Human-Information Interaction

Human-Information Interaction
This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Digital Skills for All

Human-Information Interaction

The concept of information processing has move beyond the context of text to image and screen literacy. Eshet-Alkalai has argued that in current digital environments to which people are exposed:

a large flux of stimuli that “bombard” their cognition in real-time, at very high speed and in random temporal and spatial distribution. In all these situations the key to the users’ successful performance is their ability to process these stimuli effectively by splitting their attention to different places in the monitor, reacting to simultaneous stimuli, executing different tasks simultaneously (multi-tasking), rapidly changing their angle of view and perspective of the environment, processing multiple representations of information, and responding to feedback that appears in real-time. And above all – they have to quickly and effectively synchronize the chaotic multimedia stimuli into one coherent action or body of knowledge (Eshet-Alkalai, 2007, p. 57).

Eshet-Alkalai has expanded the concept of digital literacy to include not only photo-visual thinking, reproduction thinking, non-linear thinking, information thinking, and social-emotional thinking, but also real-time thinking skills (Eshet-Alkalai, 2007).

Given the significant importance of information for performing the great majority of occupations, the computer is increasingly becoming a means to an end. As a consequence there is a reassessment of Human-Computer Interaction as an area of research and development. The term Human-Information Interaction (HII) has already been used by researchers from the field of Library and Information Science. The emphasis is on User Experience, that is, how humans interact with information rather than with the computer (Jones, Pirolli, Card, Fidel, Gershon, Morville, Nardi, & Russell, 2006).

Increased demands are being placed on users of digital tools and technologies for processing large amounts of information quickly, effectively, and efficiently. People have gradually realized that working with digital systems and tools to perform most job tasks involves complex cognitive and metacognitive skills, over and above the basic ICT skills necessary for operating a computer. In the information society, information and strategic internet skills will determine people’s ability to succeed in the labour market and in society. Some people may not have the necessary cognitive information processing skills to properly interact with the digital systems and tools and struggle to try to acquire these skills (Deursen & Dijk, 2010). The digital divide, which was once essentially rooted in physical access to technology, has evolved into a widening divide that is focused on skills deficiencies in using technology (Chinien & Boutin, 2011, Deursen & Dijk, 2010). Chinien & Boutin have coined the term “cognitive divide” to describe this information processing skills deficit (Chinien & Boutin, 2003). After studying the internet skills of the Dutch population, researchers from the University of Twente in the Netherlands concluded that due to the digital skills gap: “large parts of the population will be excluded from actual and effective internet use. This especially goes for less educated populations. While these groups have always been socially disadvantaged, their life chances are now further in danger. They are increasingly excluded from the benefits the internet now has to offer” (Deursen & Dijk, 2010, p. 908). The researchers expressed some doubt as to whether this cognitive skills divide can be closed at all.

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