Information Obesity

Information Obesity was the title of a keynote presentation that I made in 2004, at the Online Information conference in London. It was a tongue-in-cheek title that I chose to challenge an assumption that the availability of masses of information was naturally a good thing. Instead I chose a theme that explored a danger that corporations could become information obese. I then explored ways in which architectural techniques could avoid this disease.

Eight years on and I’m just completing an Executive Report for Cutter Consortium titled: Information Architecture – Dealing WIth Too Much Data. I mention my Information Obesity presentation, and out of curiosity I searched to see where the phrase has been used since.

I came across a book – Information Obesity – written by Andrew Whitworth, and published by Chandos in 2009. It is about education and information literacy.

“An exploration of information literacy and ICT skills education from the point of view of social and political theory. The author incorporates theories to argue why the idea of information literacy is so important in the 21st century, and also to develop teaching strategies to this end. The book argues that only through expanding the range of information literacy education taking it beyond just formal school and university education and into homes, friendship networks and workplaces can we construct an effective educational response to information technology in the 21st century. Information literacy includes, but transcends, ICT skills and ultimately is about being politically, socially and communicatively competent in an information society.”

And I also came across The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption, by Clay A. Johnson. Chapter 6 is titled The Symptons of Information Obesity.

“The modern human animal spends upwards of 11 hours out of every 24 in a state of constant consumption. Not eating, but gorging on information ceaselessly spewed from the screens and speakers we hold dear. Just as we have grown morbidly obese on sugar, fat, and flour—so, too, have we become gluttons for texts, instant messages, emails, RSS feeds, downloads, videos, status updates, and tweets.

We’re all battling a storm of distractions, buffeted with notifications and tempted by tasty tidbits of information. And just as too much junk food can lead to obesity, too much junk information can lead to cluelessness. The Information Diet shows you how to thrive in this information glut—what to look for, what to avoid, and how to be selective. In the process, author Clay Johnson explains the role information has played throughout history, and why following his prescribed diet is essential for everyone who strives to be smart, productive, and sane.”