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The Declining Role of Print in Total Information Flow (1983)


In 1983 American political scientist Ithiel de Sola Pool of MIT published "Tracking the Flow of Information," Science 221 (1983) 609-19. This study, which estimated the growth trends of the “amount of words” transmitted by 17 major communications media in the United States from 1960 to 1977, was the first to show empirically the declining volume of print media relative to electronic media in terms of information flow.

"By using words transmitted and words attended to as common denominators, novel indexes were constructed of growth trends in seventeen major communications media from 1960 to 1977. There have been extraordinary rates of growth in the transmission of electronic communications, but much lower rates of growth in the material that peole actually consume, representing the phenomenon often labeled information overload. Growth in print media has sharply decelerated, a a close relationship is found between the cheapness of a medium and its rate of growth."