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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Blizzard

Blizzard In a few weeks my son is off to _ University. In the days since A level results, he has been subjected to a blizzard of information from the various organs of _ University. Some of the several long, complex, image- and link-rich communications he receives each day contain essential information. Many do not, but are what I suspect is _ University attempting to make new students "bond" with the institution they have little knowledge of. A few contain commercial information, subtle hints and links to services he does not want or need buried among other information - some useful, some not. The result is information overload and a rising sense of panic.

I do not believe _ University is unique, I suspect all students are now subject to the same pressure. I do not believe _ University to be inherently evil. So what has gone wrong? When there is no marginal cost (versus printing, envelope stuffing and postage, or even phone calls), push email runs out of control. The jostling of all the bodies competing for their budgets in the internal market creates a trust-harming cacophony. It is part of the problem of abundance - information obesity.

As I look back to my own undergraduate days so many years ago, it is a reminder of how complex and difficult being a student is today. If I could have my time over again, I would - not this one. I am reminded to keep cutting down on the amount of information I push at students and colleagues, vainly attempting to fight the information blizzard with the power of pull.


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