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What is information?

Rowley, Jennifer (1998) What is information? Information Services & Use, 18 (4). pp. 243-254. ISSN 0167-5265

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Abstract

Information is integral to our experience of the world and to personal, social and organisational functioning. This article provides a review of the different perspectives on the nature of information that can be drawn respectively, from the literatures of communication theory, library and information science, information systems, computer science, other professional disciplines, cognitive science, organisation science, and policy making. Five definitions of information are identified: information as subjective knowledge, information as useful data or as a thing, information as a resource, information as a commodity, and information as a constitutive force in society. Attempts to integrate these perspective on information must take into account the context of information processing. Individuals, organisations and societies are concerned with the role that information can play in processes such as decision making, learning or innovation, whereas information professionals and information systems designers, the professionals concerned with information, need to be able to impose structure on information in order to gather it into their systems, and therefore need to treat information as an object and to create a systems view of information.

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