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"Information overload" is a term popularized by Alvin Toffler that refers to the difficulty a person can have understanding an issue and making decisions that can be caused by the presence of too much information. [1] The term itself is mentioned in a 1964 book by Bertram Gross, The Managing of Organizations.[2]

The term and concept precede the Internet. Toffler's explanation of it in his bestselling book presents information overload as the Information Age's version of sensory overload, a term that had been introduced in the 1950s.[3] Sensory overload was thought to cause disorientation and lack of responsiveness. Toffler posited information overload as having the same sorts of effects, but on the higher cognitive functions, writing: "When the individual is plunged into a fast and irregularly changing situation, or a novelty-loaded context ... his predictive accuracy plummets. He can no longer make the reasonably correct assessments on which rational behavior is dependent."[4]

As the world moves into a new era of globalization, an increasing number of people are connecting to the Internet to conduct their own research[5] and are given the ability to produce as well as consume the data accessed on an increasing number of websites.[6][7] Users are now classified as active users[8] because more people in society are participating in the Digital and Information Age.[9] More and more people are considered to be active writers and viewers because of their participation.[10] This flow has created a new life where we are now dependent on access to information.[11][12] Therefore we see an information overload from the access to so much information, almost instantaneously, without knowing the validity of the content and the risk of misinformation.[13][14]

According to Sonora Jha of Seattle University, journalists are using the web to conduct their research, getting information regarding interviewing sources and press releases, updating news online, and thus it shows the gradual shifts in attitudes because of the rapid increase in the Internet.[15] Lawrence Lessig has described this as the "read-write" nature of the internet.[16]

Contents

Origin

A quite early example of the term information overload can be found in an article by Jacob Jacoby, Donald Speller and Carol Kohn Berning, who conducted an experiment on 192 housewives which was said to confirm the hypothesis that more information about brands would lead to poorer decision making.[17] But long before that, the idea was introduced by Diderot, although it wasn't by the term 'information overload': "As long as the centuries continue to unfold, the number of books will grow continually, and one can predict that a time will come when it will be almost as difficult to learn anything from books as from the direct study of the whole universe. It will be almost as convenient to search for some bit of truth concealed in nature as it will be to find it hidden away in an immense multitude of bound volumes." –Denis Diderot, "Encyclopédie" (1755)

General causes

The general causes of information overload include:

  • A rapidly increasing rate of new information being produced
  • The ease of duplication and transmission of data across the Internet
  • An increase in the available channels of incoming information (e.g. telephone, e-mail, instant messaging, rss)
  • Large amounts of historical information to dig through
  • Contradictions and inaccuracies in available information
  • A low signal-to-noise ratio
  • A lack of a method for comparing and processing different kinds of information
  • The pieces of information are unrelated or do not have any overall structure to reveal their relationships

E-mail remains a major source of information overload, as people struggle to keep up with the rate of incoming messages. As well as filtering out unsolicited commercial messages (spam), users also have to contend with the growing use of e-mail attachments in the form of lengthy reports, presentations and media files.

A December 2007 New York Times blog post described E-mail as "a $650 Billion Drag on the Economy",[18] and the New York Times reported in April 2008 that "E-MAIL has become the bane of some people's professional lives" due to information overload, yet "none of [the current wave of high-profile Internet startups focused on email] really eliminates the problem of e-mail overload because none helps us prepare replies".[19]

Technology investors reflect similar concerns.[20]

In addition to e-mail, the World Wide Web has provided access to billions of pages of information. In many offices, workers are given unrestricted access to the Web, allowing them to manage their own research. The use of search engines helps users to find information quickly. However, information published online may not always be reliable, due to the lack of authority-approval or a compulsory accuracy check before publication. This results in people having to cross-check what they read before using it for decision-making, which takes up more time.

