Abstract

The shift from what used to be a traditional industry to what is now known as the information or digitized age has undoubtedly revolutionized the world. In today’s knowledge-based society, we are surrounded by a high-tech global economy that allows individuals the flexibility of ‘simplifying’ their lives with unrestricted access to information. The ability to efficiently find, critically analyze and intellectually use reliable information is a major factor to profit making. Ironically however, overexposure to that information, leads to information overload and its detrimental effects. Simply put, Information Overload is when our ability to process information has passed its limit and further attempts to process information or make accurate decisions from the surplus of information becomes challenging.This paper is intended to be a multi-dimensional exploration of Information Overload in the workplace, incorporating a mixture of studies and opinions presented by various experts. It makes the argument that, professionals in the workplace today are bombarded with so much data than the ability to process. When this happens, Information Overload sets in which ends up interfering with the ability to learn and engage in creative problem-solving. In analyzing Information Overload from a variety of perspectives; we can expect to discover that it is a significant, yet surmountable, problem worth acting and reflecting upon.

 

Information these days is no longer about facts and figures. It is now being perceived as ‘noise.’ Professionals in today’s workplace are being bombarded with an avalanche of information, which far surpasses their ability to logically process. As a result, productivity and over-all health tends to suffer. Technological advancement has made information almost limitless and difficult if not impossible to keep up with than in previous generations. Knowledge workers are now processing a lot more information and this, coupled with other personal obligations and commitments can be overwhelming.

Originating as a debilitating trend in the 1990s, information overload has exacerbated in the information age of the twenty-first century. According to the October 2012 edition of the IEEE PCS Professional Engineering Communication Series: Information Overload: An International Challenge For Professional Engineers and Technical Communicators (p.55), this deluge of data and digital information inundate professionals and non-professionals alike, leading to the phenomenon of information overload. The writers, Strother, Ulijn and Fazal are of the view that information overload “places workers and managers worldwide in a chronic state of mental overload. It exacts a massive toll on employee productivity and causes significant personal harm, while organizations ultimately pay the price with extensive financial loss.” When workers are mentally overtasked, productivity in the workplace suffers.

The first recorded use of the phrase Information Overload however, was by the futurologist Alvin Toffler in bestselling 1970 book, Future Shock, in which he predicted that the rapidly increasing amounts of information being produced would eventually cause people problems (p. 240-241). He believed the accelerated rate of technological and social change left people disconnected and suffering from “shattering stress and disorientation”—future shocked.

Toffler stated that the majority of social problems are symptoms of future shock. In his discussion of the components of such shock, he popularized the term Information Overload.

Toffler’s prediction over thirty years ago has been corroborated by several writers including Torkel Klingberg in his book, The Overflowing Brain: Information Overload and the Limits of Working Memory (2009). Klingberg asserts that our brains have limited capacity for processing information and that, as advances in information technology and communication supply us with information at an ever accelerating rate, the limitations of our brains become all the more obvious (p.93-94). He makes reference to a 2005 Harvard Business Review article entitled, “Overload Circuits: Why Smart People Underperform,” written by Psychiatrist Edward Hallowell. In the article, Hallowell is of the view that modern office work, and the concomitant demands of multi-tasking, has turned a lot of very competent and steady workers – even executives – into frenzied underachievers. He continues that the brain is operating in overload and unable to process new input effectively. While the ability to multi-task has become a pre-requisite in today’s competitive work environment, it places significant pressure on workers to perform, which ends up causing a lot of stress.

James McGill Professor of psychology and behavioral neuroscience at McGill University, Daniel Levitin disagrees with proponents who warn that the information expansion has gone too far and will make us stupid. He counteracts these arguments by saying that, brains evolve to focus on one thing at a time and filter out distraction. Yet he admits that this “attentional system” is outdated when confronted with today’s avalanche of input. Drawing upon the results of psychological research, Levitin explains how the mental processes of attention, working memory, and categorization limit the amount of information that we can take in and remember.

When asked if humans are living in an age of too much information, Levitin responds by referencing the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska on March 24, 1989 as an example of what happens when people are overworked, sleep deprived, over tasked and have exceeded their limits of attention capacity. He continues that, when information comes in faster than we can process, attention then becomes a limited source. The expectations of bosses, co-workers, friends and family are greater now than they were before, making amount of information we have to negotiate daily, overwhelming. In the article, THE ORGANIZED MIND: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload (2014), Levitin asserts that, “while our brains evolved to take on the daunting challenges of life in the Stone Age, they now have many redundant, maladaptive, and not quite finished features that clash with the huge demands placed on our attention by the modern world (p.276).”

