A Critical Analysis of the Impact of Information Overload for Effective, Efficient, and Ethical Intelligence Practice
Information overload is a phenomenon that has been in existence more than 50 years ago, even though some people view it as a recent occurrence, given the massive increase in information flow on cyberspace. Information explosion was foreseen by many researchers as early as the 1950s. As reported by the advisory committee of the president in `1963, the government would cope with information overload in the long run only if the scientists review and deliver quality work that lasts for long (Vivo, 2018). The prediction has come to pass with the world experiencing exponential growth in the information flow in different forms, which has been propagated by the advancement in technology, especially the advent of social media. Despite the attempts that have been made by intelligence professionals to control information flow and to cope with the massive chunk of data by use of bibliographic control and management of information and techniques of retrieval, there is no proper mechanism that can be used to control information overload. With the fast technological development and increasing growth in research across the globe, intelligence officers are poised to experience an even grander explosion of information in the coming years.
The Effect of Information Overload on Intelligence Practice
Information overload has been in existence since the days of Gutenberg, and the advancement of technology ushered in an era that is characterized by an avalanche of information that no human could wholly absorb in their lifetime. Content digitization also facilitated the production and publishing of information, and it essentially enabled everyone to be a publisher or an author of any information. With the opening of the floodgates of news, intelligence officers have been flooded with many formats of data. On an individual level, an intelligence officer faces the challenge of processing the incoming data in time because of its bulkiness. Additionally, the bulky information causes mental fatigue among the officers, and it delays faster analysis and relay of data concerning pending cases that require a quicker evaluation. The constant stream of information lowers one's intelligence (Vivo, 2018). It is imperative to note that not everyone is overwhelmed by the torrent information as some are stimulated by it, and this raises the concept of information addiction, which has resulted in the committal of numerous mistakes by the intelligence officials. Besides the effects of information overload on individuals, the phenomenon also affects intelligence companies. Intelligence organizations are also affected by the influx of a sea of information since their employees struggle to control the glut of information. These organizations lose a lot of time since their employees handle information with no limits. The companies are also affected by the constant interruptions by the incoming data.
The 21st century is characterized by massive technological advancement that has facilitated the creation and spread of information across the globe. One can easily make and disseminate information around the world as long as they have the internet and a laptop or smartphone. The ability to quickly generate and spread information has brought numerous challenges to the intelligence department since identification and analysis of real and authentic information is quite problematic given the junk of information that is available at their disposal. The situation has been worsened by the emergence of social media that enables millions of people to publish information. According to Vivo (2018), the amount of information that was available in cyberspace for use by 2009 was 800, 000 petabyte with the digital universe growing to 1.2 million petabytes and this meant that the digital content would be 44 times more significant in the future as compared to its size in 2009. These sentiments have also been echoed by Groes (2016), who discovered in his study that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) of the United States averagely records 475 million pages of records in a year. Based on Groes' research, the organization recorded an increase in the number of files and electronic information in 2011 and all this information is putting the intelligence department under tremendous pressure in their process of capturing, cataloging, sorting, preserving, retrieving and classifying data from different electronic and print sources.
Intelligence practice is facing numerous challenges concerning the overload of information within the cyberspace. The intelligence officers often face the challenge of identifying the right information that they need from the junk of both factual and fictitious information, and this process always results in fatigue and anxiety. Despite the presence of significant information that offers insights on various issues that are analyzed by the intelligence department, the intelligence officers often acquire less knowledge since the quantum of what is known is not significant to the available information (Nunes, Correcia, & Teodoro, 2017). The intelligence officers also experience brain freeze or fatigue in their process of identifying critical information from a sea of other equally essential data. The response to mental fatigue by most officers would be information avoidance, which could lead to them missing crucial information. The explosion of data could also lead to addiction to too much information by the intelligence officers in which their desire to get more info could drive them to use unreliable sources such as the internet, and this could result in misleading results. The addiction to a mass of information could lower the productivity of intelligence officers since it could lead to spamming where the intelligence department restricts the nature of the information that its workers are accessible to within its facilities and proper equipment (Nunes et al., 2017). A lot of information also lowers one's concentration level, and their long-range thinking stops since the needed information is available in large quantities to be selected from. Given the avalanche information comes from different sources, the data used by the intelligence could be doctored, which could result in improper decision making and gross mistakes.
Information overload also makes people concentrate on the past and the future without providing sufficient attention to the present. Groes (2016) pointed out that excess information causes neurological effects on users, which he coined as "attention deficit trait (ADT." ADT is a common phenomenon in security firms and is primarily characterized by inner frenzy, anxiety, and distractibility. Intelligence officers working on a mass of information barely stay organized, and they neither set priorities nor manage time. Intelligence centers are struggling with how to store the incoming bulk of data on their storage devices for future references. The time and effort of intelligence officers are also subjected to pressure since they have to review a large number of materials that contain massive data. The classification and cataloging of these data are also challenging. The influx of colossal information also puts librarians at risk since they are regularly consulted on the type of information that researchers should use. They are often hard-pressed to offer accurate replies to the questions asked by library users besides the difficult task of managing the complex data.
In intelligence practice, professionals who lack adequate information management and practical bibliographic control skills can be overwhelmed by the overload of information (Kirsh, 2000). Intelligence agencies are very prone to the impacts of excessive details since many cases occur daily, and numerous data are generating concerning the cause and the process of daily occurrences. Kirsh (2000) believes that information overload is partly connected to publish and perish conditions among scholars and the social media that has granted everyone an opportunity to share their ideas freely. The competition among publishers pushes them to produce research materials that do not last in the market, hence offering obsolete information that lowers one's ability to identify the right and most relevant information. Since most of the information passed on for research purposes or any other objective are transient, they lose their relevance very fast and contribute to the worsening of the problem of information overload.
Strategies for Controlling Information Overload in Intelligence Practice
The increase in the size of information overload has facilitated intelligence agencies to find solutions to this multidimensional issue that has grossly reduced their operations. The increasing influx of information daily makes it harder for intelligence officials to identify, locate, and retrieve data. The massive chunk of information makes intelligence officials waste a lot of time in unproductive work such as reformatting from different formats to one document, failing to get information after a thorough search, content recreation, and publishing of the same content to various sites. One of the strategies of handling information overload by intelligence agencies is achieving information literacy. It is defined as a set of abilities that enable one to determine when a piece of information is required, how to locate, evaluate, and use it effectively. With such knowledge, one can establish the degree of the required information, effectively access it, integrate the information in their knowledge base, effectively use the information and comprehend the legal, social and economic issues that are connected to the acquisition and use of the data (Kirsh, 2000). Hence, literacy is instrumental in helping intelligence officers to handle information overload. However, it is not an easy task since even expert information seekers get overwhelmed by the vast amount of data. The other means of regulating the influx of information is to ensure that the provided information is of high value, and it is d...
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