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

New models of information production

De Saulles, M. (2012). New models of information production. In Information 2.0: new models of information production, distribution and consumption (pp. 13-35). London: Facet.

What are some of the defining characteristics of the Internet and world wide web that have stimulated the creation for new models of information production?

What are some of the challenges that these models present to educators and/or information professionals?

The digitisation of information and the proliferation of devices with internet access means that information that was once scarce and/or difficult to access is now freely available. The world wide web, and in particular, Web 2.0 have made it possible for anyone, even with limited resources, to publish to the world. Formats like blogs and podcasts are logical, democratised, developments of pre-internet formats such as newspapers and radio broadcasts. What is new is the built-in powers of search engines and the metadata accessible through social media giving rise to new developments in the study of human trends. These can be used in diverse ways such as tracking the spread of disease to manage health resources, targeted marketing, or identifying and responding to the issues most important to voters at multiple levels.

These new models of information production present both challenges and opportunities to educators and information professionals.

With information no longer scarce and precious we are challenged with dealing with too much rather than too little information. Educators are challenged with teaching students the skills required to filter and think critically about what they find and, just as importantly, what they share. Information professionals, whose core function of getting the right information to the right person at the right time has not fundamentally altered, are challenged by this oversupply of information making their role more and more complex. At the same time there are new opportunities as the skills of information professionals – organising, classifying, disseminating – are needed more than ever in the era of big data.