Clutter it up, make a buck

Johnson-Eilola, Johndan. “The Database and the Essay.”Writing New Media. 199-235. 2004.

“ … the space of a search engine screen has itself been painstakingly designed, with various sections written to satisy an extremely large number of audiences …. And, as with traditional texts, the writers have thought very hard about their audience …” (218).

 “The screen may seem a touch dense to our ‘refined’ aesthetic tastes (‘less is more’), but in the next 10 years, this sort of jammed interface will be the norm; it’s a new aesthetic (‘more is more’)” (218).

Not everything holds up in this chapter as well as Johnson-Eilola’s observations in the quotes above (the whole permission-to-post URL debate — not sure if that’s still in the milieu), but I suppose that’s to be expected on some issues nearly 10 years after writing about new media.

Those quotes above, though, seem dead on:

CNN today:










Yahoo today:








ESPN today:








Johnson-Eilola talks about how these webpages are purposefully designed, and I suppose two primary objectives of designers would be to get folks to traverse to other pages (where there are more ads) and, perhaps even more important, to get folks to actually click on an advertisement. (The animated ads on Yahoo practically jump off the page.)

If one of the goals, then, is to compel readers to become consumers (or at least potential consumers) by clicking on an ad, and if Barry Schwartz is right that unfettered choice can be one component to anxiety, and if David Foster Wallace is right when he talks about how a society that stokes anxiety (and fear) is ripe for consumption (“Forget about all that anxiety, this product [soda/pills/lawnmower/shoes/etc.] will make you feel better!”), than it makes perfect sense that search engine (and other ad-supported) pages would and will continue to be jam-packed with content, as Johnson-Eilola presciently observed.


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