Challenges regarding the nature of information

The following is an edited version of a discussion forum post for Module 1.2

Based on your reading of Floridi, and Brown & Duguid, identify three (3) challenges regarding the nature of information that are of particular concern to you as a member of our information society. How do you propose to address these?

1.  The information explosion

Human knowledge is expanding at an exponential rate. From doubling approximately every century a hundred years ago, to doubling every twelve months now (and predicted to double every twelve hours with the expansion of the Internet of Things), individuals can only hope to be “experts” in narrower and narrower areas – there can be no “font of all knowledge” – so how do we know what or who to trust and how can we possibly keep up? We need to be creative and thoughtful about what actually is “the problem” and not always treat symptomatically. At a personal level I do my best to manage the flow of information coming at me by using a variety of digital tools: Diigo to tag and save links; Evernote to store, take notes and organise; Feedly to keep up with blogs I wish to read; Pocket to save for later articles of possible interest that I come across via Twitter but don’t have time to do anything with immediately.

2.  Environmental effects

“Paperless” might seem environmentally friendly but data centres don’t run on air – they consumed 1% of worlds electricity at the time Floridi wrote (p. 155), perhaps more now. (estimates suggest that the carbon footprint of data will outstrip that of aviation by 2020). Can the use of ICT provide benefits to other industries so as to balance out this environmental impact? I hope my largely paperless approach to work and study isn’t stymied by the energy required to power my personal devices and the cloud that supports them.

3.  The rise of the mega-university and online learning

This is already happening at tertiary level but will it filter down to secondary or even primary education? Mega universities can teach numbers of students unthinkable on a physical campus – is it possible that in the future we will have similar mega-schools? In my experience Distance/online learning requires a high level of intrinsic motivation while a physical school/teacher in the room provides for more extrinsic motivation – would children be sufficiently motivated – I don’t think so if the form of the online learning is merely replicating what happens in physical classrooms. I want to know how, as an information professional (ie teacher librarian) I can best support and remain relevant in any move to online learning.

References

Brown, J. S., & Duguid, P. (2002). Limits to information. In The social life of information (pp. 11-34). Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Floridi, L. (2009). The Information Society and its philosophy: Introduction to the special issue on “The philosophy of information, its nature, and future developments”. Information Society, 25(3), 153-158. DOI: 10.1080/01972240902848583

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