The Internet can be viewed as an open, digital network of globally connected users and computerised devices that provides a dynamic platform for the creation, storage, dissemination and consumption of information and knowledge.
The digital nature of the internet allows for the creation, storage and dissemination of content (irrespective of format – text, sound, image, hyperlinks) through any of the networked computers that make up the internet. The digital nature makes it easy to be replicated, manipulated, changed, stored and transmitted with accuracy and speed. Digital representation of data and information is freed from temporal and spatial constraints, enabling new models of information production that are interactive, easily and immediately accessed, shared and distributed.
The open nature of the internet supports the creation of new models of information production in a number of ways: The open architecture provides global penetration and access across physical and national boundaries. The fact that the internet is open and decentralised – not hierarchical – allows it to evolve and grow in creative, innovative and unrestricted ways. The open accessibility of the internet – not controlled or owned – encourages free and open expression and participation; gives a voice, encourages civic participation, connects and empowers. See Table 1 for a more detailed presentation, by West (2016), of internet openness.
It is the digital and open characteristics of the internet that allowed the development of the World Wide Web (WWW) through hyperlinks and hypertext. The creation – and open sharing – of the WWW provided the stepping stone needed for the development of a plethora of (Web 2.0) tools and applications, which in turn gave rise to open, social and participatory media that enabled the development of new models of information production (Conole, 2013, pp. 50-51).
De Saulles (2012, p. 13) identifies the mass adoption of computing devices for professional and personal applications, and the rise of the internet as distribution platform, as the main reasons for the increased rate that information is being created and consumed, as well as for the rise of new models of information production. He states that although new evolutionary models (such as blogs and podcasts) are similar to traditional formats (such as newspapers and radio broadcasts), they make use of the characteristics of the internet to be more social, participatory and accessible on demand. Revolutionary models – such as search engines (e.g. Google) and social media platforms (e.g. Facebook) – are revolutionary and only possible because of the internet’s unique characteristics. See his slideshow below for his view in more detail:
The challenges (to educators, information professionals and other users) associated with the new models of information presentation are archetypal of the changed information environments, as identified by Bawden and Robinson (2009, pp.182-186): Information is no longer scarce, but in oversupply; the “paradox of choice” is aggravated by the increasing diversity of information (in terms of format, complexity and varying perspectives). The open, social and participatory nature of Web 2.0 tools – and new models of information production – bring with it issues concerning quality control (no editorial or peer-reviewed processes); loss of identity and authority, subjectivity, de-contextualised information and impermanence of information (Bawden and Robinson, 2009, p.186).
The new models of information productions enable creative ways to produce and share information, but are changing our information behaviour. As educators and information professionals we need to understand this behaviour better, if we are going to effectively employ these models in facilitating and supporting 21st century learning.
Bawden, D., & Robinson, L. (2009). The dark side of information: Overload, anxiety and other paradoxes and pathologies. The Journal of Information Science, 35(2), 180-191. https://doi.org/10.1177/0165551508095781
Conole, G. (2013). Designing for learning in an open world. New York, NY: Springer New York.
De Saulles, M. (2012). New models of information production. In Information 2.0: New models of information production, distribution and consumption (pp. 13-35). Retrieved from https://www.csu.edu.au/division/library/ereserve/pdf/desaulles-m.pdf
West, J. (2016, May). Global Commission on Internet Governance Paper Series: Vol. 35. A framework for understanding internet openness. Retrieved from https://www.cigionline.org/publications/framework-understanding-internet-openness