Information is the knowledge that is gotten about someone or something; facts or details about a subject, while knowledge is the understanding of the acquired information.
As we begin the Global Media and Information Literacy Week (Global MIL, Oct 24 – Oct 31), Geeky Nigeria wants to dive into Information and cover the essentials about it in today’s world.
It involves data, communication, education, research, interpretation, compiling, understanding, transmission, message, in no particular order.
Information is so powerful in our lives as individuals and communities that we cannot do beyond the information we have.
The extent of how informed we are either stretches or limits us. Gordon Gekko of Wall Street once said, “The most valuable commodity I know is Information”.
A well informed man is a rich man in the worth of how much information he has processed. In the 21st century, being properly informed means you can be anything you want to be, do anything you can and get to the top of the world.
Information is as old as man, but it has continued to evolve over the years in terms of easier reach, simpler interpretation and wider spread. From the days of analog signals and written letters to presently digital signals, artificial intelligence and electronic mail, information technology is gradually taking over.
The 21st century is called the information age, digital age or even new media age because people can now access information and knowledge easily.
Sourcing information is dependent on type and purpose. Information can come from media, research, blogs, articles, encyclopedia, biographies, journal, web, etc.
History and Evolution of Information Technology
There was a time when the current modern technologies didn’t exist and society used other methods to convey information at that time. In fact, information technology has been around for a long time and without its evolution throughout history, it wouldn’t be where it is today to provide us with the modern options of communication that are readily available to us.
Let’s journey down history and take a look at the different stages of IT development:
- Pre-Mechanical Age
- Mechanical Age
- Electromechanical Age
- Electronic Age
The Pre-Mechanical Age
The earliest age of technology has been dated back to the pre mechanical age (between 3000 B.C. and 1450 A.D.). Human beings at that time mainly communicated with each other using simple picture drawings called petroglyphs.
These drawings were created on rock. This form of language was used to tell a story, to keep record of how many animals one owned and to mark their territory. Eventually, there was the advent of the first writing system known as ¨cuniform¨. Here, instead of using pictures to express words, signs were composed to correspond with spoken sounds.
Afterwards, the Phoenician alphabet was created which consisted of a more simplified writing technique using symbols to express single syllables and consonants. Later on, vowels were added and names were given to the letters to create the alphabet that we use today.
As the alphabet and writing systems became more popular and common, there were more recorded information. This resulted in finding better ways to communicate and keep record of information. The first writing material was simply a pen like object used to create markings on wet clay. This led to more useful forms of writing materials from writing on bark, leaves, leather to writing on the papyrus plant to making paper with rags to the making of modern-day paper we use today.
However, as more and more people used these early technologies, they had to confront a new problem of safely storing all of the information for a long period of time. This resulted in different methods of record keeping such as clay tablets and scrolls which led to books and libraries.
The numbering systems and the abacus, the first calculator, were also invented during this period.
The Mechanical Age
During the mechanical age (between 1450 and 1840), many extraordinary inventions took place. This is where we can see similarities between our modern-day technologies and the rising technologies back then.
Due to a lot of technological inventions, there was a great interest in computation and information. Several machines were invented, one of them being the printing press.
With this new movable, metal-type printing machine, the process of composing pages took only a few, short minutes, making written technology easily accessible to the public. Other useful techniques such as the development of book indexes and the use of page numbers were also developed. These methods of organizing information paved the way of the development of files and databases. Other major machine inventions included:
- The slide rule (1600s)- an analog computer that allowed users to multiply and divide.
- The Pascaline (around 1642) – a mechanical computer that allowed users to add, subtract, multiply and divide two numbers.
- The Leibniz’s machine (1670s) – a machine that was an improvement of the Pascaline which included additional components that made it easier for users to multiply and divide.
- The difference engine (1820s) – a machine that could calculate numbers and print the results.
Even though these machine inventions were not as effective as the latest technologies we use today, they played a big role in the evolution process of information technology.
The Electromechanical Age
During this time (between 1840 and 1940), the telecommunication inventions emerged. Many revolutionary technologies were invented in this stage that led to modern information technology systems.
Firstly, a new method of communicating information was discovered with the voltaic battery. This was the first electrical battery that created and stored electricity. Afterwards, the telegraph was invented to communicate with others over great distances with the use of electricity, leading to the development of Morse Code.