Pundits like Guus Pijpers and Ann Blair also share their differing opinions. In Pijpers’ book, Information Overload: A System for Better Managing Everyday Data, (2010) he asserts that one is overloaded only to the extent that he or she wishes to be overloaded (p. 31). This raises the question of whether perceptions of information overload are related to the quantity or to the quality of the information received. By comparing Information Overload to drinking too much water, Pijpers argues that one cannot receive too much information. What people mean is that they do not have the capacity at that moment to process all of the information to the argument.

Echoing similar sentiments, History professor at Harvard University, Ann Blair also puts forth an excellent argument in her article, Information Overload, Then and Now, which appears in the 2010 edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education. She opines that, the flood of information brought to us by advancing technology is often accompanied by a distressing sense of “information overload,” yet this experience is not unique to modern times. She continues by saying that information overload was experienced long before the appearance of today’s digital gadgets dating back to the third and fourth centuries when books were one papyrus rolls, parchment manuscripts, or hand printed. Blair believes that a new technology does not act alone, after all, but in concert with our ambitions for it. Overload has long been fueled by our own enthusiasm — the enthusiasm for accumulating and sharing knowledge and information, and also for experimenting with new forms of organizing and presenting it.

The unfettered access to Web communication poses a problem for all information seekers, who face the task of looking for facts or data in a vast sea of information. For example, Social media provide new avenues for organizations to communicate with their supply chain and customers, but these same media can also engender a superfluity of information that employees must cope with. In the article, The Stress Potential of Social Media in the Workplace (2010), by Elaine Bucher, Christian Fieseler, and Anne Suphan, the writers take an objective look at Social media and how its use is impacting today’s workplace professionals. While they acknowledge the fact that social media may have enriched the communication profession with new and immediate ways of stakeholder interaction, they also draw attention to the fact that, along with new possibilities also come challenges. As professionals in today’s workplace engage in real-time conversation with their audiences on Facebook, Twitter, Instant Messaging, emails and the like, they also have to learn to mentally cope with the incessant supply of information, with an invasion of work matters into their personal lives and with changing work contents and structures.

E-mail was once considered to be the efficient and cost effective replacement for other communication. Cheapness, speed and handiness are benefits for this medium of communication. However, solicited and unsolicited e-mails fill up and clog inboxes, often significantly reducing efficiency in the workplace. In addressing this, Kim McMurtry in the article, Managing email overload in the workplace, is of the view that email overload is significant because of its impact to the health and well-being of the modern knowledge worker.

McMurtry mentions some advantages to the use of email as its ease of use and speed of delivery; however, these advantages he says, contribute to a high volume of messages sent and received daily. Furthermore, the accessibility to email from mobile devices and home computers can blur the line between work and personal life and thus extend the workday. The adverse effects of email overload he adds, include feelings of isolation, anxiety, and loss of control; longer workdays; faster pace of work; task fragmentation; and even what he calls, email addiction.

Another proponent, Tyler Tate, makes no qualms about the fact that, “we are drowning in information.” At home we sift through millions of products, recipes, and films to help us decide what to buy, what to eat and watch. In the workplace, we search through innumerable, emails, web pages, documents and structured data as we look for solutions to business and research problems. He continues in his article, Information wayfinding, that as more data surrounds, us we find ourselves growing in a state of “information anxiety.” Tate argues that overabundance of information creates a lack of attention and calls for a need to allocate attention efficiently among the over-abundance of information that might consume it. In an age where “Big Data” has become the buzzword, the fundamental question we need to ask is this, “How can we make ever-growing volumes of information assessable and useful to people without overwhelming them?”

Bree Nordenson believes the information age is defined by output: we produce far more information than we can possibly manage, let alone absorb. In the article, Overload, Nordenson postulates, that before the digital era, information was limited by our means to contain it. Publishing was restricted by paper and delivery costs; broadcasting was circumscribed by available frequencies and airtime. The Internet, on the other hand, has unlimited capacity at near-zero cost. Ours is a culture of multitasking, of cramming as many activities as possible into as short a period of time as possible. We drive and talk on our cell phones, check e-mail during meetings and presentations. All of these Nordenson believes; contribute to the stress levels of the workplace. Nordenson also refers to a recent report, Information Overload: We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us, in which the research firm Basex concluded that interruptions take up nearly 30 percent of a knowledge worker’s day and end up costing American businesses $650 billion annually.

The unlimited access to information as posited by San Francisco State University professors N. Kominiarczuk and M. Ledzińska causes the experience of feeling burdened by the large amounts of information we are exposed to.” They base their argument on previous research (Misra and Stokols, 2012), which found links between information overload and poor physical health, high perceived stress, poor memory recall, amongst others. They arrived at the conclusion that, the more stress one feels, the less happy one is with life. Based on this conclusion, the assumption is that, a person’s inability to properly deal with information overload can lead to stress in the life of the individual, ultimately causing unhappiness.

