Thursday, April 08, 2004

Surviving info explosion: Journalism, blogs, and workplace learning

Journalism and T&D both ride the same wave. Both try to gain clarity in their field of knowledge, which is an increasingly difficult thing to do. The explosion of knowledge (yes, much of it junk info) is a phenomenon that trainers, learners, and journalists have to find ways to filter. Learners often turn to trainers to help them stay ahead of their game, not only in providing relevant raw knowledge but also in helping to learn how to apply it in the development of skills.

The information explosion is not a myth. According to a UC Berkley study published last year, more information has been produced in the past five years than in the total of all of previous human history. An Exabyte is a billion Gigabytes. We produced 23 Exabytes of new information in 2002 -- double that produced three years earlier. That's 3.6 Gigabytes per person per year. Much of it is fog, much is ephemeral and never stored, and a big chunk of it (400,000 Terabytes in 2002, or 40 times the Library of Congress print collection) is in e-mail, and nearly as much again is in Instant Messaging. Even looking at more 'solid' information (that actually stored in some medium or other), in 2002 we produced 800 Megabytes per member of the human race.

While blogs add to the fog, many also cut through it. Journalists are supposed to highlight relevant important information, provide analysis and tell us what it means, and (sometimes) what we should do about it or how we can apply it. Trainers, in a corporate world beset by rolling change, are often expected to play a similar role. I wonder, though, about the role of educators. Should not one of our educational priorities be to teach people how to deal with this information explosion, how to learn at an accelerating pace for life? Or should we be teaching people to STOP PRODUCING ALL THIS STUFF.

As an aside, and not wishing to be too Zen, if I write a blog and nobody reads it, does it really exist as information?

I'm going to buy stock in Johnson & Johnson, or whoever it is that makes Tylenol.

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