FocusLast week, I suggested that a glut of information has always existed, so we have always been overloaded, but what we had in our favor before was being focused was easier than being unfocused.   We don’t know how to focus when it comes to digital information.  Need an example?

  How about the movie industry?  In the entire history of the movie industry, the “history” didn’t change and expand.  What has happened is people have published their opinions of the industry, facts have been reworded, data has been analyzed and mis-analyzed and reported, different visualization of the same information has been created, etc.  The size of the conceptual bubble about the history of the movie industry remains the same; the noise surrounding the bubble is much larger now.  As never before, one must focus on what they are trying to locate or be doomed to feeling overloaded.

I like to solve problems.  When it comes to the problem of being overloaded, that’s a difficult task to tackle.  You see, the world has always been overloaded, and always will be.  Can overload be managed in such a way that it won’t have such a negative impact?  Absolutely.  The trick is, how can the digital age help us to be focused, making every click of a button a more likely positive result and keep us from straying from the subject at hand?

Perhaps by utilizing various techniques we can have the computer help solve the problem into which it has put us.  To become focused, we need to let methodologies and strategies used in other computer science disciplines to help constrain our search, limit our exposure, while picking the best resource material to review.   Let the computer refine our searches, hence our results, decide what is the most relevant, give intelligent summaries, cluster results, or automatically develop classification hierarchies.

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Taking the previous assignment of writing a paper on “movie industries”, the scenario may sound a bit more like this: There is still a glut of information on the internet, and the researcher would still take to the computer, issuing queries and surfing the web.  The computer software would be smart enough to notice that the papers he was viewing all related to the movie industry, and would automatically push papers on film production and motion pictures.  The system would figure out that the real interest was not current top rated films, and would refine his results to be those that reflected his interests, clustering the results so the researcher could drill down on only the relevant material. The system would create graphs or classification hierarchies to organize the material automatically so he could find the best data first, and provide summaries of each item to minimize his reading time.  The computer, which brought us information overload, would bring about the blinders to keep us focused.

If you would like to go more in depth on the overloaded/under-focused issue, please click the image to the right to see the whitepaper "Overloaded? Perhaps. Under-focused? Absolutely.Stay tuned. Stay focused.

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