Following up on Rex’s last post, I’d like to ask readers a question about doing online research. One of my favorite radio shows, On the Media, recently interviewed John Lorinc, author of an article on online distractions. In the interview Lornic says the following:
I came across some studies that had identified these two terrifically descriptive terms, “informavores” and “information foraging,” when you’re working online. There is this craving for information. It’s difficult to know when to stop. And you can quickly come to the conclusion that you can go on link by link by link ad infinitum… You’re always waiting to get closest to some ideal of a perfect state of information? And, you know, in a pre-digital, pre-Internet environment, you could get to that place very quickly, whereas with the Internet I do think that the horizon is much further off, and yet you still crave that. And I do think that’s the addictive nature of it.
I imagine most of you wouldn’t be reading this if they weren’t informavores as well. I use a number of tools to try to keep my information foraging at bay (i.e. Too Many Tabs, Instapaper, Sente, and Evernote), but it isn’t enough. I often feel I spend more time foraging than I do sitting down and actually reading what I’ve found. Of course, some times I find something and I know this is the thing I need to read next – but that feeling comes few and far between. So I’m turning to our readers: how do you deal with information addiction?
UPDATE: I wanted to add a further thought, which is that the nature of our discipline might make matters worse. Perhaps I am wrong, but I can imagine being an expert in a particular subbranch of neurobiology and having a pretty clear idea of what literature I need to read in order to be a master of my field. The holistic nature of our discipline, however, means that there is seemingly no limit to what we must know. In my dissertation, for instance, I discovered that the literature on land policy was particularly useful for understanding the development of Aborigine education policy. If I hadn’t been an informavore I never would have made such a discovery. But the vast amount of really interesting and potentially useful stuff is simply overwhelming me these days…