The proposed responses below are recommended based on the assumption that the individual is requesting help in their information seeking practice. While these responses can be used by an individual working alone, those with lower levels of digital literacy may find it helpful to pursue active responses with the assistance of an information professional. In fact, as discussed by Furlan et al., the intervention of a human expert offers the information seeker the opportunity to discuss more complex aspects of digital literacy with an information professional, which ultimately allows for a higher level of comprehension. Active responses will develop digital competency, which in turn will decrease the individual’s struggle with information overload.
5.1. Active Responses Related to Modes of Information Seeking
The individual decision to seek information is the necessary condition that must take place prior to engagement with information overload. Digital competencies related to the decision to seek information are ultimately the digital competencies associated with the other modes of information seeking. Responses cannot be recommended via digital competencies until the individual has begun actively seeking information.
Exploration of information is the base of competencies 1.1 Browsing, searching and filtering data, information and digital content and 1.2 Evaluating data, information and digital content. Following the decision to seek, individuals will articulate their information needs, create search strategies, evaluate results, and critically interpret results. Overload occurs when the amount of material returned is more than the individual can reasonably process in the time available. Therefore, individuals need ways to narrow their exploration to materials that are both relevant and comprehensible, whether that is by using specific search methodology or filtering technologies. Individuals who are still learning these competencies may also need to seek expert help.
Monitoring information is essentially knowledge upkeep, and it relies on the competencies used to seek information alongside 1.3 Managing data, information and digital content. In order to best follow new developments in information, it is necessary to manage the information that is already known. Encouragement to both add and strategically remove information from the overall body of knowledge as it becomes outdated or irrelevant will help keep information at a manageable level.
Accessing information requires a level of privilege, depending on what is being accessed; competency alone does not allow for access. For the purposes of this section, the focus is on full text content availability and access pathways. Full text access is directly related to an individual’s ability to acquire good information. If an individual cannot read the full text, they cannot have a complete understanding of the information they are consuming. Especially in academic scholarship, full text content is often hidden behind a paywall. If an individual lacks the means to remove the paywall barrier (either the financial means or membership at an institution that pays for access), they are at a disadvantage when engaging in information seeking.
Access pathways are discussed by Horrigan [4
], who separates them into “access abundance” (those with home broadband, tablet, and smartphone access) and “access scarcity” (those with none of the above); he notes that those who experience access scarcity reported higher levels of information overload. He discusses this with the understanding that overload is part of information anxiety (anxiety of not being able to access needed information) more than information overload. Access to information is necessary in order to move on to categorization and purification. Understanding that access is less about competency and more about having the physical and technological means to access information, the choice was made not to attach competencies to this section. This issue is also addressed in the limitations section.
Categorization of information is connected to competencies 1.2 Evaluating data, information and digital content,
1.3 Managing data, information and digital content,
and 2.6 Managing digital identity
. Part of information overload can arise with platform fatigue [5
]; individuals who choose to build a secure, reliable identity can use digital technology profiles to manage data and information channels [2
]. Successful managers more easily establish frameworks for evaluating information in the first place.
Purification can be understood through simplification and reduction of information, supported by competencies 1.2 Evaluating data, information and digital content, and
2.1 Interacting through digital technologies.
Where individuals may seek to purify their information channels by filtering or other blocking methods, relying on interactions and learning appropriate digital communication will support digital engagement and success. Purification can be related to the concept of satisficing
, referring to the act of consciously making choices about what information to take in. Doing this strategically can help decrease information overload; doing it poorly can result in information avoidance [3
Satisfaction is discussed in studies of tourism and decision making [15
] and relies on the range of dimensions of digital competency. Initial approaches should thus build on early dimensions and can progress as individuals establish and own their personal information strategies. The range of responses to overload with other competencies will all increase satisfaction upon successful implementation.
5.2. Further Inquiry
The simplest lines of further inquiry would expand on the full range of digital competencies, following modes of inquiry as discussed in Marques & Batista for the organizational and societal perspectives (also considering factors discussed in the Pew Report). Appropriately, the diversity of related subject matter defies quantification, and semantic connections offer a basic opportunity for expansion of the conversation between and across historic discipline lines. Individual solutions will depend on the individual, so understanding appraisals of technology [18
], adaptive technologies, and Web 2.0 continue to be a highly relevant set of tools bearing consideration. Exploration of Web 2.0 society in relation to the full range of digital competencies (particularly digital content creation) is worth consideration as well, so as to better understand the connections between the consumption of information, the creation (collaborative or individual) of information, and information overload.
Once more it bears mention that the socio-economic impacts of access to digital society are more commonly recognized in academic and professional conversation. Horrigan, and Burke et al., both refer to pressing factors affecting diverse populations on the new landscape of digital society. The American Library Association recently published a statement emphasizing the call to address “the disparities in access to information” for marginalized populations, in this case, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color [21