Information Explosion: There has been a continuous revolution in the generation, transfer and communication of information since the invention of printing. Though information generation is a continuous process yet the two World Wars had a very great impact on the very fast development of various fields of knowledge. Since the 2nd World War information, in fact, has been growing at an exponential rate and it is often referred to as “information explosion”.
According to American Educational Association, it had to wait till 1750 since the beginning of the Christian era for human knowledge to double. The second doubling was completed 150 years later in 1900. The third doubling of all man’s knowledge took place in the decade of 1950s, but today it is even growing at a faster speed. Let us now discuss information explosion in terms of its definition, factors for information explosion, its impact and how it can be controlled. The following sections deal with these aspects-
a) Definition: The term “information explosion” attempts to describe the exponential increase and diversification of published data and information. “Exponential” is a technical term meaning produced or expressed by multiplying a set of quantities by themselves. The exponent is the sign written above to the right of the number or letter in mathematics to show how many times that quantity is to be multiplied. For example, in 53, the number 3 is the exponent. In ym the letter “m” is the exponent. The explosion image conveys the idea of sudden bursting out.
b) Factors that Lead to Information Explosion: There are many factors which directly contribute to information explosion. Some of them are -
i) Increased Literacy: Creative contributions are born when a man or woman comes in contact with the light of education. Increased literacy is a prime factor for information explosion because individuals produce new information as he becomes more and more acquainted with knowledge.
ii) Increased Number of Scholars: The art of creativity is confined relatively to a very small proportion of the world’s population, who could devise new methods, recognize the existing ideas and offer improved solutions to familiar problems. They set new standards in science and technology, literature, fine arts, business, industry and social leadership. When the society becomes devoid of nature’s gift of talents then it would begin to stagnate and will ultimately perish. In 1800, there were 1,000 scientists and engineers in the world which increased to 10,000 in 1850 and in 1900, to 100,000. In 1950s, the numbers swelled to one million. It is this ever increasing number of scientists that accounts for the rapid proliferation of published materials.
iii) Increased Research and Development: The increase in research activities is also one of the factors of the exponential growth of information. Nowadays the scale and level of research funding have changed significantly as the research has become mission-oriented, multidisciplinary and assumed a matrix managed character.
iv) Increased Literature: Literature of a subject is its foundation. It represents a record of achievements of the human race. Literature is diverse, complex and multilingual in nature. It is becoming more and more interdisciplinary. It is growing at a fast pace. In science, it is almost doubling itself in every 5.5 years. In social sciences it is doubling at the rate of every eight to twelve years and in the documentary media book production more than double in a decade. According to Rider, American libraries which try to collect everything appearing on a given subject double their size in every 16 years.
v) Origin of Different Types of Information Sources: Earlier information sources are only published media and handwritten manuscripts but today the sources of information are diversified from databases, microforms, online journals, CDROM, DVD, optical disk to hypermedia and hypertext.
vi) Growth of Technology: Technology has multiplied by 10 times every 50 years for over 2800 years but now a days its growth is very fast. Advancement in the field of communication and technology network has brought down the distances between the person, states, countries and continents throughout the world, Computer and telecommunication are converging very rapidly and its highest impact is felt fall in the information sector. Actually the need for creative achievement has never been more recognized and designed than it is today.
vii) Development of Society: Information has been stored in people’s mind and it has been updated and modified through social contact and communication. As society has developed and become more complex large quantities of information have been generated, published and disseminated causing an information explosion.
viii) Development of Competition: We will continue to be confronted with competitive forces leading to creation as long as one person strives to advance, as long as one business attempts to increase its share of the total industrial output or to improve its profitability as long as one nation attempts to improve its position in the world. The competitive forces are leading to the demand for more information. As a result, more and more information is produced.
c) Impact of Information Explosion: The impact of Information Explosion can be summarized as follows-
Due to the explosion of information
i) It has become difficult to keep pace with the proliferation of published materials.
ii) It creates a great problem in management of information.
iii) It is becoming difficult to locate & pull out specific information.
iv) It is tremendously contributing towards duplication of information generation. In UK, the estimated cost of unintended duplication in scientific research in the 1960s was Rs. 21.6 million.
v) It creates a great problem in bibliographic control.
d) Controlling Information Explosion: The terrific rate of expanding of knowledge and information can not be slowed down. So, the control of information explosion does not mean the controlling of growth and development of information; rather, it means the development and maintenance of a system of adequate recording, and storing of all forms of information published and unpublished, printed and non printed that add to the sum of human knowledge. So, actually, the control of information explosion means the mastery over information generation.
The need to be aware of different information sources arises from the fact that even a voracious reader is unable to read all the literature on his/her chosen subject. The interdisciplinary nature of subject and the wide variety of their characteristics have added to the confusion. But, for any scholar, it is very essential to keep pace with the all information that is coming day by day in his/her field of specialization.
The design and development of different information system can be a probable measure of keeping an eye on the information explosion. It should be equipped with the necessary databases, indexing and abstracting services. The librarians also have to devise some sort of information service, which may result in bringing out a product which analyses, consolidates, evaluates & disseminates all the latest information.
New ideas are generated in each and every branch of human activity from time to time. Apart from new ideas, we give new interpretation to known ideas; we also borrow ideas from other disciplines and try to apply them in a new context. As a result, more and more information is produced in a variety of forms leading to information explosion.