The Morse Code was a system built to communicate with others by breaking down the alphabet into dots and dashes, transforming them into electrical impulses and transmitting over a wire. This is very similar to today´s digital technologies that break down information.
Shortly afterwards, the telephone and radio were invented. Later, the first digital computer was created. It consisted of electromechanical computing components, data and program readers, automatic typewriters and input/output control readers. It was different from our modern computers but it led to an interest to explore other ways to make the system smaller and to operate more effectively.
The Electronic Age
The electronic age (from 1940 to present day) is the stage of information technology that we currently live in. It first started when electronic equipment including computers were developed.
At the beginning of this phase, it was realized that electronic vacuum tubes could be used instead of electromechanical parts. The first high-speed digital computer invented was the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC). It was able to solve a large class of numerical problems through reprogramming. It was also one thousand times faster than that of electro-mechanical machines from the previous age.
However, the problem with the ENIAC was that it didn’t have the capacity to store program instructions in its memory.
Then, the Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator (EDSAC) was created and was recognized as the first stored-program computer. Afterwards, the world’s first commercial computer was invented known as Lyons Electronic Office (LEO).
Current Means of Information Transmission.
Communication is necessary in building relationships, and the modern means of communication allows us to pass information, get informed and stay in touch with friends and family from anywhere in the world.
Modern technology dominates our information processing today, and there are a massive range of ways in which we can stay connected to information effortlessly.
Here are 11 current tools for transmitting information and staying connected with the rest of the world:
Social media has been in existence since the early days of the internet and it still dominates most of our lives. The number of social networks are on the increase and each one is continuing to drive millions (and even billions) of users to their sites everyday, making it one of the most popular forms of communication.
Social media can be used for brand awareness, and is also a great channel for communication and information exchange as it enables one to post open messages for all to see, as well as engage with users through comments.
Social Media – Direct Message (DM)
Social media does not necessarily need to be entirely public. Almost every social media channel offers a direct messaging option and some of those messaging services have their own messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger.
Private messaging through social networks has the same intimacy as email but tends to be less formal.
Instant Message (IM)
While some forms of Instant Message falls under social media like Facebook Messenger, there are a wide range of Instant Messaging platforms that aren’t connected to social networks such as Google Hangouts and WhatsApp.
Instant Messaging is a great tool for conveying information quickly and having informal chats or group chats.
SMS Text Messaging
We are all aware of the uses of text messaging. They are short, generally informal and are a good way to communicate small bits of information that can be received and replied to at the recipient’s own leisure.
These days, mobile devices are more accessible to people, so it isn’t a surprise that more people are using their smartphones more than computers to search, research and communicate than ever before, making it a good platform to engage with an audience.
The first mass e-mail was sent back in 1978 and even then it was highly successful. However, today it is one of the most underestimated marketing platforms around, despite being one of the most beneficial in terms of return on investment.
E-mail marketing can be used for many different purposes, including pushing products and services, spreading news, raising brand awareness or delivering a message to the masses.
Over the years, most businesses accumulated a great deal of e-mail address and in many cases, they would go to waste. With e-mail marketing, e-mail addresses will enable one to reconnect with old clients as well as connect with new potential clients.
E-mail is similar to direct messaging through social networks, but it is generally more formal. It is the most popular way of communicating between businesses with over 200 billion e-mails being sent every day.
A blog is a conversational-style website that enables one to publish messages, news, knowledge or any other kind of information on the world wide web for everyone to see.
Most blogs include a comments section in which one can engage with likeminded people that are interested in the blog post. This is why it is a great platform for communication.
Voice calls are more personalised than the channels previously mentioned. The telephone or mobile phone instantly allows both parties to hear the tones and emotions of the other caller and is one of the most commonly used modern communication tools.
Video chat enables both parties to see each other, allowing one to be able to read body language and facial expressions. This form of communication isn’t as popular as voice calling but it does have its advantages.
The use of video has really taken off over the last few years with the help of social channels like YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. It is now easier than ever to record videos with smartphones and cameras always handily available.
It is important to get one’s message across in a variety of formats and video is one of the most popular ways that can be done so as to significantly boosts engagement.
Virtual Reality isn’t a common way of communication yet, but it has a lot of potential.
As virtual reality advances and prices for the headsets fall, its popularity will inevitably increase. With more and more people buying VR headsets, this could be the next modern form of information transmission to hit the masses and it may only be a few years away.