[iDC] Online silence and “infomania”

Yoram Kalman Yoram.Kalman at gmail.com
Tue Aug 28 13:37:03 UTC 2007


In my first posting to this fascinating group, I would like to introduce 
myself and my research interests, as well as suggest a topic for 
discussion. I am a PhD student researching “online silence” at the 
Center for the Research of the Information Society at The University of 
Haifa. I am trying to define what online silence is, to understand what 
causes online silence, and to explore the consequences of online 
silence. In case you are wondering what I mean by online silence, the 
best example is a situation in which you send an email, expect an 
answer, and then days and days go by, and you do not receive an answer. 
Ever occurred to you?  J

One of my findings is that most email responses come very quickly, quite 
often within a few hours, and that emails that are not answered within a 
few days, are quite likely never to receive a response. I also found 
that quite many of the cases of online silence reported by people, are 
cases in which people intended to respond but did not do so immediately, 
and this delay eventually turned into silence.

In my research I speculate quite a lot about the reasons for this 
asymmetric distribution of response times, and a recent paper published 
in First Monday (link below) made me question the implications of this 
asymmetry. I would be very interested in getting some perspectives from 
this group about these implications. The paper focuses on “Infomania” 
and describes the ever increasing pressure exerted on knowledge workers 
who are trying to cope with an ever growing information (over)load, and 
with the constant increase in frequency and obtrusiveness of 
interruptions afforded by always-on, always-next-to-us communication 
devices. Under these circumstances of an ever present flood of messages, 
is it any wonder that we either provide an immediate answer, or hardly 
respond at all?

Link to article: http://snipurl.com/zeldes

What I would like to do with the help of this group is to peek into the 
future, and ask together with you a question about Infomania, and about 
our increasing inability to respond to all of the messages we initially 
intend to respond to. Are these temporary phenomena, or are they here to 
stay? If online silence is a result of our inability to cope with 
information overload and interruptions, what might improve this 
situation? Will the solution come from culture? From technology? From a 
change in the way our brains are wired? All of the above? None of the 
above? Is this the first time humanity is facing such a challenge? Are 
there important lessons from the past?

Obviously, if you have other questions, comments or interesting 
anecdotes about online silence, please send them too.



Yoram Kalman
Tel: +972 3 950 7340
Cell: +972 54 574 7375

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