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Knowledge Overload

The information cycle – creation, dissemination, validation, sharing, re-creation – has been altered. It is more open, more participatory, and less under the control of distributors (such as journals, newspapers, and mainstream media). Higher education has been slow to understand this shift. We are, after all, the experts. Others will turn to us when they need answer. Or not. The big lesson of wikipedia is that people desire access to reasonable quality of information (even when it is likely to contain errors and has not been vetted by experts) as much as they desire expert-vetted information. Ken Coates recognizes this shift (though I disagree with his call for controlling scholarly input – my view: publish it all. Instead of assigning intelligence in advance of publishing, assign intelligence at the point of search and discovery. The solution will be found in better tools.):

We have collectively created the equivalent of an academic monsoon over the past three decades, with no change in the forecast for the coming years. Without a major reconsideration of how we share and use information, how we keep up with the field, and how we recognize academic accomplishment, we will continue to add to the floodwaters, all the while spending less attention on whether or not anyone reads our work, listens to our presentations, or appreciates our professional contributions.

And, somewhat related, a presentation on promoting your academic research online through blogging. Had to chuckle at this comment: “I started up a blog and all I got was five invites to give keynotes, ten new collaborators, introduction to new funding bodies, an interview in Nature, an invite to scifoo, three papers…and a couple of t-shirts.”


  1. Ken Allan wrote:

    Kia ora George!

    Coates mentions “the past three decades”. Knowledge overload goes back further than that. It’s just that some of us either can’t remember or haven’t been on the planet long enough to have the memory of it.

    There has been ‘Knowledge Overload” ever since printing became an industrially automated process. The academic monsoon that was raging mid 20th century has not convinced many of the worth of the expert simply because experts can differ in their opinion as much as anyone else can.

    In fact, reading their work is often more likely to confuse than elucidate because of this diversity.

    And I’m not knocking diversity.

    We have entered the age of discerning, when it is now more important to develop the skills of weighing up what is important to our life/family/interest/job/mission/research/earnings/future/area/town/nation.

    We have had a long apprenticeship. It’s just that many have not taken advantage of the opportunity there has been, in abundance, to learn the skills now necessary to cope with the new knowledge environment.

    Even the educated are left reeling with infowhelm, not to say too much about technowhelm. The lesser educated are, as always, blissful in their view of it all.

    Catchya later
    from Middle-earth

    Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 3:59 pm | Permalink
  2. Howard wrote:

    I like Kathleen Rickter’s idea of an extensible brain ( ) or maybe an extensible tool for cognition, one that is paradigm neutral and supports cognition for understanding (reading) and for thinking (writing).

    Friday, March 27, 2009 at 8:31 am | Permalink
  3. Family, parent, and student demographics are radically and rapidly changing and there is no better place to see these shifts than in education. Even among the smallest children and youngest families, social and intellectual capital are becoming large economic drivers and intensifying competition in the highest most academic arenas, and the accelerant of this drive as well as most everything else that is shifting the paradigm of global culture is technology. This ultimately will prove that the new education will be to release human creativity, ingenuity and invention to prepare for jobs that are currently non –existent and may not even exist while one is being educated, to maintain a sense of social equality and equilibrium that is not currently felt within the global society as a whole, and to empower the students of the future to embrace improvement over the tawdry ideals that have entangled themselves to the ideology that has rendered itself the status quo but that is rigorously pleading to be redefined. It is quite possible that the new status quo will be a constant state of improvement and not static at all. In education this is already seen in the more assertive roles that parents are taking in school matters and the redefining of student –centered education to actually include the desires of the students and families and not to be a marketing slogan that is quite deceptive at its core. The model that Story and Tebes present is four-fold and is crafted into quadrants by separating ethics. Quadrant 1 presents an understanding of the Ethic of Justice. This ethic is supported by a paradigm that suggests that focus is given to the incremental procedures that have helped to establish laws in other areas that have helped to establish the sovereign equity that defines an American’s civil rights and liberties. It is here that one can see the need for hearing and reviews of policies to counteract however incrementally the injustices that are occurring in the distance educational arena. The fact of the matter remains that there are virtually no online activities that guarantee an absolute right of privacy. This type of demographical shift in the virtualized educational world is a great example of needs that currently exist and will continue to exist on a personal and professional level with in the context of studying and analyzing the future of the classroom in respect to the Internet.

    Friday, April 3, 2009 at 4:43 pm | Permalink