Monday, September 3, 2012

Infowhelm -- something to be avoided?

Infowhelm: too much information. Better than not enough information, I think.

Ian Jukes popularized the term a few years ago and it gets a lot of traction in library circles. Information overwhelm describes the unimaginable amount of information that is produced each day, each hour, each minute....  It's an impressive amount, but what does it really mean?

Is there too much information to process? No question.  Do many people really think they have to 'know' it all? Doubtful. (If they do, they are still living in the 20th Century.)

I'm not about to get stressed out about too much information, no more than I'm stressed out by the realization that's there's too much oxygen for me to breath. It's when there's not enough that I'm bothered.

Too much information is not a bad thing. A person can only process so much of it anyway, so it's not like it's going to make us sick. The real problem is that we're not paying close enough attention to the information we can handle.

In an age of info-bombardment, we tend to duck and take cover, metaphorically speaking. There's too much to look at, so we only take a cursory glance at everything. I know that an oversimplification, but there's a lot of truth to it.

Dennis and I spend a lot of energy showing people how to slow down and look more closely at the information right in front of them. Take a minute to read a page. It's going to be more informative than skimming 10 pages in the same amount of time.  What you missed on the first page was worth discovering.

A key investigative information strategy is not to stray too far too soon from the page you are evaluating.  Clues are easily overlooked. For instance, in the model lesson about DNA and designer babies, one of the tasks is to discover the author of the material. Start by scouring the page. Look for clicks that may contain hidden information.  There are at least three possible authors. Can you find them?

Don't run away from information. Spend quality time with it.

1 comment:

--Kay said...

I agree with your comments!