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What is information?


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What is information?

  1. 1. What is Information? And what do we do about it? LIB 640 Information Sources and Services Summer 2014
  2. 2. 2 What is Information?
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  4. 4. 4 Information is all-pervading! James Gleick: • For the purposes of science, information had to mean something special. . . . A rite of purification became necessary. • And then, when it was made simple, distilled, counted in bits, information was found to be everywhere. [Claude] Shannon’s [information] theory [1948] made a bridge between information and uncertainty; between information and entropy; and between information and chaos. It led to compact discs and fax machines, computers and cyberspace, Moore’s law and all the world’s Silicon Alleys. Information processing was born, along with information storage and information retrieval. People began to name a successor to the Iron Age and the Steam Age. • Gleick, James (2011). The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood (Kindle Locations 134-138). Pantheon. Kindle Edition. 4
  5. 5. 5 Why Shannon? Gleick: • We can see now that information is what our world runs on: the blood and the fuel, the vital principle. It pervades the sciences from top to bottom, transforming every branch of knowledge. [Shannon’s] Information theory began as a bridge from mathematics to electrical engineering and from there to computing. • Gleick, James (2011). The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood (Kindle Locations 141-143). Pantheon. Kindle Edition. 5
  6. 6. 6 Information, more precisely defined? Information • Data presented in readily comprehensible form to which meaning has been attributed within the context of its use. In a more dynamic sense, the message conveyed by the use of a medium of communication or expression. • Whether a specific message is informative or not depends in part on the subjective perception of the person receiving it. . . . Compare with knowledge. • ODLIS: Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science
  7. 7. 7 7 Another view of “information” Comment from a former faculty member at the College of Library and Information in Oslo, Norway:  “. . . you know, there’s nothing as fluid as the information concept; it’s like . . . an amoeba!” From a group interview for Dr. Johan Koren’s dissertation research, Fall 1989
  8. 8. 8 Do you know what information is?
  9. 9. 9 What is it?  According to the International Encyclopedia of Information and Library Science, information is “best seen as holding the place in the spectrum between raw data and knowledge. Seen in this way, information is an assemblage of data in a comprehensible form capable of communication and use: facts to which meaning has been attached.”  In this sense, almost everything could be information - facts (events, concepts, objects, etc.) that carry meaning and can be communicated.  LIB 120 - What is Information?  University Libraries » LibGuides @ URI » LIB 120 - What is Information?
  10. 10. 10 Characteristics of information  Information comes in all shapes and sizes. Knowing some of its characteristics will help you better identify your information need and evaluate what you are receiving. • Factual vs Analytical • Subjective vs Objective • Current vs Historical • Scholarly vs Popular
  11. 11. 11 Understanding the information universe 11 FLCC Library » LibGuides » Library Research Tutorial: Information Formats
  12. 12. 12 Information Types  That is, what the information looks (or sounds) like  Textual  Bibliographic  Numeric  Graphical  Audio  Multimedia
  13. 13. 13 The result? Gleick again: • After “information theory” came to be, so did “information overload,” “information glut,” “information anxiety,” and “information fatigue,” the last recognized by the OED in 2009 as a timely syndrome: “Apathy, indifference, or mental exhaustion arising from exposure to too much information, esp. (in later use) stress induced by the attempt to assimilate excessive amounts of information from the media, the Internet, or at work.” • Gleick, James (2011). The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood (Kindle Locations 7201-7205). Pantheon. Kindle Edition. 13
  14. 14. 14 The solution? Gleick has none but hard work: • No deus ex machina waits in the wings; no man behind the curtain. • As ever, it is the choice that informs us (in the original sense of that word). Selecting the genuine takes work; then forgetting takes even more work. This is the curse of omniscience: the answer to any question may arrive at the fingertips—via Google or Wikipedia or IMDb or YouTube or Epicurious or the National DNA Database or any of their natural heirs and successors—and still we wonder what we know. • Gleick, James (2011). The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood (Kindle Locations 7587-7588; 7592-7595). Pantheon. Kindle Edition. 14
  15. 15. 15 Is there help to be found from librarians? • If so, how should it work? Can we help?