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Information Tools Towards Sustainable Wellness

I have been trying to wrestle with how to apply sustainable change means to the Information domain since I participated in a Change Agentry workshop last week. It’s actually been a concern for quite some time…
We’re blessed and cursed with information.
I often found myself pondering about practicality lately. In my case, about this tension between managing the information spectrum and making time to interact with our physical world. Or, rather: how should we be using information tools more effectively to manage the planet, while we take care not to overuse our web connectivity resources?
Most of the growing peta-bytes in our data farms is a wasteland of opinions, reviews, aging blogs, outdated pages and virtual existences in the never-ending search to realize our unmet desires. We spend an awful lot of time distracted. And, ultimately, were this behavior not changed, we’re going to blow the planet.
Going To Hell In A Hand Basket
Nevermind that we’re all just feeding a shapeless Beastie–who really cares about what we opine!? And, yet, if we just consider that the social web is an outlet for pent up anxiety, we’ll find it’s productive… so, I want to be clear: I’m not against it. But, I believe we could improve the value of the contributions we make on the web, being mindful of how productive our entries could be to the world at large.
We all need to make room for productive and collective exchanges. So, as we move forward in sorting all of this out it happens that we not only can nurture more productive exchanges, but could actually profit from the mining of this wave of data… Think about all the schemes to aggregate data that you could come up with to create new shared collections (crowd-sourced tagging)!
I would suggest that, while we seek to do good on the Web, digging into our mobile device offerings, lets’ engage conciously to increase community development opportunities, collective land use and cooperative food production–the things that ultimately matter to our WellBeing! The challenge at hand is to consider, then: What’s the community impact of YOUR social web footprint, of late?
We’re Not All Trained As Librarians, So We Collect, Randomly
We’ve tipped over, anyway. Most of us have no understanding that the information we generate into the Web is part of a collection, whether deliberate, or fitting someone else’s larger framework (Facebook). Inevitably this opens the door to good and bad use of that information. We should always take pause and care before committing anything into the virtual domain.
It all begins with the fact that we are generally afraid to miss out; and, so we seek to add our own view/perspective in the growing “conversation” on the Web.
Yet, we have some work to do to understand how to manage the collections we create, and to build new systems that can help us archive and share information efficiently. The censor deep (deeeep!) within me would say that perhaps we should require a publishing license before being allowed to contribute on the web. Thankfully, that’s highly unlikely, and the boundless space we have at hand provides plenty of room for diverse communities to find and contribute what they will, what will make them Happy.
Feelings Of The Geek Within M.E.
This loose sense that the space is boundless and should accommodate all of this traffic, though, is sadly at the heart of why we are slowly and ignorantly scorching the planet. Consider the storage needs for all those web page comments, the bot-generated spam; and, the impact of corporate fail-over policies in data management. There are tons of duplicative data systems that go unused daily; and, yet, probably represent more volume than the existing collection of written texts on the planet, at this point. We effectively have created a world of mirrors!
The Cloud may seem boundless; but, the server space and energy required to maintain them is very finite. As an information scientist, my preoccupation is going to focus on helping individuals be more productive within their given context, making the best of what they have at hand. To help them gain an advantage by enabling them to understand the signals in their environment that affect their decisions. To help them build schemes to organize their world and leverage workflows that generate information to their advantage. To act as a catalyst of change, to procure and aggregate information to do Good. Information architecture practices can be adapted to train people to be conscious of their footprints in the digital domain.
But, we realize these issues… I’m not alone. So, this is all Talk, a way for me to organize my preoccupations as I seek answers.
Getting Practical
How do we then surmount and conquer the growing tide of Information Overload to our advantage?
How should we decide to contribute, consume, or restrain ourselves from producing more useless information?
How do we structure practical objectives in service to ourselves, our community, our clients and benefactors?
We start by asking ourselves: how do we organize our information spectrums in this space?
  1. What domains matter to me; and, why do I even need to leverage this information?
  2. How should we collectively organize, analyze and document information needs for the greater good?
  3. How are those needs satisfied through a cooperative framework?
  4. What does it mean to follow a sustainable information resource management model, anyway!?
While I have yet to research literature from the experts on the information and knowledge management change domain, to square away these concerns, I believe I can provide some starting guidelines to focus future exploration on.  Please note that these guidelines are mainly intended for web designers, information architects and archivists.
  1. the improvement of the human condition should be at the heart of each information collective
  2. follow a pragmatic and utilitarian approach to the design of information tools
  3. maximize productivity, minimize consumption of energy
  4. engage others in a cooperative model to facilitate exchange of information resources at all levels, from food production to sustainable learning programs
  5. promote fun and challenging, creative, approaches to resolving information enigmas (complex problems)
  6. nurture collective self-organizing means–let the users build the archive
  7. engage through open access and self-reliant (self-service) means
  8. provide the community clear policies and guidelines (a common language) on how to tag and categorize information
  9. create collections that promote re-usability of information
  10. reduce the chance for the diffusion of sensitive information about the population
  11. evaluate the value and cost of information resources as part of a continuous development (change) framework
  12. seek to support better decisions through information summarization schemes and visualization tools
  13. enable and empower users, teach them how to fish!
As part of the S2’s Happiness Initiative, I’ve been blessed to have an opportunity to consider how information scientists could try to inform our population wellness needs through information. Individuals complete a survey on wellness, which is then tied to a set of social indicators in an attempt to frame community needs against desired social outcomes. For example, you could have a better appreciation for community vitality by seeing a reduction in crime while improving educational and business development opportunities.
I believe every professional engaged in the development of Information solutions will increasingly need to make conscious choices about their global impact as they conceptualize, develop and instantiate applications. In the process, we need to endow our user communities with the same principles. Each of us can start now by subscribing to a personal manifesto that adopts a low-impact framework in the development of information tools, one that delivers the highest degree of productivity while requiring minimal interaction.
I think it could be catchy… I’m working on a map of ongoing inter-disciplinary research relating to sustainable resource management in information science, so more concrete strategies are surely to arise. Stay tuned!

Finds for 2011-03-23

Problems With Delicious Blog Post Tool

Looks like the Delicious Blog Post app that I’ve been subscribing to is sending multiple post requests to Bohemio. I’ve turned off the feed while I investigate possible causes.