G Transmission of Information
Extension organizations are located within a network of information flows about agriculture and related topics.
This diagram shows that:
· extension services can tap a wide variety of information sources
2. Five Steps in the Transmission of Information
Below is a step-by-step diagram of the information tasks and activities which an extension service may need to perform.
Step 1: Collect Information: receive, find
There are two ways of obtaining information, the random and the purposeful. The way it is obtained will involve parts of both methods, depending on the circumstances and the sources of information.
This list shows that we recognize a difference between: - the way in which information is obtained and - the availability of information sources
Step 2: Examine the Information: assess it, file it, throw it away
a) Assessing information
The following 5-step model will help in assessing information:
The decision on how to use the information is made relatively easy after analysis on the basis of the five steps indicated here: translate the information into action (- > go to work), or further process it (Step 3), or file it (- > see below), or throw it away (- > wastepaper basket).
b) Filing Information
Filing information means opening a small information section. An information centre can function only when the documents it contains can be quickly found by cross-referencing. A good basis for this is provided by the keyword indexes of specialist libraries, the information centres of associated institutions or those found in handbooks. However, it is always useful to compile also a list of keywords from one's own topics and then to determine a cross-reference system for filing one's own documents on the basis of these two sources. The list of keywords used in these Guidelines was also created in this way and can be adapted for your own use.
The best way to choose the type of filing system (box files, hanging files, binders etc.) and to find out about the advantages of each system is to visit an existing information centre.
Watch out: Any documentation is a means to an end and not an end in itself!
Step 3: Processing Information: select, (re)formulate, edit
What does "processing information" mean? Two examples from everyday life will explain this: In a report from the research station an extension worker finds very interesting information about cattle feeding which he would like to pass on to the cattle farmers in the region. But the report is written in complicated research jargon and full of foreign words and technical terms. To make things worse, the test results are presented in long tables with a mass of detail. The extension worker will have to select the information that is important to the farmers and package it differently. In doing this the extension worker may need to contact the researcher. He would like to have his article checked and, later, to give the researcher feedback on the significance of the topic and requests about the content, form of future publications.
Second example: The farmers in a certain region are always asking their agricultural extension worker legal questions about communally-held machinery and equipment. The main questions in the discussions are always much the same. At a meeting one day the extension worker decides to publish a leaflet in co-operation with a member of staff at the agricultural technology research station and a lawyer of the farmers' association. Together they answer the main questions and compare the advantages and disadvantages of the communally-held machinery with those of alternative forms of machine availability (individual ownership, rota systems, hiring of machines etc.) The three co-authors combine their own experiences and information to produce this leaflet.
Four Points to Remember when Processing Information
a) Think from the point of view of the information receivers, take their questions into account and clarify the following questions:
· Who are the information receivers?
b) Write clearly
Friedemann Schulz von Thun introduces in his book, "Miteinander reden - Storungen und Klarungen" (literally: "Talking to Each Other - Interferences and Clarification") a method for assessing the clarity of a piece of information. It helps us to judge four aspects of a piece of information.
The assessment is done as follows: reviewers read and judge a piece of information, based on each of the four aspects mentioned above. They then give four scores, one for each aspect. The result of this test is then entered in a four-part "clarity window", e.g.:
Below we assess two texts on the basis of this scale; the first is the publication of a "research result" and the second is a popular version:
The voluminous expansion of subterranean agricultural products is in reciprocal relation to the intellectual capacity of their producers.
The most stupid farmers grow the biggest potatoes.
Schulz of Thun also writes: "Perhaps one day it will become compulsory to add "clarity windows" to all books and articles. This would be an effective consumer protection and would also encourage authors to achieve higher scores."
c) Structure the information
· Start with the important things!
· Use the reader's questions as titles or sub-titles (to arouse the reader's interest)! . Emphasize the important parts in drawings and tables!
· Use illustrations (photos, drawings, cartoons) purposefully!
d) Check the Content of the Information
- > Return the processed, rewritten texts to the original author and take his/her criticism into account.
- > Invite test readers (if possible from the potential readership) and ask them to check how clear the texts are.
Step 4: Transmit Information: choose the medium, check for sources of interference
Which medium is best for transmitting the information?
Step 5: Gather Feedback' Determine Effects
What feedbacks do I get on my information efforts? From whom? Is this feedback reliable? Is it generally applicable? How can I get the receiver of my information to provide more feedback?
Schulz von Thun, F.; 1981: Miteinander reden - Storungen und Klarungen. Rororo 7489, Hamburg.
Schirm, R.; 1977: Kurzer, knapper, praziser. Verlag Econ, Dusseldorf.
Zielke, W.; 1974: Gute Berichte flussig schreiben - gezielt informieren. Verlag moderne Industrie, Munchen.
Rico, G.L.; 1984: Garantiert schreiben lernen. Rowohlt, Hamburg
Written and compiled by:
Ernst Bolliger, Tonino Zellweger
[Ukrainian] [English] [Russian]