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  • Are we on Information Overload??

    Posted on February 17th, 2012 lisskane No comments


    I came across an interview with David Weinberger, a senior researched at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, about his new book “To Big to Know”. In his book he attempts to answer the question if the Internet is causing us to have an information overload. The internet has transformed knowledge, but it what way. This interview relates almost directly to a lot of the topics we have been covering and I highly suggest you all take a look at it. I found it extremely interesting and gave me a couple new views on the internet’s impact of human knowledge.

    Weinberger first talks about how in today’s digital world, facts have been replaced by “networked facts”. With this transformation we have entered a new golden age in which technology has finally caught up with humans’ endless curiosity. There is an endless supply of information out there and now all we have to do is find it.  With all this growth in available knowledge, he claims that it also changed the way we look at experts and brilliant people. He claims that the metaphor the “smartest guy in the room” is outdated. With all of the knowledge at everyone’s fingertips, intelligence can’t be purely based on how much knowledge an individual knows. In today’s world we must change the metaphor because now it is the room itself that may be the smartest. That may contain the most knowledge and information.

    He talks about how today instead of trying to cultivate smart people, we need to look beyond the person and look at the network in which they work and live. We need to work now at building up and creating smart networks and systems, smart ways for people to gain knowledge and become smart themselves. We need to work on the Internet’s intelligence as a gateway to human intelligence.

    Another piece I found interesting was how information is filtered or dispersed to the population. Information filters work differently than they have in the past. In the past there were physical filters, only a certain number of manuscripts were published and book books that never made it to the library. Today we have digital filters. Weinberger says that “Digital filters don’t remove anything; they only reduce the number it clicks it takes to get to something.” Meaning, that in this digital age, we filter forward instead of out. Nothing is removed, everybody’s ideas and all information are still out there, but the really significant hard-pressing information is moved forward, more visible to the public eye. And not only is it all out there, but it will always be out there. Where data keeping may have been a big task in the past is now easy and automatic.

    Something we talked about on class Thursday was hyper linking. Weinberger’s next topic caught my attention because it related almost entirely. He talks about the advantages to networked thinking. When you are reading a book you cannot easily pop up another book when you want to look further into a certain aspect of the first. But on the Internet, in the middle of reading one persons information they can link to someone else’s information. The author can give the reader more knowledge to absorb and explaining how his information is different from what it’s telling you to read next. Some people may not like this. They may think that hyperlinks interrupt what you are currently reading. So some authors may still prefer paper and books. But the thing is that even they can’t avoid their work being discussed and linked to. Chances are that one of their readers will find the material worthy to share or have an opinion or argument against their piece. So chances are that a reader is going to share their thoughts via the Internet. Thus, it is very probable that writer’s thoughts are going to end up on the Internet through someone else’s actions.

    The interview continues with several more topics like this, discussing how the Internet is affecting our knowledge. And whether it is a positive or a negative effect. I loved reading Weinberger’s stances and views on the topic and realize how many of the same views students in our class have thought up and brought up on their own. It is also interesting to see new ones and bring in new ideas to what we have already discussed. Again, I think this was a really cool interview and you should all take the time to read it over!


    4 responses to “Are we on Information Overload??” RSS icon

    • Fantastic post! I’d seen an earlier, shorter article on the book and it certainly whetted my interest. This interview, though, and your very perceptive commentary on it, have motivated me to buy the book and read it ASAP. Weinberger’s earlier book on the Web, “Small Pieces Loosely Joined,” has been a huge influence on me and many others in this space. You’ve taught me how important this new book will be to extending my own thinking in this area. Thanks!

      P.S.: Linking to this site is recursive, no?

    • I like that idea of “networking facts”! In the college of business “networking” is stressed from day one. Every chance you get to meet someone new and discuss potential new ideas with, you must take it. and you must get that contact information. So, the idea of networked facts is really interesting. To me, it kind of means that in this day in age, in order to keep up, you simply must extend your knowledge base from just the normal search, you must network. Hyperlinks is, as we talked about in class, probably the most effective and creative way of doing this. I think it’s really awesome to have something hyperlinked in an article-it’s kind of like a plug in during a business conversation. Making the links between people and facts known is something that everyone has to keep up with in order to be successful. As I’m making these business comparisons, I can’t help but think of LinkedIn. It’s kind of like a business facebook, connecting people from all over the world. It’s a great way to network-check it out if you have time. Anyways, I just really like dthis idea of networkig facts and I think it has only just begun!

    • I am interested in what you think the advantages (or disadvantages) are of being your own curator of information. That is, not-so-long-ago newspapers were a main source of information and they curated all of the world’s news and presented the ‘important’ stories to it’s users in a well defined and understood form (think the front page news is the most important). Opposed to today, where you have access to nearly all news yourself (in some cases from direct sources) and in myriad forms. I am still somewhat unsure as to what method is better…as I get busy I often look for more curated news, however, sometimes I find stories that are not covered that I find compelling and relevant to my life. Just a thought that struck me while I was reading your excellent post.

    • I agree with you in that I am not sure which way is better. There is definitely advantages to both. When I am particularly busy, it is nice that when I go on my homepage there is a list of all the top events. Everything that I may need or should know is there, so that I am not missing out or behind. So I guess it may be more efficient to have a main source or conventional collection news. But while that may be convenient, being your own curator is an amazing process. You find out what you want to know and are driven by your own curiosity and desires for knowledge. You can find what is important to you and get lost in your own pursuit of knowledge. I guess there are pros of each, but I would never trade the opportunity to curate your own knowledge for a more black and white fact sheet.

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