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Overload!: How Too Much Information is Hazardous to Your Organization by Jonathan B. Spira

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CHAPTER 5

THE INFORMATION CONSUMER

A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.

—Herbert A. Simon

When thinking of the consumer experience, we generally think about products such as food, televisions, cars, or clothing. Today, the consumer is as much an information consumer as a consumer of physical goods. Consumers, along with the media companies that provide information, are beginning what will undoubtedly be a long process of adaptation to the online world and the rise of information as a product.

The challenge that we, as information consumers, all face is not really technology but how technology has altered our media diet and habits. We aren’t able to multitask – focusing on more than one thing at a time is a myth – but the term does describe our behavior at times, especially with respect to information consumption.

We watch television and at the same time post comments on social networks about what we are watching, while we also text our friends and surf the Web. There is a certain adroitness that information consumers are acquiring in this respect, although it may not be a healthy one.

At the same time, our attention spans are evolving – perhaps not for the better. They are becoming shorter and shorter, and the ability for many people to read and digest longer works is starting to disappear as we constantly face temptations from e-mail and social ...

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