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Information, in its most restricted technical sense, is a sequence of symbols that can be interpreted as a message. Information can be recorded as signs, or transmitted as signals. Information is any kind of event that affects the state of a dynamic system. Conceptually,information is the message (utterance or expression) being conveyed. The meaning of this concept varies in different contexts. Moreover, the concept of information is closely related to notions of constraint, communication, control, data, form, instruction, knowledge, meaning,understanding, mental stimuli, pattern, perception, representation, and entropy.
The English word was apparently derived from the Latin stem (information-) of the nominative (informatio): this noun is in its turn derived from the verb "informare" (to inform) in the sense of "to give form to the mind", "to discipline", "instruct", "teach": "Men so wise should go and inform their kings." (1330) Inform itself comes (via French informer) from the Latin verb informare, to give form, to form an idea of. Furthermore, Latin itself already contained the word informatio meaning concept or idea, but the extent to which this may have influenced the development of the word information in English is not clear.
The ancient Greek word for form was μορφή (morphe; cf. morph) and also εἶδος (eidos) "kind, idea, shape, set", the latter word was famously used in a technical philosophical sense by Plato (and later Aristotle) to denote the ideal identity or essence of something (seeTheory of Forms). "Eidos" can also be associated with thought, proposition or even concept.
Information theory approach
From the stance of information theory, information is taken as a sequence of symbols from an alphabet, say an input alphabet χ, and an output alphabet ϒ. Information processing consists of an input-output function that maps any input sequence from χ into an output sequence from ϒ. The mapping may be probabilistic or determinate. It may have memory or be memoryless.
As sensory input
Often information is viewed as a type of input to an organism or system. Inputs are of two kinds. Some inputs are important to the function of the organism (for example, food) or system (energy) by themselves. In his book Sensory Ecology, Dusenbery called these causal inputs. Other inputs (information) are important only because they are associated with causal inputs and can be used to predict the occurrence of a causal input at a later time (and perhaps another place). Some information is important because of association with other information but eventually there must be a connection to a causal input. In practice, information is usually carried by weak stimuli that must be detected by specialized sensory systems and amplified by energy inputs before they can be functional to the organism or system. For example, light is often a causal input to plants but provides information to animals. The colored light reflected from a flower is too weak to do much photosynthetic work but the visual system of the bee detects it and the bee's nervous system uses the information to guide the bee to the flower, where the bee often finds nectar or pollen, which are causal inputs, serving a nutritional function.
As representation and complexity
The cognitive scientist and applied mathematician Ronaldo Vigo argues that information is a relative concept that involves at least two related entities in order to make quantitative sense. These are: any dimensionally defined category of objects S, and any of its subsets R. R, in essence, is a representation of S, or, in other words, carries or conveys representational (and hence, conceptual) information about S. Vigo then defines the amount of information that R conveys about S as the rate of change in the complexity of S whenever the objects in R are removed from S. Under "Vigo information", pattern, invariance, complexity, representation, and information—five fundamental constructs of universal science—are unified under a novel mathematical framework. Among other things, the framework aims to overcome the limitations of Shannon-Weaver information when attempting to characterize and measure subjective information.
As an influence which leads to a transformation
Information is any type of pattern that influences the formation or transformation of other patterns. In this sense, there is no need for a conscious mind to perceive, much less appreciate, the pattern. Consider, for example, DNA. The sequence of nucleotidesis a pattern that influences the formation and development of an organism without any need for a conscious mind.
Systems theory at times seems to refer to information in this sense, assuming information does not necessarily involve any conscious mind, and patterns circulating (due to feedback) in the system can be called information. In other words, it can be said that information in this sense is something potentially perceived as representation, though not created or presented for that purpose. For example,Gregory Bateson defines "information" as a "difference that makes a difference".
If, however, the premise of "influence" implies that information has been perceived by a conscious mind and also interpreted by it, the specific context associated with this interpretation may cause the transformation of the information into knowledge. Complex definitions of both "information" and "knowledge" make such semantic and logical analysis difficult, but the condition of "transformation" is an important point in the study of information as it relates to knowledge, especially in the business discipline of knowledge management. In this practice, tools and processes are used to assist a knowledge worker in performing research and making decisions, including steps such as:
- reviewing information in order to effectively derive value and meaning
- referencing metadata if any is available
- establishing a relevant context, often selecting from many possible contexts
- deriving new knowledge from the information
- making decisions or recommendations from the resulting knowledge.