Maggie Jackson, journalist and author of Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age, shares in her book about the downsides of the information age, and how the distractions from modern technologies lead to less critical thinking and less fulfilled lives. She is of the view that, amid the glittering promise of our technologies and scientific advances, we are nurturing a culture of social diffusion, intellectual fragmentation and sensory detachment. Our attention is scattered among the beeps and pings of a push-button world. In today’s speed driven work environment, workers typically change tasks every three minutes and once distracted, they take about 25 minutes to return to an interrupted task. Interruptions eat up more than two hours of an average worker’s day. She continues that we are less and less able to pause, reflect, and deeply connect in an environment that has become hyper-mobile and cyber-centric. These distractions portend what she believes to be a new dark age.

In the article, Coping with information Obesity: A diet for information professionals, Scott Brown examines causes, such as information overload, and additional factors that make information professionals prone to information obesity. The article concludes with practical and philosophical suggestions for preventing and coping with information obesity, and an overview of ideas around the concept of ‘slow information’. He defines information obesity as a “failure to turn information into knowledge, and thus use it to sustain our minds, bodies, lives and communities.” What Brown is stating with his analogy is that, just as too much food has the tendency to make a person obese, too much information can in fact also have a negative impact on professionals in the workplace.

In conclusion, while the ease with which information can be obtained may be a boon to the workplace and the internet as a tool to helping democratize our ability to contribute to a universal encyclopedia of experience and information, professionals cannot afford to be oblivious to the negative health impacts of Information Overload. We may become more efficient, savvy, and effective. But we should ensure that when we get to the top of the corporate ladder, our sanity would still be intact. As in all things, we need to maintain balanced approach when it comes to handling the competing priorities that exist in today’s dynamic work environment. We need to learn to prioritize, pause and take breaks but the best advice for now might be gleaned from Andy Kessler: “Productivity is really just doing the right things while doing things right.”

 

Works Cited

Blair, A. (2010). Information overload, then and now. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 57(15).

Brown, S. (2012). Coping with information obesity: A diet for information professionals. Business Information Review, 29(3), 168-173. doi: 10.1177/0266382112454355

Jackson, M. (2008). Distracted: The erosion of attention and the coming dark age. Amherst, N.Y:     Prometheus Books.

Klingberg, Torkel. The overflowing brain: Information overload and the limits of working memory. Oxford UP, 2009.

Kominiarczuk, N., & Ledzińska, M. (2014). Turn down the noise: Information overload, conscientiousness and their connection to individual well-being. Personality and Individual Differences, 60, S76.

Levitin, D. (2014). The organized mind: Thinking straight in the age of information overload.  Kirkus Reviews, LXXXII 82 (13), 276.

McMurtry, K. (2014). Managing email overload in the workplace. Performance Improvement, 53(7), 31-37

Nordenson, B. (2008). Overload! Columbia Journalism Review, 47(4), 30-42.

Pijpers, G. (2010). Information overload: A system for better managing everyday data. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Strother, J. B., Ulijn, J. M., & Fazal, Z. (2012). Section 2. In Information overload: An international challenge to professional engineers and technical communicators. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Tate, Tyler. Information wayfinding. Jan/Feb2014, Vol. 38 Issue 1, p16-21. Business Information Review, 29(3), 168-173.

Toffler, A. (1970). Future shock. New York: Random House.

 

Book Review

Data is becoming the oil of the information age; a raw material and the foundation of new goods and services. We can tap it because society is rendering into a data format things that never were before. This is the argument presented by Kenneth Cukier and Viktor Mayer-Schönberger in Big Data (2013): A Revolution That Will Transform How we Live, Work and Think

In this book, Mayer-Schönberger and Cukier set out on a quest to elucidate how organizations use the data they collect to solve problems. It includes an overview of the premises, developments, issues and implications. The first half of the book is devoted to discussions around the state of Big Data, the kinds of new insights it’s bringing and the changes it’s making in various industries, while the second studies its risks. The authors provide clever examples how information can be analyzed using different computer models. One that is so popular is Google’s analysis of the 2009 H1N1 virus. With this ground-breaking finding or so it seemed at the time, Google makes the CDC appear incompetent in coming forth with the needed answers to curb a disease that claimed the lives of millions. This appears in several articles including Tim Harford’s Big Data: are we making a big mistake? Harford is of the view that while big data promise much to scientists, entrepreneurs and governments, they are doomed to disappoint us if we ignore some very familiar statistical lessons.

