Information Overload: can we handle it?

Born Digital’s chapter on information overload identifies various issues that arise from the Internet. According to Palfrey and Gasser,

“the amount of digital content that was created, stored and replicated last year is hard to fathom. The answer is 1,288 x 1018 bits. That’s 161 billion gigabytes. In lay terms, that’s three million times the information in all books ever written, or twelve stacks of books reaching from the Earth to the Sun, or six tons of books for every person. It would require two billion of the highest capacity iPods to store all that information. Even more impressive than these numbers is the growth rate of information. In 2003, researchers have estimated the world’s information production to be around five billion gigabytes. Current reports predict that there will be 988 billion gigabytes of information in 2010. ”

In a learning environment, information overload results in frustration, and the reduction of the attention span. Apart from that, it also has negative effects on kid’s well-being, such as: “feelings of stress, anxiety, depression, low motivation, and sometimes even panic.”

Although computer ubiquity is generally perceived in a positive light giving students continual access to the global community, there are some disadvantages that our Digital Native generation experiences. If DNs are continually surrounded by gadgets and computers how are they going to learn the importance of reflecting on issues? How will they learn to look for information anywhere beyond regular search engines like Google? (ie: libraries, interviewing others, etc.)

If you are a writer working on a novel, it is important that you have time to reflect, and work on your project carefully. Whenever I see DNs around me, they have a gadget on them. They are listening to their ipods, playing their psps and so on. I myself feel like I am missing reflection time when I return home from university, because I am either listening to my ipod or surfing the net. Along with computer ubiquity, comes information that overloads us continuously and might bring DNs to exhaustion. But when does this ubiquity starts to affect me negatively?

Professor Small has shown evidence how our brain adapts to the new processes that take place when we are exposed to technology. According to him, “we are changing the environment. The average young person now spends nine hours a day exposing their brain to technology… the tech-savvy generation [of[ “digital natives” are always scanning for the next bit of new information which can create stress and even damage neural networks.”

Although the access to information available on the Internet is revolutionary and might be used, in many aspects, positively, it seems that getting caught into the rabbit hole too many times might result in a reverse effect. Do you feel like you can handle the information that is sent to you everyday? How do you deal with the Internet’s information overload?