Personal Information Strategy

Ruminations by Patrick Dickson

The information revolution has at least two characteristics with direct and increasingly important implications for individuals and education.  First, the rate of change in information is fast and accelerating.  Second, the volume of information is expanding at an exponential rate.

How can individuals best respond to these realities?  More specifically, how are you going to cope with, adapt to, thrive in, be productive in, and so on, this emerging flood of information, the value of much of which is short-lived or ephemeral?

I believe serious thought on this issue is essential for your own success as an individual, but also as a personal inquiry by which to inform your thinking about the design of learning environments for others. I have gathered my ruminations, assignments, references, and links on this theme under the heading of developing a "Personal Information Strategy."

Dan Schultz has been thinking about this issue in depth and has suggested the importance of metaphors in thinking about your personal information strategy.

More later.
Some chunks.

Your personal information strategy should include, at least, consideration of the following.

Professional Organizations
Identifying and identifying with a handful of professional organizations that best represent the tribe of people you wish to be associated with can help in the process of self-definition.

Homepage Examples
Developing a personal homepage is not only advantages for making yourself visible professionally and for job hunting, the process of crafting your website can be a tool for clarifying who you are and who you aspire to become.  Visit the homepages at this link for examples of how other graduate students and faculty present themselves on the web.  How you design your web presence is a highly personal decision.

Curriculum Vitae
Everyone should have and continally revise a curriculum vitae. You should probably think of a "paper" version done nicely as a word processing document and printed elegantly on aesthetically patterned parchment to hand to people with whom you are seeking to work, who may not find it convenient to check out your website.  The paper version should point to your website, perhaps, if the website is worth visiting.  Where you place your C.V. in the overall design of your website may change over time.  Many people start by simply saving their C.V. as the first page (or "index.htm" page) of their website.  Other people start with a more personal, colorful "index" page, and link their C.V. off of that first page.

Publications and Presentations.
Major issues surround the question of whether to place one's writings, conference presentations, and dissertation on the Web.  A few journals claim they won't publish things that have already appeared on the Web, but my impression is that they will not stick with that policy.  At least one university now requires students to submit their dissertations on the Web.
For what it's worth, my advice would be to put as much of your stuff up on the Web as possible.  People often initially worry endlessly that their big ideas will be stolen but gradually this worry is supplanted by a more profound gloom that no one is interested in their big ideas. Another tension many wrestle with is whether to wait until the ideas are perfectly polished before sharing them versus putting up inchoate ideas and thereby getting feedback to improve the ideas. Again, your decision.

Self-Study of Your Current Personal Information "Strategy"
You may or may not have given much thought to your patterns of consuming and producing information.  The task of creating a well-thought out personal information strategy is not trivial and a quick reading of a self-help article in a magazine that advises you to get organized will probably not be sufficient.  I believe the same information technologies that are causing the challenge of keeping up also offer tools for doing so, if you can find the self-discipline to use them.  And this is a continuing challenge, not one that is solved or fixed, once and for all.

Tony Clay's Flash of Insight
Close your eyes and look at the spaces where you do much of your information grazing.  Tony Clay took this a step further and using his handy digital camera, took a photograph of his own information habitat, then having frozen this image in time and place, was able to step back and think more deeply about how it might be improved.  Check out his exploration of his own information world through the lens of a digital camera.


People are ultimately your most important sources of information.  You should think of (at least) two categories: Personal Acquaintances and Influential Scholars.  In a few cases, these will overlap.  By 'influential' I mean primarily ones who have influenced your thinking in important ways (or who may have the potential to do so, if you study them in depth).

    Influential Scholars.  You should seek until you find scholars whose work you wish to know in depth. I look for scholars who have written one or more books, write well, have been working in the field for at least a decade, and, increasingly, whose works are about and accessible on the Web.  You should include in your search scholars whose contributions are more in the area of theory and those whose scholars are more in the area of research and development.  Increasingly, you need also to look for scholars or designers whose work you admire on the aesthetic or design dimension.

    My list of scholars includes:
                Donald Norman
                Jakob Nielsen
                Howard Gardner
                Daniel Goleman
                Sherry Turkle

Sources for Self-Directed Learning of Skills

If you are to work in the area of technology, you need also to have a strategy for continuously sharpening your tools and adding tools to your toolkit.  And increasingly, it will be up to you to teach yourself these skills.  So your personal information strategy should include the identification of sources for online training and access to tools.

My sources for self-directed learning include places like MSU's CBT modules, websites with tutorials, free icons, backgrounds, Java scripts, etc.