Stewart (2001) argues that the transformation of information into knowledge is a critical one, lying at the core of value creation andcompetitive advantage for the modern enterprise.
The Danish Dictionary of Information Terms argues that information only provides an answer to a posed question. Whether the answer provides knowledge depends on the informed person. So a generalized definition of the concept should be: "Information" = An answer to a specific question".
When Marshall McLuhan speaks of media and their effects on human cultures, he refers to the structure of artifacts that in turn shape our behaviors and mindsets. Also, pheromones are often said to be "information" in this sense.
As a property in physics
Information has a well-defined meaning in physics. In 2003 J. D. Bekenstein claimed that a growing trend in physics was to define the physical world as being made of information itself (and thus information is defined in this way) (see Digital physics). Examples of this include the phenomenon of quantum entanglement where particles can interact without reference to their separation or the speed of light. Information itself cannot travel faster than light even if the information is transmitted indirectly. This could lead to the fact that all attempts at physically observing a particle with an "entangled" relationship to another are slowed down, even though the particles are not connected in any other way other than by the information they carry.
Another link is demonstrated by the Maxwell's demon thought experiment. In this experiment, a direct relationship between information and another physical property, entropy, is demonstrated. A consequence is that it is impossible to destroy information without increasing the entropy of a system; in practical terms this often means generating heat. Another, more philosophical outcome is that information could be thought of as interchangeable with energy. Thus, in the study of logic gates, the theoretical lower bound of thermal energy released by an AND gate is higher than for the NOT gate (because information is destroyed in an AND gate and simply converted in a NOT gate). Physical information is of particular importance in the theory of quantum computers.
Technologically mediated information
It is estimated that the world's technological capacity to store information grew from 2.6 (optimally compressed) exabytes in 1986, which is the informational equivalent to less than one 730-MB CD-ROM per person in 1986 (539 MB per person), to 295 (optimally compressed) exabytes in 2007. This is the informational equivalent of almost 61 CD-ROM per person in 2007.
The world’s combined technological capacity to receive information through one-way broadcast networks was the informational equivalent of 174 newspapers per person per day in 2007.
The world's combined effective capacity to exchange information through two-way telecommunication networks was the informational equivalent of 6 newspapers per person per day in 2007.
Records are a specialized form of information. Essentially, records are information produced consciously or as by-products of business activities or transactions and retained because of their value. Primarily their value is as evidence of the activities of the organization but they may also be retained for their informational value. Sound records management ensures that the integrity of records is preserved for as long as they are required.
The international standard on records management, ISO 15489, defines records as "information created, received, and maintained as evidence and information by an organization or person, in pursuance of legal obligations or in the transaction of business". The International Committee on Archives (ICA) Committee on electronic records defined a record as, "a specific piece of recorded information generated, collected or received in the initiation, conduct or completion of an activity and that comprises sufficient content, context and structure to provide proof or evidence of that activity".
Records may be maintained to retain corporate memory of the organization or to meet legal, fiscal or accountability requirements imposed on the organization. Willis (2005) expressed the view that sound management of business records and information delivered "...six key requirements for good corporate governance...transparency; accountability; due process; compliance; meeting statutory and common law requirements; and security of personal and corporate information."
Information and semiotics
Beynon-Davies explains the multi-faceted concept of information in terms of signs and signal-sign systems. Signs themselves can be considered in terms of four inter-dependent levels, layers or branches of semiotics: pragmatics, semantics, syntax, and empirics. These four layers serve to connect the social world on the one hand with the physical or technical world on the other...
Pragmatics is concerned with the purpose of communication. Pragmatics links the issue of signs with the context within which signs are used. The focus of pragmatics is on the intentions of living agents underlying communicative behaviour. In other words, pragmatics link language to action.
Semantics is concerned with the meaning of a message conveyed in a communicative act. Semantics considers the content of communication. Semantics is the study of the meaning of signs - the association between signs and behaviour. Semantics can be considered as the study of the link between symbols and their referents or concepts; particularly the way in which signs relate to human behaviour.
Syntax is concerned with the formalism used to represent a message. Syntax as an area studies the form of communication in terms of the logic and grammar of sign systems. Syntax is devoted to the study of the form rather than the content of signs and sign-systems.