The book grips the reader as the authors provide more and more examples of how raw data can be used to uncover correlations between seemingly unrelated things. With Cukier as the data editor of The Economist; and Mayer-Schönberger, an Oxford professor, there is no doubt that the arguments they put across in their book are based on extensive research. Yet it interesting that Google’s initial success with the H1N1 analyses was short-lived when future predictions of the flu cases were completely skewed.

This questions the accuracy of the author’s findings in Big Data and leaves the reader wondering whether data analysis is as exclusive as posited by the writers. To their credit however, the authors do not fail to point out some of the drawbacks associated with Big Data, most important being the issue of privacy. They bring to bear, the fact that we are under constant monitoring and surveillance, citing examples such as instances when we use credit cards to pay for goods and services, use our cell phones to communicate or use our Social Security numbers to identify ourselves. They continue that other ways we are monitored includes our online shopping, browsing and Social Media habits.

One of the rhetorical questions they pose to the reader is that, if the internet is age threatened privacy, does big data endanger it even more? And that of course is anyone’s guess. In addition to the issue of privacy, they also address tendency of falling victim to a dictatorship of data, where we idolize data collected that we end up misusing it. Handled responsibly, Mayer-Schönberger and Cukier believe that data is a useful tool of rational decision-making. However wielded unwisely, it can become an instrument of the powerful, who may turn it into a source of repression, either by simply frustrating customers and employees or worse, by harming citizens.

As a measure of control, the authors call for a paradigm shift on the part of big data users which will require that they become more accountable for their actions. Society will also have to re-define the very notion of justice and finally, new institutions and professionals will need to underlie big data findings and to advocate for more people who might by harmed by big data.

Overall, this may be one of the best books yet to be written on the subject of Big Data. It leaves the reader with a keen appreciation of the tools that big data can provide in helping us “quantify and understand the world,” it also warns us about falling prey to the “dictatorship of data.”

 

Works Cited:

Harford, Tim. “Big Data: Are We Making a Big Mistake?” Financial Times. March 28 2014. <http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/21a6e7d8-b479-11e3-a09a-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2ziUgQIoH>.

Mayer-Schönberger, V., & Cukier, K. (2013). Big data: A revolution that will transform how we live, work, and think. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcou

Reading Response #5

 

Clay Shirky’s interview, The disruptive power of Collaboration, discusses how technological changes affect generations. He states that when any new change comes along that disrupts the order of the old, he looks out for what he calls, the “collaborative penumbra,” which he decsribes this as a division of labor of some sorts, where one person does not have to do everything. In other words, “having different groups of people working together like studios and still able to play on stage,” rather than having just one person working on a particular project.

He compares today’s world of overbundance, to the a previous world where demand created supply and bemoans, that kind of world does not exist anymore. He blames the Internet for “ripping the guts” out of the scarcity model when it comes to information as he comes to the realization that “abundance does in fact, breaks more things than scarcity.”

He goes on to say that, real social change happens when something that used to be of value, becomes so cheap that it is not worth metering anymore, and that when communication becomes so abundant globally, it might as well be free. As result of this, new companies end up wiping out the profits of old companies by creating a world of abundant resources and scarce profits.

On creating success from failure, he is of the view that, things just don’t become successful at the first try. They become successful after a series of course corrections. By citing examples using Wikipedia, which stemmed out of the original Nupedia and Twitter being the by-product of Odeo, Shirky concludes that, “when we look around at the landscape of really big successes, very often what we see is that the course correction turned out to be more important than the initial direction.”

In Žižek, plagiarism and the lowering of expectations, Phelps idolizes Žižek as a superhuman genius based on his depth of knowledge until he found out Žižek was accused of plagiarism for an article he published in 2006. He described his disappointment as the kind one experiences after learning of the infidelity of a partner. By the same token, Phelps also somewhat exonerates Žižek, citing the challenges of keeping up with a rigorous intellectual schedule like his’. As if to justify Žižek, Phelps goes on to say that, plagiarism often depends on the work of others as was the case in Žižek’s.

In a response to the accusations leveled against him, Žižek regrettably admits that his material was based on information he took from a friend’s resume. His friend had told him to use this information freely not knowing that this information was borrowed from someone else’s work. Žižek’s alibi unfortunately does not hold water. Many still found it dishonest and unconvincing.

Phelps goes to bat for Žižek by referencing the fact that, it does require a lot to be a scholar and to produce scholarly work. Perhaps, due in part to the challenge he himself faces as a scholar. What he however found unsatisfying was not Žižek’s excuse but rather, what seemed to be the over-reliance on someone else’s work. He suggests that the least Žižek could have done in this case was to cite the source. But also points out that Žižek would have still been criticized for a lack of originality- a double edged sword it seems.

