“THE INFORMATION” Reading Response

“And a year after that—still a full decade before most people heard the word—a Swedish computer scientist named Jacob Palme at the QZ Computer Center in Stockholm issued a prescient warning—as simple, accurate, and thorough as any that followed in the next decades. Palme began: ‘Electronic mail system can, if used by many people, cause severe information overload problems. The cause of this problem is that it is so easy to send a message to a large number of people, and that systems are often designed to give the sender too much control of the communication process and the receiver too little control…. People get too many messages, which they do not have time to read. This also means that the really important messages are difficult to find in a large flow of less important messages. In the future, when we get larger and larger message systems, and these systems get more and more interconnected, this will be a problem for almost all users of these systems.’ He had statistics from his local network: the average message took 2 minutes, 36 seconds to write and just 28 seconds to read. Which would have been fine, except that people could so easily send many copies of the same message” (Gleick 404)

Gleick describes email as one of the electronic tools in which we use to learn information but at the same time email provides us with almost too much information. As Palme said, email can cause severe information overload problems. In an age where information is so easily obtained, email is just one of the many things that can distract us from our daily lives. Other than that, email is just one of those things that can be taken for granted nowadays. We get so many emails that we mark most of them as spam to disregard all types of information, either for better or for worse. Just as how Gleick compared a piece of filed information to a shelved book, an email is just a personal electronic memo that we choose to file, store, and possibly delete without any second thought.

What was especially interesting to me was that this was all predicted by Palme in the 80’s when most of the general public had not even heard of the word “email” or “electronic mail” and had absolutely no sense of what the implications of having such a system may be. Nevertheless, Palme’s predictions still hold true today as we receive useless “spam” mail from countless sites by the hour, all filtered in some fashion by various digital algorithms. Filtering information out until the perfect balance is achieved is an ongoing challenge and remains crucial to proper information delivery. Without filtering, we may either miss out on key memos or experience “information overload” which has been proven to be ultimately inefficient to the end user. In our modern daily lives, information is so easily accessible that it all must be properly filtered to optimize our productivity and our livelihood.

4 thoughts on ““THE INFORMATION” Reading Response”

  1. I agree that Palme was correct about future electronic mail receiving lots of spam. Yes, we all probably have about 1000 spam messages, however, I think it is important to keep in mind the progress we have made. Google filters out so much spam that I sometimes go months without a single spam message making it’s way into my inbox. With all new inventions there are going to be downsides but the good news is we usually figure out solutions to all the little problems.

  2. I agree that we are approaching a sort of information overload as communication technology expands so much but I think it is important to consider that similar events and situations have occurred in the past. Someone in class (I’m sorry I can’t quite remember who) mentioned today that when the printing press was introduced, a similar event likely occurred. I think that currently we are experiencing the same overwhelming surge of information that those in the fifteenth and sixteenth experienced when books became more readily available. I also think that, just like in the past, we will adapt to the amount of information and knowledge that is available to us.

  3. The way I see it, the information overload only affects careless people. If you go onto your Yahoo webmail and just vomit at all of the spam you’re getting, but don’t take the time to sift through the junk and find the treasured emails you’re looking for, you cannot blame the spam senders for overloading you if you let it bother you. Yes, i probably have 1300 unread messages in my Yahoo address, and i delete 100-200 daily, to get rid of spam, because I take the time to sort my information so it does not overload me all at once. To this end, cautiousness and a keen eye is almost a must for sorting information into the categories of useful and useless.

  4. I think it is particularly interesting too that the information overload and the phenomenon of “spam” emails were predicted by Palme in the 80′s when majority had not idea what emails or electronic mails are. Although technology has brought us convenience and completely different lifestyles, the drawbacks due to the excess use of technology cannot be ignored. To be honest, I receive a lot of emails that I dont’t want everyday and I have to look for the ones that I actually need among the confusing email headings. The overload of information, or more specifically the overload of emails, is like a annoying ghost following you and screaming near your ears so that you’re constantly under pressure. I receive a lot of emails from Piazza, the website we use to discuss questions about CS, even though I don’t need to know the problems that everybody has, and it does make me stressful every night.

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