Topic 3: INFORMATION OVERLOAD AND ITS CAUSES

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What is Information Overload?
Being faced with more information than one can effectively process.
What are the 2 perspectives on information overload?
1. A failure to filter information.
2. There is too much information.
What are the 3 types of Information Overload?
1) Task‐related: otherwise known as 'work overload'.
2) Message: resulting from communication (email in particular).
3) Media: media messages across many outlets (sources of information).
What is Message Overload?
An abundance of (email) messages; and with each a new task to be performed, can be:
-informational only (for immediate use or not).
-invoke a specific response or task.
What are some problems that arise from Message Overload?
1) We may fall behind in responding to messages, as well as feel overwhelmed in processing the messages as well as tasks related to properly processing the messages.
2) they are often interrupt activity and divert attention (Otherwise known as interruption). The multitasking of activities contributes to a feeling of overload.
What is Media Overload?
-Too much choice of media content and notifications (messages) inviting even more consumption of content.
-The number of sources continue to increase: there is an over supply of content and channels in contemporary media:
• Channels: television, radio, the Internet, mobile apps ...
• Content: Facebook, music, games, movies, lifestyle, infotainment sites, news, news blogs and Twitter feeds ...
What are the causes of Information Overload?
-People
-Technology
-The organisation
-Process/tasks
-Information Attributes
How do people cause information overload?
Caused when capacity is reached in information consumption, because of:
Limitations in the individual's information‐processing capacity
Decision scope and resulting documentation needs, including comprehension (i.e. you can't understand the available information). This may be due to the use of jargon and complexity.
Senders screen outgoing information insufficiently.
Users adapt too slowly to new technological development.
Social communication barriers break down (we are not talking anymore!).
Motivation, attitude, satisfaction, Personal traits (experience, skills, ideology, age).
Personal situation (time of the day, noise, temperature, amount of sleep).
Our addiction to information is made easier in our online world. Computers are seen as a
psycho stimulant, and some of us develop additive behaviour to this stimulant.
How does technology cause information overload?
-push systems, email, intranet, extranet, Internet.
-rise in number of television channels.
-various distribution channels for the same content
-Vast storage capacity of the systems.
-Low duplication costs.
-Speed of access.
-Vast quantities of information.
How do organisations cause information overload?
-Interdisciplinary work (when work is done with outsiders).
-Collaborative work (working in teams).
-Centralisation of departments causing bottle necks or disintermediation (when information searching is done by end‐users rather than by information professionals).
-Accumulation of information to demonstrate power.
-Group heterogeneity (different viewpoints and experts).
-Adapting to dynamic environments, means intensive communication and information processing.
How do processes and tasks cause information overload?
-The more complex a task, the greater the information load and time required to complete it.
-Tasks are less routine.
-Complexity of tasks and task interdependencies.
-Time pressure.
-Task interruptions for complex tasks.
-Too many, too detailed standards (in accounting)
-Simultaneous input of information into the process.
-Innovations evolve rapidly: shortened life cycle.
-Interdisciplinary work.
How do information attributes cause information overloads?
-Volume of information increases.
-Uncertainty of information (info needed vs. info available).
-Diversity of information and number of alternatives increase.
-Ambiguity of information.
-Novelty, Complexity, Intensity of information.
-Dimensions of information increase.
-Information quality and value (Accuracy).
-Overabundance of irrelevant information.
What are the societal causes of Information Overload?
-Changing practices of producing, transmitting, storing, and consuming information, which are predominately driven by recent developments in ICT.
-Transformations in the workplace, due to larger changes in culture and society such as globalisation and economic restructuring.
-Contemporary society is centred on individual choice and opportunity.
-Loss of social breadth: there is a limit to the number of friends and the amount of information we can manage from them. Dunbar's number estimates the total number of relationships we can manage is around 150.
-Distorted sense of reality: on social media we join groups that bring us news we agree with. We join friendship groups that support our point of view.
-Brand Loyalty: technology and market branding has lead to two main players :Apple and Google (phones) and Apple and PC (computers).
-Poor sense of time: Whenever we get a new email, SMS or other notification, our bodies release dopamine. Dopamine can distort our sense of time.
-Poor attention span: Our ability to focus and sustain attention is diminished by the increasing number of interruptions and distractions online.
How has information and information overload evolved?
-Information overload did not exist in the early civilisations of the world because information was sparse.
-Nomadic tribes developed symbols to help with organisation; 10,000 years ago the Calendar was developed to assist with planting of seasonal crops. Nomadic tribes became less transient and turned into civilisations.
-Sumerians and Egyptians used glyphs (a glyph is a graphic symbol that provides the appearance or form for a character) for currency around 6,000 years ago. Egyptians soon afterwards started an alphabet. As a result, were able to complete large engineering tasks.
-Scribes were the only group to write on tablets.
-13th Century: The invention of paper and writing tools (woodblock printing and the pen) facilitated easy documentation of information and lead to an arduous quest for knowledge.
-Invention of the printing press (1436) and establishment of first library (1598) in England. Literacy spread as books were now plentiful and could be acquired by any wealthy person (not
limited to ruling families and the religious).
-Age of the Renaissance (1400s to late 1600s). It was now easier to disseminate scientific, literacy and visual works; and this communication could now be mass‐produced!
-The industrial revolution ‐ spread of technologies that transforms life at home and work in the 18th and 19th century.