In referring to the balancing act when it comes to citations, Phelps asserts that scholars rely on “secondary sources” all the time without necessarily citing them. Yet, he makes it clear he is not trying to defend Žižek, neither is he advocating for plagiarism. He concludes by saying that, we need to understand the production of scholarship and perhaps, lower our expectations a bit since “we are all mere mortals.”

Phelps’ argument appears equivocal, at least to me. While he believes his icon, Žižek committed an act of infringement; he calls for pardon against him. In spite of the charges of plagiarism leveled against him, Phelps still admires Žižek and finds value in his work albeit with a grain of salt.

 

Bibliography

Phelps, Hollis. “Žižek, Plagiarism and the Lowering of Expectations.” Inside Higher Education. July 17 2014.Web. <https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2014/07/17/%C5%BEi%C5%BEek-plagiarism-and-lowering-expectations-essay>.

“The disruptive power of collaboration: An interview with Clay Shirky.” McKinsey & Company. March 2014. <http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/high_tech_telecoms_internet/The_disruptive_power_of_collaboration_An_interview_with_Clay_Shirky?cid=other-eml-alt-mip-mck-oth-1403>.

Literature Review

 

Fred Gatty

Knowledge Management

Literature Review

September 27, 2014

Is Information Overload in the Workplace Affecting Our Health?

The shift from what used to be a traditional industry to what is now known as the information or digitized age has undoubtedly revolutionized the world. In today’s knowledge-based society, we are surrounded by a high-tech global economy that allows individuals the flexibility of ‘simplifying’ their lives by providing unrestricted access to information. Advances in computer technology and the rise of the internet have led to an onslaught of information confronting today’s professionals in the workplace each day. This evolution has and continues to shape modern society.

 

Along with these great benefits, however, come some challenges. Shrouded in all of this, is a subtle enemy called ‘Information Overload.’ The first recorded use of the phrase ‘Information Overload,’ was by the futurologist Alvin Toffler in his bestselling 1970 book, Future Shock, in which he predicted that the rapidly increasing amounts of information being produced would eventually cause people problems (p. 240-241)

 

Toffler’s prediction over thirty years ago has been validated by several writers including Torkel Klingberg in his book, The Overflowing Brain: Information Overload and the Limits of Working Memory (2009). He asserts that as advances in information technology and communication supply us with information at an ever accelerating rate, the limitations of our brains become all the more obvious (p.93-94). In a survey of workplaces in the United States, Klingberg adds that personnel were interrupted and distracted roughly every three minutes and that people working on computers had on average eight windows open at a time.

 

This argument is further corroborated by neuroscientist, Daniel Levitin in his book, The organized mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload. Levitin asserts that, while our brains evolved to take on the daunting challenges of life in the Stone Age, they now have many redundant, maladaptive, and not quite finished features that clash with the huge demands placed on our attention by the modern world (p.276).

 

Yet, some pundits like Guus Pijpers on the other hand, confront this view differently. In his book, Information Overload: A System for Better Managing Everyday Data (2010), Pijpers challenges this notion by stating that, one is overloaded only to the extent that they wish to be overloaded (p.31). This raises the question whether perceptions of ‘Information Overload’ are related to the quantity or to the quality of the information received. By comparing ‘Information Overload’ to drinking too much water, Pijpers argues that one cannot receive too much information and that what people mean is that they do not have the capacity at that moment to process all of the information to the argument.

 

“Where Social media fit into all of this?” One may ask. In the article, The Stress Potential of Social Media in the Workplace, Information, Communication & Society (2010), by Elaine Bucher, Christian Fieseler, and Anne Suphan, they postulate that, Social media is another way we get inundated with information. While they acknowledge that Social media has enriched the communication profession with new and immediate ways of stakeholder interaction, they also draw attention to the fact that, along with new possibilities also come challenges. And as professionals in today’s workplace engage in real-time conversation with their audiences on Facebook, Twitter, Instant Messaging, emails and the like, they also have to learn to mentally cope with the incessant supply of information, with an invasion of work matters into their personal lives and with changing work contents and structures.

 

While the ease with which information can be obtained may be a boon in today’s dynamic work environment, professionals cannot afford to be oblivious to the negative health impacts of ‘Information Overload.’ We may become more efficient and effective but we should ensure that when we get to the top of the corporate ladder, our sanity would still be intact.

 

Works Cited

Klingberg, Torkel. The overflowing brain: information overload and the limits of working memory. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009.

