Choice is both a blessing and curse. We are faced with masses of choice which makes finding things hard work sometimes. But technology is trying to simplify matters. And we can access this information from wherever and wherever we want.
For instance, when we shop online we can apply filters to every search. When we are looking for tickets, we can specify what we like and when we want to go. We can enjoy talking with others with similar viewpoints. We can sign up for subject newsletters to keep up to date of developments in every imaginable discipline.
In theory we all have access to the same information. We should have reached ultimate equality. Personalisation is desirable when we enjoy watching certain genres of film, a particular fashion brand, browsing hobby pages. At an individual level it saves time and directs us to what we want and connects us with like minded people.
With online personalisation anything is possible and everything is available. It is the same with current awareness. There is a risk though. If we filter our searches and personalise our feeds so much, the technology anticipates us so we don’t see everything. As current awareness recipients we become passive consumers of our own narrow search choices.
Avoiding feedback loops
In some cases we don’t know what else we might want. We may be missing some interesting stories because they are outside our chosen topics. This is how Facebook news channels people into feedback loops. Communities coalesce around common values and viewpoints. This means the news that we share validates our opinions. Satisfying but hardly challenging.
Scanning a selection of news from a wide variety of sources enables us to venture beyond mental comfort zones. We need to combine flexibility with imagination so that relevant wider material reaches a wider public. Effective curation sits at the centre of all intelligent and thought provoking current awareness.
What about the format?
Accessing information is a major consideration and again choice is overwhelming. Are we getting news round-ups via Twitter, Facebook, favourite blog-roll, email bulletins on our smart phone or tablet? At home, on the move, in coffee shops, or at work? Wherever it is and whatever the format, it has to fit in with out routine and work flow which can be a technical challenge.
For professionals, email remains the most common place to access quality current awareness. But this may not be the right place for a wider readership. This is why I want to talk to customers and find out what works for them. And this will change over time.
Technology is helping us cut through the masses of information available, and enabling us to make an informed choice. But we don’t want to let technology limit our access just because we enjoy a particular viewpoint. Sometimes it is healthy to read something different. We should be clever enough to realise that there is other information available. You have the choice. Use it.