The Power, Peril, and Promise of Information Technology to Community Education

The Power, Peril, and Promise of Information Technology to Community Education

Valerie C. Bryan (Florida Atlantic University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2955-4.ch001


The democratization of information serves as a powerful force for change in both our lives and our global world. The paradigm shift from the providers of information to the users of the information has in many cases been brought about through the use of information technologies and the creation of more diverse and accessible Web-enabled devices. Educational equity helps to provide democratic and accessible educational opportunities for all citizenry and supports the tenets of community education. The question arises whether the proliferation of information brings power, peril, or promise for the communities of the world and the people it serves. This chapter investigates the changing rate of information, how it is distributed through online communities of practice and social networks, and what impact some of this information may have on areas of interest for training, research, and online development in fields of education, law enforcement, medicine, and sociology.
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In our current world, having access to information and knowing how to use that information has become an integral part of being an educated citizen. Today’s information is a dynamic, living thing that is being changed drastically and at warp speed by technology. As we all know, information overload is occurring at exponential rates and we are being asked to change or to move out of the way.

For our communities to remain vibrant, we must have a citizenry that possesses the skills necessary to perform in this constantly changing environment, but the citizenry must also be able to morph into the needs of the next stage of this information evolution. As stated in the values expressed by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation (2012), we need to nurture

strong, self-reliant individuals with expanded capacity for accomplishment . . . (that can) create a sense of community, whether at the neighborhood level or as a global society . . . ; (we need to build) . . . strong communities through collaboration to provide a basis for positive change; (encourage) responsible citizen participation to help foster social cohesion; (promote) the social, economic and political empowerment of all individuals and communities to preserve fundamental democratic principles and rights; (develop) leadership to build upon the needs and values of people and to inspire the aspirations and potential of others; and (respect) the diversity of life to maintain a sustainable human and physical environment (Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, 2012, p. 1).


Background/Theoretical Framework

Five centuries ago, a new technology swamped the world with data. This new technology, the Gutenberg's invention of the printing press, changed the way information was processed. Prior to Gutenberg's press, it took a scribe one year to prepare a book (Blair, 2012). Today, the number of text messages sent and received every day exceeds the population of the planet. The popular podcast, Shifthappens 6.0, that went viral following the 4.0 version, provides us a summary of factoids that helps to paint the picture of the exponential nature of the information explosion (see Table 1).

Table 1.
Exponential nature of information explosion
Quotes from Shifthappens 6.0Slides
Currently there are “540,000 words in the year English language or about five times as many words as was during Shakespeare's time”37-38
On a daily basis “more than 4000 new books are published”39
It is also estimated that a “week’s worth of the New York Times contains more information than a person was likely to come across in a lifetime in the 18th century.”40
With “40 exabytes (4.0x 1019) of unique and new information will be generated worldwide this year. That estimation is more than in any previous 5000 years.”41-42
Years it took to market information to reach a target “audience of 50 million” people via:
     • Radio 38 years
     • TV 13 years
     • Internet 4 years
     • iPod 3 years
     • Facebook 2 years
     • Google+ 1 year
Courtesy of Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike license,
(Rose, Brenman, XPLANE, Sony/BMG, the Economist, McLeod, Bestler, & Fisch, 2012)

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