Levitin, D. J. (2014). The organized mind: Thinking straight in the age of information overload. Pijpers, G. (2010). Information overload: A system for better managing everyday data. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Toffler, A. (1970). Future shock New York: Random House

Reading response #4

Fred Gatty

KM Reading Response 4

September 25, 2014

 

Big Data takes a bashing from pundits who believe that the information collected is not always accurate. Referencing the ephemeral success of Google’s Flu Trends report, excited journalists started challenging the importance of scientific data. Especially since it took Google only a few days to collate report findings on Flu cases versus several days for the CDC.

The article also references Big Data’s four articles of faith resulting from the success of Google Flu Trend analysis that data analysis provides uncannily accurate results, that every single data point can be captured, old statistical data are obsolete and that, it is practically useless to fret about issues of causation because statistical correlation tells us what we need to know.

The articles of faith attract the wrath of critics, including Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk at Cambridge University, David Speiegelhalter, who calls it “absolute nonsense.” Google’s reputation for producing near accurate results based on Big Data became flawed when subsequent analyses of flu reports released by the CDC, showed gross representations on the part of Google. This was due to the fact that they could not tell what linked search terms with the spread of flu. Their Engineers were myopic in their approach of only finding statistical patterns,  representing an issue of correlation instead of causation.

The article underscores the fact that, while data are bigger, faster and cheaper, they are not entirely fool-proof as the likes of Google make us believe. Size, it continues, is not everything. What people want is not necessarily ‘data’ but instead, valid answers. The article concludes that “Big Data” may have arrived but big insights have not.

Google takes another jab at its corporate image in the article, What is ‘Evil’ to Google? Citing what seems to be an ethics violation as a result of the plans to attach its customers name and likeness to advertisements across its products without their permission, the tech giant coined the slogan, “Don’t be Evil,” a part of its code of conduct. Google may have dug a hole for itself here with this bold statement. Critics are trying to understand what ‘Evil’ means to Google.

Perhaps ‘Evil’ to Google has nothing to do with corruption in the strictest sense of the word the article says. But rather, a disruption of its computational progress. Google draws attention to itself by what seems to be an over simplification of its code of conduct shrouded in three words, “Don’t be evil.” Interestingly, the phrase was aimed at its competitors, whom they felt were exploiting other users. Sadly this is coming back to bite them.

Former CEO Eric Schmidt, in an interview with NPR alludes that, the slogan is a way to keep the company in ‘check.’ It appears that there is a lot more to the meaning of ‘evil’ to Google, than meets the eye. While the author tries to play down on the severity of Google’s evil by linking it to computer related issues that inhibits their progress, he also admits that they have bureaucracy issues. The author’s quest of breaking Google’s evil spell leads down a rather twisty path of assumption.

It ends that, the disconnection arises from our failure to understand ‘evil’ as a colloquialism rather than a moral issue. My inference from the writer’s point is that, ‘evil’ is perceptive and for Google it may have been an engineering impediment as described by Eric Schmidt. The greatest evil he adds, is failing to engineer an effective implementation of its vision.

The last article, Are we Getting Privacy the Wrong way, addresses the double standards of privacy. It refers to the Mill test of whether coercion is justified to prevent harm. On one hand, it is okay for people to make whatever decision they feel right regardless of the repercussion. On the other hand, it specifies a space for decisional privacy.

Then comes the argument as to whether there is any such thing as real privacy? As maintained by Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg, people have moved from documenting their lives to actually living them online. Furthermore, the argument continues that the only real defense against third-part data mining is to cease to be online. There also seems to be the dichotomy of wanting to be noticed versus the desire to remain private, in that the distinction between private life and public life is diminishing very quickly. The desire to be ‘always on’ brings up the issue of whether privacy really exists anymore.

The writer presents a word of caution that in our get-over-it world, a young person who wishes to become a nation’s president or prime minister in the future, better start planning now. Big Data also gets some positive attention this time around, that there is enormous good to be had from it. Albeit, there is a need for greater transparency so people are aware of how data about them is used. Ultimately, responsibility rests with us.

 

 

Bibliography

Bogost, Ian. “What Is ‘Evil’ to Google?” The Atlantic. October 15 2013. <http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/10/what-is-evil-to-google/280573/>.

Harford, Tim. “Big Data: Are We Making a Big Mistake?” Financial Times. March 28 2014. <http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/21a6e7d8-b479-11e3-a09a-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2ziUgQIoH>.

O’Hara, Kieron. “Are we Getting Privacy the Wrong Way Round?” IEEE Internet Computing 17.4 (2013): 89-92. http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?tp=&arnumber=6547595.

Annotated Bibliography

Fred Gatty

Knowledge Management

Annotated Bibliography

September 20, 2014

 

Is Information Overload in the Workplace Affecting our Health?

