How many phone calls, emails, voicemails, memos or stories do you have to go through every day? Probably more than last year. And probably too much.
This article from the Sydney Morning Herald looks at this problem of information overload and how to deal with it. Here are some highlights.
Irish website content management author Gerry McGovern believes the problem known as information overload stems from the fact that since the founding of civilisation man has been operating on the premise that more is better. "(It's) the-more-the-merrier kind of concept ... if we create more, we create more value," McGovern says.
"Information overload is a reflection of that almost genetic historic desire to do more," he says.
Basically, he says that the conjunction of always cheaper devices, faster processors, and more abundant storage result in too much information to be useful. And he's not alone.
David Shenk, [author of the book "Data Smog: Surviving the Information Glut"] uses the term "information obesity", saying that where once we lived in a world where food was scarce and people struggled to get enough calories to keep them alive, today the industrialised world has the opposite problem.
"Information is the same way," he says. [..] "The challenge is to get the most relevant, meaningful, contextualised information so that we can turn that into useful knowledge and wisdom."
Let's look at the Internet for an example of information overload.
McGovern says that something like 70 per cent of most websites goes unread. Despite that, when putting content on the web, "rarely do we ask the question: is anybody interested in reading that?"
And does all this information improve productivity?
Les Posen, a psychologist who has written numerous articles on technology and psychology, says information overload can lead to people losing control of what material is important and what isn't.
Someone who spends hours sorting emails and getting distracted by unimportant details may be suffering from information overload, Posen says.
Finally, McGovern gives up some tips to fight the problem of information overload. For instance, we need to learn to plan, organize and collaborate in better ways. Easier said that done with all this information flowing around.
Source: David Adams, Sydney Morning Herald, May 20, 2003
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