In the article Information Overload, Then and Now, Ann Blair explains that complaints of information overload began two thousand years ago, when people began preserving information through writing . She explains the joy and frustrations created in earlier times in this way: “Writing on durable surfaces (like parchment or paper), with a high level of redundancy (when multiple copies were produced, whether manuscript or printed), also made it possible to recover texts after they had fallen into oblivion, so that being in continuous active use was no longer essential to a text’s transmission, as is the case in an oral culture.”
Information overload in older times included the complication of searching for and finding relevant information. Blair notes the range of history from note-taking, informally collecting information through note-taking and formally storing information alphabetically and using indexing, organization methods within books to make the information more accessible and use of bibliographies. The article ends with a caution to build on what we’ve learned about storing and collecting information as we continue to store, collect and access information in electronic formats.
The issues raised in the article are magnified now that individuals can search using search engines such as Google, can store that information on their own and other computers, can add to that information through online mechanisms such as wikipedia and can create mashups that take data (regardless of its format) and manipulate it quickly to create new materials.
As we adopt methods to implement disruptive transformational change in teaching and learning, we must remain mindful of the tension between the traditions of knowledge that have served us well and the need to help learners filter through massive amounts of information available at their fingertips. In teaching, that involves, in part, helping students manage information literacy, or the ability to review information to determine its credibility. At the same time, change often occurs through innovation and mashups and using other web 2.0 tools can help create that change. Educators continue to struggle to figure out the best way to accomplish that balance.