Bucher, Eliane, Christian Fieseler, and Anne Suphan. “The Stress Potential of Social Media in the Workplace.” Information, communication & society 16.10 (2013): 1639-667.

 

The writers in this article postulate that, with the unrestricted access to Social media, we can get inundated with too much information. While they acknowledge that social media have enriched the communication profession with new and immediate ways of stakeholder interaction, they also draw attention to the fact that, along with new possibilities also come challenges.

As professionals in today’s workplace engage in real-time conversation with their audiences on Facebook, Twitter, Instant Messaging, emails and the like, they also have to learn to mentally cope with the incessant supply of information, invasion of work matters into their personal lives and with changing work contents and structures.

The writers take an objective look at Social media as they address both the pros and cons that characterize their usage at work. This will serve as a good example of how Social media in particular can also have a negative health impact in the workplace.

 

Klingberg, Torkel. The Overflowing Brain: Information Overload and the Limits of Working Memory. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009. Pg 93-94.

 

In his book, The Overflowing Brain: Information Overload and the Limits of Working Memory, author Torkel Klingberg asserts that our brains have limited capacity for processing information. He continues that as advances in information technology and communication supply us with information at an ever accelerating rate, the limitations of our brains become all the more obvious. In a survey of workplaces in the United States, Klingsberg adds that, personnel were interrupted and distracted roughly every three minutes and that people working on computers, had on average, eight windows open at a time. This makes it very challenging to maintain focus and remain productive.

In referencing an article by psychiatrist Edward Hallowell entitled, “Overload Circuits: Why Smart People Underperform,” Hallowell coins the term, “attention deficit trait” to characterize a description of the mental state that information technology, a faster pace and changing work patterns have induced, citing symptoms such as difficulty sustaining attention, organizing tasks, distractions and forgetful in daily activities. This scientific perspective will bolster my argument that Information Overload in the workplace has a tendency to take a toll on health.

 

Grunwald, M. (2014). I. The Second Age of Reason. (Cover story). Time, 184(9/10), 36-39.

 

Michael Grunwald challenges this dialectic. In his article, The Second Age of Reason, he challenges the validity of Information Overload by stating that the easy access to information makes it easy for instance, to know what is happening in Ukraine, the price of soybean features, the best temperature to grill burgers or the best deal on a new laptop almost instantaneously. Grunwald believes we are living in a golden age of answers and it is awesome.

He is also quick to add that in spite of all the advantages, the over-supply of information “can pose privacy issues, be misleading, distracting or dumb.” Nevertheless, all these inconveniences, as he calls them, are small prices to pay for infinite information we are able to access. I love the fact that Grunwald looks at this issue from both angles. While he remains sold on the idea that, the benefits of having easy access to information far outweighs its disadvantages, he does address some of the challenges that Information Overload presents. Grunwald’s view will serve as good counterargument (They say/ I say).

 

McMurtry, K. (2014). Managing email overload in the workplace. Performance Improvement, 53(7), 31-37

 

In his article, Kim Mc Murtry addresses the effects of Information Overload in the workplace but narrows his focus on email. His view is that, email overload is significant because of its importance to the health and well-being of the modern knowledge worker. He adds that communication via email has become a primary tool in the modern workplace, citing advantages such as its ease of use and speed of delivery.   These advantages, he continues, contribute to a high volume of messages sent and received daily. In addition, the accessibility to email from mobile devices and home computers can blur the line between work and personal life and thus extend the workday.

The adverse effects of email overload he adds, include feelings of isolation, anxiety, and loss of control; longer workdays; faster pace of work; task fragmentation; and even what he calls, email addiction. Using email as an example will resonate with a broader group since many of professionals use email as a means of communication in the workplace.

 

Pijpers, G. (2010). 2.8. Information overload: A system for better managing everyday data (p. 31). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley

 

Guus Pijpers presents an excellent argument in his book, Information Overload: A System for Better Managing Everyday Data that, one is overloaded only to the extent that one wishes to be overloaded. This raises the question whether perceptions of information overload are related to the quantity or to the quality of the information received. He compares Information Overload to drinking too much water and insists that, one cannot receive too much information. He also believes that, what people actually mean by having too much information is that they do not have the capacity at that moment, to process all of the information.

While I agree that there is some logic in Pijper’s explanation, the very fact that people do not have the capacity to process all the information at any given moment, forms the basis of the argument. People can only handle so much information at a time an when there is no more capacity to do so, it becomes an issue of Information Overload. Pijpers’ viewpoint will serve as a very good “They say/I say” approach for my research paper.

 

Kominiarczuk, N., & Ledzińska, M. (2014). Turn down the noise: Information overload, conscientiousness and their connection to individual well-being. Personality and Individual Differences, 60, S76.

