Information technology has traditionally been associated with computers and networks, as a result of the original emergence of the power of computing. But in a wider sense technologies are about information and information networks, as technologies of information have always included all the tools and machines which have been used to create, store and disseminate information throughout the ages.
Paul Gilster (1997) , in his book Digital Literacy, which was a terrifically exciting publication at the time of release, identified how all information is digital, and that digital environments bring with them interactivity and connectedness. Now we know that the capacity of digital technologies to influence and facilitate global connectedness is growing exponentially, and is summed up well by Moore’s Law, which states that the number of components which can be placed inexpensively into the integrated circuits which are the basis of all modern digital devices roughly doubles every two years. This means that processing speed, storage capacity, and other metrics of computer power also increase at the same rate.
Ideas are central to our need to connect and communicate – and technology has become a pivotal process or tool in that social and intellectual process of connectedness. What is so astonishing is the ready acceptance of technologies which, in the overall history of human communication is a very short period of time. One of my favourite books, Turing’s Cathedral: the Origins of the Digital Universe by George Dyson (2012) provides the history and the story around Alan Turing’s Universal Machine, a theoretical construct invented in 1936 that was to become among the first computers to make full sense of a high-speed random-access storage matrix, that would break the distinction between numbers that mean things and numbers that do things. Our global connected world would never be the same again.
Many of us hardly go a single day without googling an idea, thought, interest, or question. We may use another search engine, but the fact that the word googling has entered the vernacular, and that we do all google is a dead give-away that something big has happened in our global connections.
The potential of our information and knowledge web is built on an intricate history of science, mathematics and the genius of a handful of men and women, and a bigger pool of quite brilliant people. What is staggering is the way data and data connection has now become a major focus for global knowledge and scholarly, personal or cultural connections. It is impossible to have one without the other, and it is becoming less and less obvious which side of the data/knowledge equation is driving the other!
Remember Tim Berners-Lee vision for the Internet?
If you’ve ever listened to him speak you will have heard him mention Linked Data, and may well be wondering what Linked Data has to do with it all. Data, information, information technology and knowledge are intertwined in our digital world of global connectedness underpinning the shifts that are taking place in learning and education.
But we can celebrate the open communication that the web has come to make possible, and the capacity to share and build knowledge. A recent report published by Incapsula, a company that helps websites manage their traffic and security, examined the activity across several thousand of its sites and found that humans make up less than 40 percent of all activity in 2013. But even though the bots are more active than ever before, that might not necessarily be a bad thing. Machines are doing the building of what we think of as the internet for us almost more rapidly than humans so the next step will be to understand what this ‘building’ means, and how networked communication, information and access is not only about people and information, but also about things. We use the internet to seek, organise, share, and communicate.
So for now, we need to build our understanding of global connectedness and leverage opportunities for learning in our interactive, digital, search-enabled world.
Dyson, G. (2012). Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe. Random House Digital, Inc.Gilster, P., & Glister, P. (1997). Digital literacy. Wiley Computer Pub.