The unspoken implications of choice

without comments

Choice is now seen as one of the defining characteristics of a free society. But choice isn’t much good without information. Having a choice of five hospitals to go to is pretty useless unless you’re able to distinguish between them. Being told we have to be more green is unhelpful without advice as to how we do it.
Hence the exponential increase in labelling. The government has just announced the food we buy could soon have a ‘carbon footprint’ label – a traffic light indicating how much carbon was consumed in its production and distribution (see Evening Standard). This will presumably go beside the traffic lights telling us about salt and fat content.
Ignoring for a moment the lack of imagination and increasing profusion of reds, oranges and greens, this has implications far beyond food. Already there are labels on most consumer goods and services and, since the majority of us now buy into the democratic notion that we’d rather make our own decisions than allow them be made for us, one can only assume labelling will continue to grow.
Where we don’t have much labelling, oddly, is media content. Yes, films are given a rating, but generally we still rely on brands to give us editorial guidance. This feels increasingly anachronistic. When I search Google and get 1.28m results I don’t want to have to plough through them trying to work out which one is just PR material, which one is written to look like an article but is actually an ad, which one is written by a highly partisan political blogger etc. I’d like to be able to screen out certain content in my search criteria, get editorial guidance from people and organisations I trust, and understand what the context and sourcing of the content I’m reading is.
We need tools to enable us to search for specific types of content and assess it quickly. There have been attempts at this (see, and, for a different purpose, but they’re still very nascent.
An unspoken implication of choice is the need to be informed, and part of the answer to this – media content included – must be labelling, just as long as it doesn’t mean yet more traffic lights.

Written by Martin Moore

May 30th, 2007 at 3:39 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , ,

Leave a Reply