 

The writers, both San Francisco State University professors, posit in this article that people with a high level of information overload would experience lowered well-being, adding that, “the unlimited access to information causes the experience of feeling burdened by the large amounts of information we are exposed to.” They base their argument on previous research (Misra and Stokols, 2012), which found links between information overload and poor physical health, high perceived stress and poor memory recall, amongst others. They arrived at the conclusion that the more information one receives, the more stressed they become. The research data provided by the writers, serve as valuable information to corroborate my argument.

 

Brown, S. (2012). Coping with information obesity: A diet for information professionals. Business Information Review, 29(3), 168-173.

 

In the article, Coping with information Obesity: A diet for information professionals, the author examines causes, such as information overload, and additional factors that make information professionals prone to information obesity. The article concludes with practical and philosophical suggestions for preventing and coping with information obesity, and an overview of ideas around the concept of ‘slow information’. He defines information obesity as a “failure to turn information into knowledge, and thus use it to sustain our minds, bodies, lives and communities.” What I believe Brown is stating with his analogy is that, just as too much food has the tendency to make a person obese, too much information can in fact also have a negative impact on professionals in the workplace.

 

O’Callaghan, T. (2014). It’s all too much! New Scientist, 223(2982), 26-27.

 

Tiffany O’ Callagan in her article, It’s all too much, references an interview with neuroscientist Daniel Levitin. When asked if humans are living in an age of too much information, Levitin cites the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska as an example of what happens when people are overworked, sleep deprived, over tasked and have exceeded their limits of attention capacity. When information comes in faster than we can process, Levine adds that attention then becomes a limited source. The expectations of bosses, co-workers, friends and family are greater now than they were before, making the amount of information we have to negotiate daily, overwhelming. Referencing the Exxon Valdez oil spill serves as dramatic example for this research.

 

Tate, Tyler. Information wayfinding. Jan/Feb2014, Vol. 38 Issue 1, p16-21. 6p.

 

Tyler Tate makes no qualms about the fact that, “we are drowning in information.” At home we sift through millions of products, recipes, and films to help us decide what to buy, what to eat and watch. In the workplace, we search through innumerable, emails, web pages, documents and structured data as we look for solutions to business and research problems. As more data surrounds, us we find ourselves growing in a state of “information anxiety,” he calls it. In describing this condition, Social scientist Herbert Simon adds, “A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and there is a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the over-abundance of information sources that might consume it.”

 

Nordenson, B. (2008). Overload! Columbia Journalism Review, 47(4), 30-32, 35-37, 40, 42.

 

Bree Nordenson is of the view that the idea that news consumers, even young ones, are overloaded should hardly come as a surprise. The information age is defined by output: we produce far more information than we can possibly manage, let alone absorb. Before the digital era, information was limited by our means to contain it. Publishing was restricted by paper and delivery costs; broadcasting was circumscribed by available frequencies and airtime.

The Internet, on the other hand, has unlimited capacity at near-zero cost. Ours is a culture of multitasking, of cramming as many activities as possible into as short a period of time as possible. We drive and talk on our cell phones, check e-mail during meetings and presentations, eat dinner while watching TV. In part, says Maggie Jackson, author of Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age, such multitasking “is part of a wider value system that venerates speed, frenetic activity, hyper-mobility, etc., as the paths to success. That’s why we’re willing to drive like drunks or work in frenzied ways, although it literally might kill us.” While multi-tasking has become a prerequisite in today’s fast paced working environment, it can also have some drawbacks. Bree’s viewpoints will help further corroborate my overall argument that Information Overload in the work place, can in fact negatively impact overall health.

DSL- Thoughts on Findings

The Digital Scholarship Lab is full of valuable insights. I love the fact that that one is able to view a digital atlas, which provides animation and allows for the ability to click and view additional information.

I spent time on the Visualizing Emancipation section- This section shows an interactive map featuring slavery’s end during the American Civil War. It provides an in depth analysis into the trans-Atlantic Slave trade including when, where and how slavery fell apart during the American Civil War. This definitely brought to life my knowledge about the Slave Trade.

The Digital Atlas also provides a digitized Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States. Of particular interest, was the detailed timeline of presidential elections dating back to the 1700s. This definitely saves a lot of time on researching all the information. The animation makes it really easy to focus on a particular election year for specific information– very intriguing!

The interactive map provides more detail about the events, Union Army locations and Legality of Slavery Overlay. One is able to click on specific times for more information as well. Reviewing the Digital Scholarship Lab underscores the importance of the Dr. Ayer’s article on Digital Scholars and the need to have more scholars embrace this concept.