-First Copyright laws and encyclopaedias.
-American civil war sparked a demand for news.
-AP (Associated Press) was founded to address the costs involved in collecting news via telegraph.
-Pencils were mass produced with erasers. A portable tool to help more people record information.
-The 1900s were characterised by new media such as media, film and
television. The dominant source of news became mass media.
-1915: start of the modern movie industry with 'The Birth of a Nation".
-1923: Time magazine was first published so that " busy men could stay informed". It was the first publication to summarise and organise news.
• 1945: scientist Vannevar Bush envisioned the memex, capable of organising human knowledge by storing, navigating and annotating information.
-1960s to 1994: The internet was initiated by US, due to government funding.
-1989: The fall of the Berlin wall. Ended the cold war and led to the fall of communism in Europe and Russia. Worldwide balance of power was now towards democracies and free markets, hence
leading to a free flow of information.
-Internet boom and information explosion of the 1990s.
-1991: The internet debut as a public service. New era of work and play, people could work from home, enabled greater business efficiencies and social exchanges.
-1998: Google launched. The search engine used links to determine the importance of web pages. It was named after a play on the word "Googol" - which is a mathematical term for 1 followed by 100 zeroes.
-Data Deluge and Information Overload in the 21st century digital age.
-2004: Facebook launched. Transformed from a' dorm‐room novelty ' to a massive company.
-2005:YouTube launched. Anyone with an internet connection could post a video in minutes for the whole world to watch.
-Twitter launched. "Although Twitter has helped open exchange of information, most users complain that it contributes to rising expectations to keep up with information".
-2011: Mobile phone use for information seeking and communication is increasing, particularly as users can get information they need right away.
What are the costs and consequences of information overload?
-Organisation specific symptoms such as poor decision making, persistent reinvention of the wheel, failed search, lost opportunities and the need to scan.
-Stress and physical health problems.
-Societal problems: such as loss of social breadth, distorted sense of reality, decimated work‐life balance, including Internet addiction.
How does poor decision making from an organisational perspective, cause information overload?
-1) too little information, 2) too much information, and 3) the best information cannot be found.
-Information arrives from various sources (email, voicemail, phone calls, social networks) which makes it hard to keep up. This phenomena makes it
difficult to see connections and 'nuggets' of quality information.
-The sheer volume of information obscures important information.
-Delay in decision making due to uncertainty as to whether or when someone will answer an e‐mail or phone message. They too may be suffering from information overload!
-It is important for companies to limit: can have consequences on their competitive advantage and capabilities
How does poor decision making from an psychological perspective, cause information overload?
1)Total failure to decide. When provided with more options, people either choose the lowest quality option or no option at all.
2) Many diminishing returns. The more information we collect, the less satisfied with the decision and the decision is more likely to be regrettable. We have difficulty in managing more than 7 things in working memory, and the 'ceaseless influx of information trains us to respond instantly': relating to why we are trained that a quick decision is better than a well thought out decision.
3) Recency trumps Quality. Our brain tends to notice changes over stasis (standing still). We are trained to give weight to the latest information,
not necessarily the most important or interesting.
4) The neglected unconscious. Creative decisions are best made under unconscious thought, rather than analytically. This allows the brain to subconsciously integrate new information
and make connections and see hidden patterns. However, if the information is too complex, decision making will default to the conscious system since the unconscious mind works
best by ignoring information.When we are inundated by information, our minds struggle to decided if we can ignore pieces of information.
Why do we need to scan?
-reading just enough to decide whether to
skip or continue reading the information.
-Knowledge workers scan information because they are under great time pressure to absorb vast amounts of information across many sources.
What problems can arise from scanning?
-can result in missed information and poor retention of information.
-When people attempt multiple activities at the one time, attention is spread across different tasks, otherwise known as time slicing (act of
rapidly switching between tasks).
-We can struggle with trying to keep up with multiple trains of thought.
How can information overload be bad for our health?
-knowledge workers to spend more time in
front of a computer or portable devices (i.e. tablets, smartphones, multiple devices).
-The most common complaints to computer related work are: eyestrain (17%), back pain (16%), carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches and poor circulation.
-Evidence of "Email Apnoea". When checking and reading email, studies have shown we can stop breathing or our breath is more shallow.
-Relationship to ADHD is unclear, though not able to focus on one thing and multiple demands on our attention certainly exacerbates the condition.
- Stress can lead to:
1) physical problems (cardio‐vascular and immunity from disease).
2) leads to a loss of productivity, due to compulsive WEB browsing, constant
lack of time, feeling of urgency and a pervasive fear that we are about to be overwhelmed by the very material we need to master in order to professionally function in this world.
-An overflowing inbox creates stress/anxiety over when the next email will arrive, whether the response was timely enough, and what e‐mail messages are piling up when the knowledge worker is not at work.
-Low Work-Life Balance.
How is their a financial cost for organisations, from not addressing information overload?
-Lost work time or reduced employee efficiency.
-Reduced intellectual property (IP) generation.
-Cost of errors, or quality issues.
-Job dissatisfaction, leading to burnout and/or undesired turnover.
How do we evaluate the importance of a piece of information?
-If we know or trust the source of the information (i.e. the person or organisation), then the value is embedded in the relationship.
-If the relationship is unknown, then the value of the information is given by its delivery mode.