Responses

Response of business and government

Many academics, corporate decision-makers, and federal policy-makers recognize the magnitude and growing impact of this phenomenon. In June 2008 a group of interested researchers from a diverse set of corporations, smaller companies, academic institutions and consultancies created the Information Overload Research Group (IORG), a non-profit interest group dedicated to raising awareness, sharing research results and promoting the creation of solutions around Information Overload.[21]

Recent research suggests that an "attention economy" of sorts will naturally emerge from information overload, allowing Internet users greater control over their online experience with particular regard to communication mediums such as e-mail and instant messaging. This could involve some sort of cost being attached to e-mail messages. For example, managers charging a small fee for every e-mail received - e.g. $5.00 - which the sender must pay from their budget. The aim of such charging is to force the sender to consider the necessity of the interruption. However, such a suggestion undermines the entire basis of the popularity of e-mail, namely that e-mails are free.

Media

Media like the internet are conducting research to promote awareness of information overload. In [1], Kyunghye Kim, Mia Liza A. Lustria, Darrell Burke, and Nahyun Kwon conducted a study regarding people who have encountered information overload while searching for health information about cancer and what the impact on them was. The conclusion drawn from the research discusses how health information should be distributed and that information campaigns should be held to prevent irrelevant or incorrect information being circulated on the internet.

Other than that, there are many books published to encourage awareness of information overload. Books like "Surviving Information Overload" by Kevin A. Miller and "Managing Information Overload" by Lynn Lively.[22]

Clay Shirky

In September 2008, Clay Shirky gave a presentation with the title "It's Not Information Overload. It's Filter Failure" at the Web 2.0 Expo. He argued that information abundance has been a problem since Johannes Gutenberg's invention of the printing press.[23]

The Problem of Organization

Some cognitive scientists and graphic designers have emphasized the distinction between raw information and information in a form we can use in thinking. In this view, information overload may be better viewed as organization underload. That is, they suggest that the problem is not so much the volume of information but the fact that we can't discern how to use it well in the raw or biased form it is presented to us. Authors who have taken this tack include graphic artist and architect Richard Saul Wurman (the man who coined the phrase "information architect") and statistician and cognitive scientist Edward Tufte. Wurman uses the term "information anxiety" to describe our attitude toward the volume of information in general and our limitations in processing it. Tufte primarily focuses on quantitative information and explores ways to organize large complex datasets visually to facilitate clear thinking.

Related terms

References

  1. ^ Yang, C.C.; Chen, Hsinchun; Honga, Kay (2003), "Visualization of large category map for Internet browsing", Decision Support Systems 35 (1): 89–102, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0167-9236(02)00101-X  
  2. ^ Gross, Bertram M. (1964), The Managing of Organizations: The Administrative Struggle, pp. 856, http://books.google.com/books?ei=kY45S4-yNZCuywTCl6TLAQ&cd=1&id=boSFAAAAMAAJ&dq=%22the+managing+of+organizations%22&q=information+overload#search_anchor  
  3. ^ An article in Science magazine in 1959 about a conference held in June 1958 at Harvard Medical School mentions that Donald B. Lindsley had given a paper titled "Are there common factors in sensory deprivation, sensory distortion and sensory overload?" "Meetings," in Science, Vol 129, No. 3343, Jan 23, 1959, pp. 221-225.
  4. ^ Future Shock, pp. 350-1 (1970 edition)
  5. ^ Internet World Stats (2008)INTERNET USAGE STATISTICS The Internet Big Picture - World Internet Users and Population Stats 2000-2008.
  6. ^ Bonfield, B. (2007)Consuming Information Library Journal, New York: Oct 15th 2007, Volume 137, Issue 17, p26 (1 page).
  7. ^ Russo, A. & Watkins, J. (2005) Intenational Journal of Education and Development using Information and communication technology, Bridgetown: Dec 2005, Volume 1, Issue 4, p4 (14 pages).
  8. ^ Benbunan-Fich, R. & Koufaris, M. (2008) Electronic Markets, London: May 2008, Volume 18, Issue 2, p150.
  9. ^ Jones, B. (1993), "An Age of Discontinuity", in Sleepers Wake! Technology and the Future of Work, 3rd Ed., Melbourne, Oxford University Press, pp. 11-45
  10. ^ Jenkins, H. (2006) Fans, Bloggers and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture, New York University Press
  11. ^ Cheng, R & Vassileva (2006) Design and Evaluation of an adoptive incentive mecahanism for sustained educational online communities, User modelling and user-adapted interaction. Dordrecht. Sep 2006, Volume 16, Issue 3-4, p321.
  12. ^ Baxter, A. (2008) Better interactivity benefits student faculty, Financial Times, London (UK) March 17th 2008, p4
  13. ^ Flew, T. (2008) New Media: An Indroduction, Third Edition, Oxford University Press: Australia
  14. ^ Graham, G (1999) The Internet: A Philosophical Inquiry, Rotledge: London
  15. ^ Sonora Jha, 2007, Social Movements, The Internet and The Press, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly-New Media, Volume 84, No.1, pg 42
  16. ^ "The Read-Write Internet". January 17, 2006. http://www.lessig.org/blog/2006/01/the_readwrite_internet.html.  
  17. ^ >2.0.CO;2-L&origin=utrecht Brand Choice Behavior as a Function of Information Load: Replication and Extension(1974) Journal of consumer research, Volume: 1, Issue: 1 (June 1974), pp: 33-42.
  18. ^ "Is Information Overload a $650 Billion Drag on the Economy?". New York Times. 2007-12-20. http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/12/20/is-information-overload-a-650-billion-drag-on-the-economy.  
  19. ^ "Struggling to Evade the E-Mail Tsunami". New York Times. 2008-04-20. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/20/technology/20digi.html?_r=2&oref=slogin&oref=slogin.  
  20. ^ "Did Darwin Skip Over Email?". Foundry Group. 2008-04-28. http://www.foundrygroup.com/blog/archives/2008/04/did-darwin-skip-over-email.php.  
  21. ^ Lost in E-mail, Tech Firms Face Self-Made Beast
  22. ^ http://books.google.com.my/books?q=information+overload
  23. ^ http://news.cnet.com/8301-13505_3-10142298-16.html

