Seminar: "Defining information: the site of struggle"
Presented by Sue Myburgh, visiting Research Fellow from the University of South Australia, Adelaide Friday, 2nd November 2007, from 11 - 12 a.m. at the Centre for Community Informatics, Cape Peninsula University of Technology.
Attendance at this seminar is free.
For directions on how to get there, and to indicate your attendance, please email Munira Allie at firstname.lastname@example.org
Defining information: the site of struggle
The term ‘information’ is used in a multitude of contexts in the so-called "Information Society". The contemporary information context is paradoxically antipathetic to the traditional information professions, as there is an emphasis on the Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and their development and deployment, rather than the information that they convey.
The notion of ‘information’ is contested in two ways. There are many professional groups who describe themselves as ‘information professionals’, whereas the object of their work is discovered to be data, data systems or telecommunications, and there is little evidence here of understanding the human processes of knowledge creation,
information communication and meaning construction. On the other hand, traditional information professionals, such as librarians, are often perceived to be guardians of warehouses of physical artefacts, such as books, and their contribution to socio-economic (and other) development overlooked. Secondly, business literature, and much of the literature on socio-economic development, is replete with suggestions that ‘information’ is a commodity, which has a financial value and which can be traded in a marketplace; that the provision of ICTs is sufficient to have the desired ‘developmental’ effects, and that the accumulation of ‘information’ has direct financial and economic benefits. This conceptualisation, once again, does not consider how information is created, shared or used.
The challenge that faces traditional information professionals is that, for the most part, their theoretical foundation, praxis and teleology is located within a context which, to a large extent, no longer exists: it has changed politically, economically, socially, technologically and environmentally. The education for, and practice of, the traditional information professions has not adjusted to these changes. Instead,
they are seen as redundant, with libraries and library schools being closed down.
The change that is required is not dissimilar to the challenge for a change of paradigm that faces society as a whole. For many (e.g. Castells), the "Information Society" is little more than the last phase of Industrialism, predicated upon the manufacture and trade of commodities within a capitalist framework. Defining information in such as way that differentiates it from ‘data’, ‘technology’ and ‘facts’ may stabilise a conceptual model for information work which can more
adequately deal with society’s information problems and needs. In this seminar, two different approaches to defining the concept of information are considered, and their respective outcomes discussed.