It is clear that people can have a significant problem handling all the information which is now becoming available, both in paper form and increasingly on the web. In a recent report (Dying for information? A report on the effects of information overload in the UK and worldwide, by Paul Waddington) it was claimed that the news agency Reuters now produces 27,000 pages of information every second! There are therefore serious questions to raise about our limitations and whether the human brain will any longer be capable of handling the vast amounts of information which are now becoming available. The Reuters report certainly raised a number of important issues concerning the human cost of information overload. These included ill-health, a curtailment of social activity and increased tiredness.
Dealing with Information Overload
There a two primary approaches to dealing with information overload. The first concerns the organisation of the information; the second concerns the development of improved information-handling skills in the individual. Consider the following:
- Improving the quality of the information
Providing people with the information they require, rather than a mass of irrelevant detail is vital. Thus, a one page 'executive summary' can free many people from having to wade through a 30-page report. (See Design Concepts concerning 'wisdom pages'.)
- Knowledge management
Organisations are increasingly addressing the information overload problems of their staff and customers by developing information management policies and by exploiting the concepts of knowledge management.
- Use of maps
Maps and other graphical devices are extremely useful where people are trying to understand new concepts and find their way around a mass of more detailed information. This is used to advantage in mind-mapping and in the BrainWareMap itself (see Design Concepts).
- Information handling skills
There are many learning skills which can assist the individual to deal effectively with information overload. In particular, see reading, note-taking and mind-mapping.
For further information about information overload see:
- Dying for Information? by Paul Waddington
Grappling with Information Overload by
John M Grohol
Information Overload by William Van Winkle