See also


"Information overload" is a term popularized by Alvin Toffler[citation needed] that refers to the difficulty a person can have understanding an issue and making decisions that can be caused by the presence of too much information.[1] The term itself is mentioned in a 1964 book by Bertram Gross, The Managing of Organizations.[2]

The term and concept precede the Internet. Toffler's explanation of it in his bestselling book presents information overload as the Information Age's version of sensory overload, a term that had been introduced in the 1950s.[3] Sensory overload was thought to cause disorientation and lack of responsiveness. Toffler posited information overload as having the same sorts of effects, but on the higher cognitive functions, writing: "When the individual is plunged into a fast and irregularly changing situation, or a novelty-loaded context ... his predictive accuracy plummets. He can no longer make the reasonably correct assessments on which rational behavior is dependent."[4]

As the world moves into a new era of globalization, an increasing number of people are connecting to the Internet to conduct their own research[5] and are given the ability to produce as well as consume the data accessed on an increasing number of websites.[6][7] Users are now classified as active users[8] because more people in society are participating in the Digital and Information Age.[9] More and more people are considered to be active writers and viewers because of their participation.[10] This flow has created a new life where we are now in danger of becoming dependent on this method of access to information.[11][12] Therefore we see an information overload from the access to so much information, almost instantaneously, without knowing the validity of the content and the risk of misinformation.[13][14]

According to Sonora Jha of Seattle University, journalists are using the web to conduct their research, getting information regarding interviewing sources and press releases, updating news online, and thus it shows the gradual shifts in attitudes because of the rapid increase in the Internet.[15] Lawrence Lessig has described this as the "read-write" nature of the internet.[16]

Contents

Origin

A quite early example of the term information overload can be found in an article by Jacob Jacoby, Donald Speller and Carol Kohn Berning, who conducted an experiment on 192 housewives which was said to confirm the hypothesis that more information about brands would lead to poorer decision making.[17] But long before that, the idea was introduced by Diderot, although it wasn't by the term 'information overload': "As long as the centuries continue to unfold, the number of books will grow continually, and one can predict that a time will come when it will be almost as difficult to learn anything from books as from the direct study of the whole universe. It will be almost as convenient to search for some bit of truth concealed in nature as it will be to find it hidden away in an immense multitude of bound volumes." –Denis Diderot, "Encyclopédie" (1755)

