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Among the barriers to the advance of social media how important is “Information overload”
May 11, 2010 at 2:15 pm #100309
Overcoming barriers is an imporant issue with Gov 2.0 and related efforts. One barrier that I’ve seen mentioned on GovLoop and more broadly is “Information overload”.
The basic problems has been laid to our cognitive systems brains have evolved seemlingly stable structurally/processes for a long time, yet exposure to processed information in the last 100 years has increased by a factor of thousands . Some day that the volume and speed of Information overload, Concept of information has been incrcasing sas much as 100% each year) and argume that something has to give. There is a risk when technology and its use evolves much faster than we can( cf psychologist Robert Cialdini) :
“our natural capacity to process information is likely to be increasingly inadequate to handle the surfeit of change, choice, and challenge that is characteristic of modern life.”
There are a number of comments on this you can see at:
For example in Motivation for Fed Folks to be govloop (Posted by Srinidhi Boray on April 23, 2010 ) Steve Radick argued that “people will be motivated to speak when they see the value in having open conversations and candid opinions. It’s not a fear of retribution that’s stopping most people, but a fear of information overload, a fear of “now what – yet ANOTHER thing I have to do????!!!””
May 11, 2010 at 2:33 pm #100337
Cialdini is incorrect, insofar as “modern life” = “now.” We’re nowhere near society’s ability to amass and exploit data; the limit has yet to appear on the horizon.
Dump tons of undifferentiated data on the street with no reliable reference tools, and the time required for the group to sort and organize it will look, to the uninitiated, like a data overload–but it’s a natural consequence of a data dump that wasn’t adequately thought-through. The key is to provide not merely the data, but the analytical tools that make the data quickly comprehensible.
May 13, 2010 at 1:48 pm #100335
When you say “We’re nowhere near society’s ability to amass and exploit data; the limit has yet to appear on the horizon.” I think that it is important to distingusih what society’s data needs and abiltieis are and the individual’s. While both needs lots of data the former is much vaster than the later and society/groups that have ways of shifting roles.
The type of sotuation I’m thinking of is larger than “data dumps” such as we get from OGD and linked data. I’m thinking of the increased info stream from many sources including social media.
Social scientists analyzed info/signal overload for people living in large cities long ago and since then info overload in modern work and life. They identifies several common reactions to the constant exposure to a heavy information load. Among these are:
1. allocation of less time to each input,
2. reactive disregard of low-priority inputs,
3. re-drawing of boundaries in certain social transactions to shift the burden of overload to another party in social exchange (more complex in groups),
4. the reduction of inputs by “filtering “devices and analytics (as you focused on),
5. the refusal of communication reception (unlisted telephone numbers, voicemail, unfriending people, unread email, unfriendly facial expressions, hostile responses.)
6. the creation of specialized tools, inermediaries and institutions to absorb inputs that would otherwise swamp the individual (again the focus in your response)
In an organizational context, frequently described symptoms of information overload on the individual level are:
a general lack of perspective
cognitive strain and stress
a greater tolerance of error
lower job satisfaction and/or
the inability to use information to make a decision This is often called analysis paralysis.
May 13, 2010 at 2:08 pm #100333
Information overload is a big problem but that’s exactly why as we continue to open up government there has to be policies that accompany the information that’s now flowing freely.
One of the first ones was addressed in a blog on GovLoop this week: https://www.govloop.com/profiles/blogs/bring-on-the-plain-writing-act . Plain writing could help massively segment information overload as everything would be easier to swallow.
Another big issue that could stop information overload is a solid records management system for the government. Cass Sunstein, administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs was out talking about that just the other day: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/?sid=1956208&nid=35 . If we put a system is where people can easily find what they want that could go a long way in halting info overload.
May 13, 2010 at 2:34 pm #100331
Thanks for the message pointing to the reltion to more transparent understanding and open government. there has to be policies that accompany the information that’s now flowing freely.
Indeed one part of this was addressed in the Plain writing blog on GovLoop this week. I cross posted to it.
I’m glad that there is progress on “plain English”. It should be a small help with many government topics. I recall that 20 years ago it was touted as the panacea for inscrutability in legislation and legal expression in general. At that time there were some changes were made to the way that legislation and law were written and presented. I’ve seen summaries that these changed more finely structured and labeled provisions, preference for everyday, non-legalistic words, separate and generous dictionaries, bolded terms, and so on.
