Thursday, February 7, 2008

Information overload
Information overload (aka information flood) is a term that is usually used in conjunction with various forms of Computer-mediated communication such as Electronic mail. It refers to the state of having too much information to make a decision or remain informed about a topic. Large amounts of historical information to dig through, a high rate of new information being added, contradictions in available information, and a low signal-to-noise ratio make it difficult to identify what information is relevant to the decision. The lack of a method for comparing and processing different kinds of information can also contribute to this effect. A recent article in the New Scientist claimed that exposing individuals to an information overloaded environment resulted in lower IQ scores than exposing individuals to marijuana, although these results are contested. The same article also notes that a night without sleep can be as debilitating as over-exposure to information. The term was coined in 1970 by Alvin Toffler in his book Future Shock.
Information overload is a problem for pilots of fighter aircraft and attack helicopters, as they have to process large amounts of information and make decisions within split seconds.
Related to academic disciplines, chaos, and improving channels for conveying data from one place to another (such as writing, printing, sound and image recording, storage and global networks of broadcasting and communication channels).
A similar term "information pollution" seems to have been coined by Jakob Nielsen and more recently the term "interruption overload" has begun to appear in newspapers such as the Financial Times.

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