Reducing Information Pollution
When organisations think about “overload”, the context of “information overload” is the first thing that usually gets most attention. Managing flood of emails is the most prominent example, and many interesting solutions have been proposed to deal with it. Interesting, but can any single solution be considered a definitive one? And, can we limit the problem of “overload” only to the digital domain? I will argue that the issue is much wider, and thus we can talk about “overflow”, covering both digital and traditional – analog domains. We say “information overload”, but when we get to practical examples, we suddenly switch to discussing “flood of information”, “flood of email messages” etc. That’s why OVERFLOW is considered by some a better keyword than OVERLOAD.
“Overflow (also referred to as surplus, excess or overspill) is seen as the explicit opposite of scarcity. It is a concept used in economic theory, management, consumer studies and politics, though these disciplines have different interpretations of what really constitutes overflow”
eLife 2015;4:e10825. [Link]
Overflow is surplus, and Poland (where I’m based) is a unique location to discuss it. The country underwent a profound change, from the socialist economy of excessive demand and rather limited supply, to a typical for western countries economy of excessive supply and severe competition for customers’ attention.
For any person, a wide zone of acceptance for available choices was a highly adaptive trait in the old economy, but nowadays can be a source of frustration, with an abundance of choices around us – choices of all kinds: shopping, educational, social. What should I choose, if I like all available options? On the other hand, those who have a very narrow range of acceptance for available choices had suffered in the socialist economy, but are likely to be thriving now – being “picky” protects them from the abundance of available choices.
That’s why the problem of “overflow” is not a simple, linear issue of environmental abundance, of a flood of digital, easily multiplicable information, but instead needs to be analysed on a finer level, taking into account interaction of external, environmental conditions and personal traits. This area of research, pursued for many years by one of the keynote presenters, prof. Grażyna Wieczorkowska-Wierzbińska, will be highlighted at the “Managing Overflow” conference, organized in September this year by our team from the Department of Managerial Psychology and Sociology at the University of Warsaw (http://overflowconference.pl). The event will gather in Poland a group of top scientists researching the topic of overflow: prof. Barbara Czarniawska, prof. Orvar Lofgren, Sabina Siebert, prof. Wieczorkowska-Wierzbińska, and others.
Grzegorz Krol, PhD
Department of Managerial Psychology and Sociology
Faculty of Management
University of Warsaw
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