These were supposed to become the form of modern legislation but also consumer contracts of which credit card contracts were an example. Unfortunately, as we know credit card contracts remained unreadable and became loooooong documents. Truly part of the onfo overload!!!
Still I’m hopeful with this new effort since it may get at the interlocking set of problems.
We shouldn’t forget the value of graphic/pictorial versions of information. These have been promoted, for example, as promising solutions to the difficulties of understanding law, but I’m not sure that the results are obvious yet. One can see some graphical features like concept maps and flow charts within some work in the educational arena but I’m less familiar with it in government publications.
May 21, 2010 at 4:14 pm #100329
There is a related discussion by Srinidhi Boray on the “evil in the 21st century with exploding information super highway is distortion. There will be more maya and adept play of data in the ocean of complexity. Government is its efforts to demonstrate transparency will inundate citizens with information more than they can process.
See Historical information for Knowledge Management Industry
I provided a response to his post and pointed back to this discussion.
May 24, 2010 at 2:55 pm #100327
June 1, 2010 at 4:36 pm #100325
A recent aerticle called “The Death of Depth: Less and Less of More and More” discusses how our attention is under siege. E.g. checking emails while on conference calls.
Nobel Prize winner Herbert Simon saw the tsunami coming. “What information consumes is rather obvious,” he wrote. “It consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”
A more recent comment from former Microsoft and Apple researcher Linda Stone is :
“To be busy and to be connected is to feel alive. But the consequence is we’re over stimulated, over-wound, and unfulfilled.”
The general argument is that we underestimate is our capacity to collect info, and don’t understand the costs no having information.
June 2, 2010 at 6:44 pm #100323
The KM group had a recent intro to the topic (Historical information for Knowledge Management Industry Posted by Henry Brown ) which included this bit of history on Alvin Toffler, in his much-acclaimed book Future Shock (1984), painting an even bleaker picture of an actual breakdown of human performance under extraordinary information loads . He argues for a relationship to psychopathology.
“Work is increasingly being done in one’s head rather than at the desk, as we try to cope with managing this massive information overdose. The information that we must assimilate has become more abstract as technological innovators find new, clever ways to present it. And we do not just process one stream of data bits at a time. Some researchers refer to our need to deal with more than one information flow at a time as polyphasic activity. Visualize Sam riding his convertible to his next meeting. He grips the steering wheel in his left hand, a cellular phone in his right, and on his lap rests his miniature tape recorder. And in the passenger seat is his UltraLite computer.”
July 14, 2010 at 8:18 pm #100321
Just posted a related forum over in the Management Concepts group:
And cross-posted a link to this conversation as well…
July 26, 2010 at 9:24 pm #100319
Gary – I love this post (and discussion thread) . Just thought I would acknowledge it 🙂
July 26, 2010 at 9:27 pm #100317
Always great to get feedback which doesn’t overload the system.
July 26, 2010 at 9:44 pm #100315
Interesting post; how information overload intersects with transparency.
A posting on Sunlight’s blog came to mind when I read this post: http://sunlightlabs.com/blog/2010/olympics-coleslaw/. This visualization conveys the complexity of the US Code of Law. The 50 main titles of the US Code had more than 168,000 references in an of itself. How can anybody keep that straight?
Transparency is a start to making information available. It is so important for government to be a data wholesaler, not retailer, so people can figure out ways to make this data comprehensible.
I’d like to comment that a lot of times were faced with data overload, rather than information overload. Raw data without context is almost useless. Not until data is transformed into something meaningful can it really be considered “information” (in this context).
July 26, 2010 at 9:57 pm #100313
I enjoyed looking at the “coleslaw” diagrams of the law code (Sunlight). I think a few could serve as projective tests. I think that there was a fountain in there at the end or perhaps a 4th of July show.
I agree with the distinction of data vs info overload. Indeed some of the ideas for transparency is to just get the data so we aren’t tricked by a clever assembly of the info. The more thorough way is to have both and be able to trace from one to the other. The downside…more explosion and overload.
August 24, 2010 at 9:06 pm #100311
The NextGov site has a recent article on the Data Deluge (By Carolyn Duffy Marsan 08/23/2010)
It starts this way:
“The federal government is awash in data. And it’s expanding at rates faster than chief information officers can count. No one knows exactly how much information agencies have stored in their far-flung databases, but experts say it’s a lot. Consider this: By 2015, the world will generate the equivalent of almost 93 million Libraries of Congress–in just one year, according to Cisco’s Internet Business Solutions Group.”… See
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