General causes

The general causes of information overload include:

  • A rapidly increasing rate of new information being produced
  • The ease of duplication and transmission of data across the Internet
  • An increase in the available channels of incoming information (e.g. telephone, e-mail, instant messaging, rss)
  • Large amounts of historical information to dig through
  • Contradictions and inaccuracies in available information
  • A low signal-to-noise ratio
  • A lack of a method for comparing and processing different kinds of information
  • The pieces of information are unrelated or do not have any overall structure to reveal their relationships

E-mail remains a major source of information overload, as people struggle to keep up with the rate of incoming messages. As well as filtering out unsolicited commercial messages (spam), users also have to contend with the growing use of e-mail attachments in the form of lengthy reports, presentations and media files.

A December 2007 New York Times blog post described E-mail as "a $650 Billion Drag on the Economy",[18] and the New York Times reported in April 2008 that "E-MAIL has become the bane of some people's professional lives" due to information overload, yet "none of [the current wave of high-profile Internet startups focused on email] really eliminates the problem of e-mail overload because none helps us prepare replies".[19]

Technology investors reflect similar concerns.[20]

In addition to e-mail, the World Wide Web has provided access to billions of pages of information. In many offices, workers are given unrestricted access to the Web, allowing them to manage their own research. The use of search engines helps users to find information quickly. However, information published online may not always be reliable, due to the lack of authority-approval or a compulsory accuracy check before publication. This results in people having to cross-check what they read before using it for decision-making, which takes up more time.

Responses

Response of business and government

Many academics, corporate decision-makers, and federal policy-makers recognize the magnitude and growing impact of this phenomenon. In June 2008 a group of interested researchers from a diverse set of corporations, smaller companies, academic institutions and consultancies created the Information Overload Research Group (IORG), a non-profit interest group dedicated to raising awareness, sharing research results and promoting the creation of solutions around Information Overload.[21]

Recent research suggests that an "attention economy" of sorts will naturally emerge from information overload, allowing Internet users greater control over their online experience with particular regard to communication mediums such as e-mail and instant messaging. This could involve some sort of cost being attached to e-mail messages. For example, managers charging a small fee for every e-mail received - e.g. $5.00 - which the sender must pay from their budget. The aim of such charging is to force the sender to consider the necessity of the interruption. However, such a suggestion undermines the entire basis of the popularity of e-mail, namely that e-mails are free.

Media

Media like the internet are conducting research to promote awareness of information overload. In [1], Kyunghye Kim, Mia Liza A. Lustria, Darrell Burke, and Nahyun Kwon conducted a study regarding people who have encountered information overload while searching for health information about cancer and what the impact on them was. The conclusion drawn from the research discusses how health information should be distributed and that information campaigns should be held to prevent irrelevant or incorrect information being circulated on the internet.

Other than that, there are many books published to encourage awareness of information overload and to train the reader to process information more consciously and effectively. Books like "Surviving Information Overload" by Kevin A. Miller, "Managing Information Overload" by Lynn Lively.[22] and "The Principle of Relevance" by Stefania Lucchetti. [23]

Clay Shirky

In September 2008, Clay Shirky gave a presentation with the title "It's Not Information Overload. It's Filter Failure" at the Web 2.0 Expo. He argued that information abundance has been a problem since Johannes Gutenberg's invention of the printing press.[24]

The Problem of Organization

Some cognitive scientists and graphic designers have emphasized the distinction between raw information and information in a form we can use in thinking. In this view, information overload may be better viewed as organization underload. That is, they suggest that the problem is not so much the volume of information but the fact that we can't discern how to use it well in the raw or biased form it is presented to us. Authors who have taken this tack include graphic artist and architect Richard Saul Wurman (the man who coined the phrase information architect) and statistician and cognitive scientist Edward Tufte. Wurman uses the term "information anxiety" to describe our attitude toward the volume of information in general and our limitations in processing it. Tufte primarily focuses on quantitative information and explores ways to organize large complex datasets visually to facilitate clear thinking.

