The paralysis that ensues when faced by the sheer volume of choice available through the new models of information is perfectly comprehensible. Going from a supermarket that once had 600 items from which to select, to one with over 10,000, creates a definition of choice that is simply insurmountable. Information stress, cognitive overload, continuous partial attention and technostress (Bawden and Robinson, 2009) presents an image of a digital world from which one might be tempted to retreat were it not for the fact that this is our new reality, and that of our students. Information is cheap, ubiquitous, complex in nature and appearing in diverse formats. The solution is to take control, but how is that done when the ground is constantly shifting underneath you?
Even the secure knowledge that down at the newspaper office, the editor and journalists selected a handful of interesting stories from all possibilities that day and then delivered them to you, you never felt the fear of missing out. And there was never an obligation to read everything. Now, not only is the torrent overwhelming for the receiver, things aren’t working out too well for the print media either. Blogs and social media are challenging traditional journalism, just as the iPhone is squeezing out professional photographers. As De Saulles (2012) points out there are fewer opportunities for publishers to generate income. And yet media in new, diverse digital formats – The Huffington Post, The Conversation, The Guardian, amongst many others – are making their appearance. Quality in commentary and analysis may be compromised, and perhaps this is a reasonable criticism, but many of the journalists who worked in print media have made the move online quite seamlessly.
The lack of central control has lead to a new openness. The ends of information are human ends, says Brown and Duguid, and people are free to decide what matters and with whom they choose to collaborate. Social media places power in the hands of the consumer, who with the new tools, is now is a producer of information as well as a receiver. Resistance is futile, says Brown and Duguid. Perhaps that is true. One could choose simply not to be part of it. (A bit like the anti-vaxxers?) Actually, many people, including many teachers, choose that path. I would be one of the few people in my school who are consciously choosing to be connected. That, i believe, is another post.
- Bawden, D., & Robinson, L. (2009). The dark side of information: overload, anxiety and other paradoxes and pathologies. Journal of Information Science, 35(2), 180–191.
- De Saulles, M. (2012). Information 2.0: new models of information production, distribution and consumption. Facet Publishing.
- Brown, J. S., & Duguid, P. (2002).Limits to Information. In The social life of information (pp. 11-34). Boston: Harvard Business School Press.