Empirics is the study of the signals used to carry a message; the physical characteristics of the medium of communication. Empirics is devoted to the study of communication channels and their characteristics, e.g., sound, light, electronic transmission etc..
Nielsen (2008) discusses the relationship between semiotics and information in relation to dictionaries. The concept of lexicographic information costs is introduced and refers to the efforts users of dictionaries need to make in order to, first, find the data sought and, secondly, understand the data so that they can generate information.
Communication normally exists within the context of some social situation. The social situation sets the context for the intentions conveyed (pragmatics) and the form in which communication takes place. In a communicative situation intentions are expressed through messages which comprise collections of inter-related signs taken from a language which is mutually understood by the agents involved in the communication. Mutual understanding implies that agents involved understand the chosen language in terms of its agreed syntax (syntactics) and semantics. The sender codes the message in the language and sends the message as signals along some communication channel (empirics). The chosen communication channel will have inherent properties which determine outcomes such as the speed with which communication can take place and over what distance.
- Accuracy and precision
- Classified information
- Data storage device#Recording medium
- Free Information Infrastructure
- Freedom of information
- Gregory Bateson
- Information and communication technologies
- Information architecture
- Information broker
- Information continuum
- Information entropy
- Information geometry
- Information inequity
- Information infrastructure
- Information ladder
- Information mapping
- Information overload
- Information processing
- Information processor
- Information sensitivity
- Information systems
- Information superhighway
- Information theory
- Lexicographic information cost
- Library science
- Philosophy of information
- Propaganda model
- Quantum information
- Receiver operating characteristic
- Shannon–Hartley theorem
- A short overview is found in: Luciano Floridi (2010).Information - A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-160954-4. "The goal of this volume is to provide an outline of what information is..."
- Stephen B. Wicker, Saejoon Kim (2003). Fundamentals of Codes, Graphs, and Iterative Decoding. Springer. pp. 1 ff.ISBN 1-4020-7264-3.
- Vigo, R. (2011). "Representational information: a new general notion and measure of information". Information Sciences, 181 (2011),4847-4859..
- "The World’s Technological Capacity to Store, Communicate, and Compute Information", Martin Hilbert and Priscila López (2011), Science (journal), 332(6025), 60-65; free access to the article through here: martinhilbert.net/WorldInfoCapacity.html
- "video animation on The World’s Technological Capacity to Store, Communicate, and Compute Information from 1986 to 2010
- Beynon-Davies P. (2002). Information Systems: an introduction to informatics in Organisations. Palgrave, Basingstoke, UK. ISBN 0-333-96390-3
- Beynon-Davies P. (2009). Business Information Systems. Palgrave, Basingstoke. ISBN 978-0-230-20368-6
- Alan Liu (2004). The Laws of Cool: Knowledge Work and the Culture of Information, University of Chicago Press
- Bekenstein, Jacob D. (2003, August). Information in the holographic universe. Scientific American.
- Gleick, James (2011). The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood. Pantheon, New York, NY.
- Shu-Kun Lin (2008). 'Gibbs Paradox and the Concepts of Information, Symmetry, Similarity and Their Relationship', Entropy, 10 (1), 1-5. Available online at Entropy journal website.
- Luciano Floridi, (2005). 'Is Information Meaningful Data?', Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 70 (2), pp. 351 – 370. Available online at PhilSci Archive
- Luciano Floridi, (2005). 'Semantic Conceptions of Information', The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2005 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.). Available online at Stanford University
- Sandro Nielsen: 'The Effect of Lexicographical Information Costs on Dictionary Making and Use', Lexikos 18/2008, 170-189.
- Stewart, Thomas, (2001). Wealth of Knowledge. Doubleday, New York, NY, 379 p.
- Young, Paul. The Nature of Information (1987). Greenwood Publishing Group, Westport, Ct. ISBN 0-275-92698-2.
|Look up information in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:Information|
- Semantic Conceptions of Information Review by Luciano Floridi for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- Principia Cybernetica entry on negentropy
- Fisher Information, a New Paradigm for Science: Introduction, Uncertainty principles, Wave equations, Ideas of Escher, Kant, Plato and Wheeler. This essay is continually revised in the light of ongoing research.
- How Much Information? 2003 an attempt to estimate how much new information is created each year (study was produced by faculty and students at the School of Information Management and Systems at the University of California at Berkeley)
- (Danish) Informationsordbogen.dk The Danish Dictionary of Information Terms / Informationsordbogen