Episode Four – Too. Much. Information.

Perhaps the real challenge of post-literacy is not about reading and writing (alphabetic literacy); perhaps the problem is simply too much information. Is information overload on your mind?

We’ve been having a few problems with the links to the audio on Soundcloud (particularly on mobile devices). If this is a problem for you, here is the link to the file on Soundcloud.

If you are interested in more about this topic, check out the chapter on the Beyond Literacy e-book.


4 thoughts on “Episode Four – Too. Much. Information.

  1. Information overload made me think of this book “The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less” by Barry Schwartz. In the book, Schwartz argues that by eliminating choice, we can eliminate anxiety. It’s more complex than this, but the idea is that we are bombarded by too much choice, and it overwhelms us. Barry would be happier if the Gap had less options of jeans…but I feel this idea could be related to information. We would be happier and less anxious if we had less information bombarding us everyday. Or less access to information. That sounds terrible coming from a future librarian. My life’s goal is to provide access to information. Knowledge is power! But as you also say, there are things we wish we didn’t know. We have access to all this medical information online, and then we convince ourselves we have in curable diseases. If we didn’t have this access, if we had to actually go to the doctor, we would be less anxious. Information speeds up our thought processes. This is actually an issue tackled in cognitive behavioural therapy. People who struggle with anxiety often have a hard time slowing down their thoughts. If we actually slowed down, had to look harder, think longer, didn’t have information pouring into our laps, we might be happier. Calmer.

    Does anyone have any thoughts. Would less access be better? Do we need to learn how to restrain ourselves? Do we all need to take a hint from CBT and practice slowing down our thoughts.

    I’m realizing the irony of continually referring to books in this blog, but that’s where I get my information!

  2. I’m not too sure about whether less access would be better— but I think slowing down our thoughts might be helpful/needed. We now have yoga for children and mindfulness practices for students in the classroom ( especially those diagnosed with ADHD/ Autism) to help them refocus– and I’m pretty sure these aren’t all being introduced just for fun. This actually reminds me of a reading from another class entitled “Media Literacies: A Critical Introduction” by Hoechsmann and Poyntz (specifically chapter 7) which talks about new research techniques that are being using to deal with all of the information. They call it ‘copy and paste’ where students, instead of reading the entire article to gather context, will search for keywords in the articles and subsequently copy in the information they need from various sources to complete an assignment. By gathering bits and pieces of articles, they are able to draw on more information, without the time necessary to read them all. But I guess this brings back into focus the question of whether we are synthesizing all of this information properly. Are we actually learning/gaining knowledge from this information, or are we just constantly disseminating or recirculating it.

  3. Was watching Real Time with Bill Maher today (from Nov 8), and one of his guests was Bill Binney an NSA whistleblower who worked on “thin thread” which was a program which allowed the NSA to look at “tens of terabytes a minute…it’s like 2 libraries of congress every 4 or 5 minutes…we wanted to see into that and pull out what was important.” Those are his words.

    I feel like this perfectly describes what we are talking about. Binney says thin thread started when communication technologies like email, texting, and cell phones really became popular and you had all this new data. These are tools we use everyday. We creates billions of records. Too. Much. Information.

    He also talked about the difference between metadata and actual records. If the NSA was actually just looking at metadata they wouldn’t need nearly as much storage as they do. But that’s getting political. The point is we are at the point where even metadata – data about data – is becoming overwhelming and valuable.

  4. It’s true, we are at a point where data is self-propagating exponentially. The more metadata we collect, the less valuable the original data becomes if it is separated from this contextual data. The difference between data and information is organization, and I think it is safe to say that we have achieved a certain level of organization of metadata, as examples like the NSA demonstrate. However the difference between information and knowledge is context, which has usually come from the human brain’s social and historical situational awareness. As we amass all this data, the context is increasingly tied to the metadata. While this does not discount the social and historical situational context, and perhaps augments it by locating the data and marking it with a geographic and time stamps, it seems to me that we are moving towards a model of contextual awareness that is beyond the average persons cognitive reality.

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