezone with your challenge and a mini podcast explaining it. There will be another one midday, and two questions in the evening. If you're getting them at inconvenient times, send us an email and phone number and put "time change" in the subject line.
15. If I miss a text or don't respond, will I get the next one anyway?
Yes. You don't have to respond at all if you don't want to (though we hope you will!).
16. Do I need a smartphone to do this?
You do not need a smartphone. Infomagical should work with anything that receives texts. We'll also be sending small images and links.
17. I didn't get any text messages today. What's up?
The challenges don't start until the Monday morning after you sign up. After the launch, we want to hear about any problems – the system might not be perfect, so we'll need your help fixing it. Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll check it out.
18. If I text you, will you see it?
19. I'm not seeing any graphics! Where are the emoji?
The images come as MMS. Different carriers handle these differently – some as an image, some as a link, some not at all. If you want to see what we're sending, check out our Facebook or Twitter feeds. It's almost as much fun.
20. Can I do this from outside the U.S.?
We're pretty confident this will work with North American carriers. It's hard to say what will or won't work internationally, but give it a shot. If texting won't work for you, you can sign up again with your email address at wnyc.org/infomagical.
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE TEAM
21. I love, love, love the illustrations for this project. Where did they come from?
We love, love, love them too. The artist behind our banner illustration and our logo is John Hersey. You can find the rest of his work here.
Our custom emoji come from designer Kevin McCauley. His portfolio lives here.
22. The Infomagical website is gorgeous too. Who made it?
We worked with the wonderful people at Ronik Design + Development. You can learn more about them here.
22b. Who made the sound effects and wrote the music? (added 1/31/16)
Joe Plourde, our audio engineer, is responsible for most of the sound you hear on the show. Hannis Brown, our colleague at WQXR, wrote some of the music for this series. The rest of the music comes from the BWN catalogue.
23. Wasn’t there a similar project last year called Bored and Brilliant?
Yes! That was us too. Bored and Brilliant was a week of challenges to get people to rethink their relationship to their phone, let their minds wander, and jumpstart their creativity. We partnered with apps that measured how much time people spent on their phones. Over 20,000 people did it with us.
Collectively, we dropped 6 minutes of daily phone time. The greater impact, however, was what listeners said it did for their lives. Listen here for some of the incredibly moving stories about reconnecting with their inner selves and learning to be alone with their thoughts. If you want to try it, we made a mini-version here.
24. What is Note to Self?
A ridiculously fun and smart podcast for anyone trying to preserve their humanity in the digital age, if we do say so ourselves. We call it the tech show about being human. You can find us on Twitter @NoteToSelf and on Facebook at Note to Self Radio. We're produced and distributed by WNYC Studios – home to Radiolab, On the Media, Freakonomics and more.
On recent episodes, host Manoush Zomorodi confronted the maker of the game app that was making her crazy; learned how to deal with “friends” who are racist on Facebook; found out what happens when a school has a "sexting scandal"; and investigated whether an intimate relationship conducted solely through texting is possible.
Note to Self also did a Radiolab episode last year about how people change in a culture of surveillance.
The usual team is Jen Poyant, Ariana Tobin, Amy Eason, and Joe Plourde. Of course, there are lots of people at WNYC Studios making this happen, including the Data News team, the digital ops team, our excellent graphic designer, and more.
25. Who is Manoush Zomorodi?
26. You didn't answer my question. How do I get in touch?
QUESTIONS FROM THE PRESS
27. I want to write about Infomagical/Note to Self/Bored and Brilliant/Manoush Zomorodi/WNYC Studios. Who do I talk to?
You can contact Senior Director of Publicity Jennifer Houlihan at email@example.com.