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Conclusions

Information may be understood as the value attached or instantiated to a characteristic or variable returned by a function or produced by a process. We note that the value returned by a function is informative about the input to the process and about the process itself. Using the proposed hierarchical model of stacked processes one may model existing ideas about information, including the communication model proposed by Shannon, information as ``thing" or information as ``knowledge." The information hierarchy provides a satisfactory link between physical processes and consistent ideas about information and higher level mental functions discussed by psychologists and philosophers. This allows information scientists and others to examine information in a uniform way across the breadth of information phenomena, providing a level of precision to some interdisciplinary discussions of information, and serving as a base to which additional limiting assumptions may be added within specific disciplines, such as the concept of ``value" for economic studies of information.

Consider the application of our conceptual framework for studying information to a telephone conversation. An electrical engineer might choose to examine the electrical pulses and waveforms on the phone line by treating the telephone line as a process that produces output whose content can be studied. A linguist might wish to study the phonetic or syntactic processes and the information they produce. The student of cultural studies might note how specific cultural biases affect the quantity and quality of information produced in beliefs by specific observational processes. Each scholar can examine the same situation and the same set of data from a discipline specific perspective, yet using common terminology and measures to describe information.

Although information science is seen as a social science by some [HA95] and as a branch of physics by others [Bri56], a single broad discipline-independent definition of information may serve as the basis for a rigorous and inclusive view of information. Accepting such a model simplifies the discussion of several field dependent concepts, such as knowledge and belief. Use of this hierarchical model allows us to focus our studies on the information phenomenon in all its possible incarnations.


next up previous
Next: Bibliography Up: A Discipline Independent Definition Information Previous: Errors, Misinformation, and Bad
Bob Losee
1999-03-10