Related terms

References

  1. ^ Yang, C.C.; Chen, Hsinchun; Honga, Kay (2003). [Expression error: Unexpected < operator "Visualization of large category map for Internet browsing"]. Decision Support Systems 35 (1): 89–102. doi:10.1016/S0167-9236(02)00101-X. 
  2. ^ Gross, Bertram M. (1964). The Managing of Organizations: The Administrative Struggle. pp. 856. http://books.google.com/?id=boSFAAAAMAAJ&cd=1&dq=%22the+managing+of+organizations%22&q=information+overload#search_anchor. 
  3. ^ An article in Science magazine in 1959 about a conference held in June 1958 at Harvard Medical School mentions that Donald B. Lindsley had given a paper titled "Are there common factors in sensory deprivation, sensory distortion and sensory overload?" "Meetings," in Science, Vol 129, No. 3343, Jan 23, 1959, pp. 221-225.
  4. ^ Future Shock, pp. 350-1 (1970 edition)
  5. ^ Internet World Stats (2008)INTERNET USAGE STATISTICS The Internet Big Picture - World Internet Users and Population Stats 2000-2008.
  6. ^ Bonfield, B. (2007)Consuming Information Library Journal, New York: Oct 15th 2007, Volume 137, Issue 17, p26 (1 page).
  7. ^ Russo, A. & Watkins, J. (2005) Intenational Journal of Education and Development using Information and communication technology, Bridgetown: Dec 2005, Volume 1, Issue 4, p4 (14 pages).
  8. ^ Benbunan-Fich, R. & Koufaris, M. (2008) Electronic Markets, London: May 2008, Volume 18, Issue 2, p150.
  9. ^ Jones, B. (1993), "An Age of Discontinuity", in Sleepers Wake! Technology and the Future of Work, 3rd Ed., Melbourne, Oxford University Press, pp. 11-45
  10. ^ Jenkins, H. (2006) Fans, Bloggers and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture, New York University Press
  11. ^ Cheng, R & Vassileva (2006) Design and Evaluation of an adoptive incentive mecahanism for sustained educational online communities, User modelling and user-adapted interaction. Dordrecht. Sep 2006, Volume 16, Issue 3-4, p321.
  12. ^ Baxter, A. (2008) Better interactivity benefits student faculty, Financial Times, London (UK) March 17th 2008, p4
  13. ^ Flew, T. (2008) New Media: an introduction, Third Edition, Oxford University Press: Australia
  14. ^ Graham, G. (1999) The Internet: a philosophical inquiry, London: Routledge
  15. ^ Sonora Jha, 2007, Social Movements, The Internet and The Press, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly-New Media, Volume 84, No.1, pg 42
  16. ^ "The Read-Write Internet". January 17, 2006. http://www.lessig.org/blog/2006/01/the_readwrite_internet.html. 
  17. ^ >2.0.CO;2-L&origin=utrecht Brand Choice Behavior as a Function of Information Load: Replication and Extension(1974) Journal of consumer research, Volume: 1, Issue: 1 (June 1974), pp: 33-42.
  18. ^ Lohr, Steve (2007-12-20). "Is Information Overload a $650 Billion Drag on the Economy?". New York Times. http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/12/20/is-information-overload-a-650-billion-drag-on-the-economy. Retrieved 2010-05-05. 
  19. ^ Stross, Randall (2008-04-20). "Struggling to Evade the E-Mail Tsunami". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/20/technology/20digi.html?_r=2&oref=slogin&oref=slogin. Retrieved 2010-05-05. 
  20. ^ "Did Darwin Skip Over Email?". Foundry Group. 2008-04-28. http://www.foundrygroup.com/blog/archives/2008/04/did-darwin-skip-over-email.php. 
  21. ^ Lost in E-mail, Tech Firms Face Self-Made Beast
  22. ^ http://books.google.com.my/books?q=information+overload
  23. ^ The Principle of Relevance, Stefania Lucchetti, RT Publishing 2010, Hong Kong. http://www.stefanialucchetti.com
  24. ^ http://news.cnet.com/8301-13505_3-10142298-16.html

See also








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