Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Information Overload and knowledge

Two items: a Pew Internet report on Information Overload and material from the 2016 Annual Lecture of the Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIST) held at Edinburgh Napier University and given by Professor Steve Fuller which touched on the same theme.
The Pew Internet report was published a couple of weeks ago and is as usual a robust piece of research investigating American life (based on a sample of 1,520 people in the USA). "...for the most part, the large majority of Americans do not feel that information overload is a problem for them. Some 20% say they feel overloaded by information, a decline from the 27% figure from a decade ago, while 77% say they like having so much information at their fingertips. Two-thirds (67%) say that having more information at their disposals actually helps to simplify their lives." "Those who are more likely to feel information overload have less technology and are poorer, less well-educated and older." Another problem which is identified is what I would call personal information management - and also an assumption from organisations that people should be information literate: "when institutions expect people to bring a lot of information with them to carry out tasks, some Americans find it can be burdensome to keep track of the volume of information needed. Nearly half (46%) of Americans say this statement describes them “very well” or “somewhat well”: “A lot of institutions I deal with – schools, banks or government agencies – expect me to do too much information gathering in order to deal with them.” Those who feel this way are more likely than others also to say that keeping track of information is stressful for them (56% vs. 30%)."
"These findings suggest that information overload may not be the right way to frame anxieties about the volume of information in people’s lives. Rather, information overload is more situational: Specific situations may arise, such as when institutions impose high information demands on people for transactions, which create a sense of information burden for some Americans."

Secondly, there is an informative report and a video of the ASIST Annual Lecture given by Professor Steve Fuller on What, if anything, makes knowledge an improvement over information? This is on Hazel Hall's blog at
Photo by Sheila Webber: Mad eye Moody and Professor Trelawney, WB Making of Harry Potter, November 2016

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