what is Information?

People have been interested in information as a means of communication for a long time.

Watch this and ask yourself what your definition of information is

That was fairly short. Now, look at this longer video and see if it sparks questions you want to ask.

You may wish to start at the 10:35 point.

Then read what Bob Losee has to say about information on p. v of his book.


Losee, R. M. (2012). Information from processes: About the nature of information creation, use, and representation.
Berlin: Springer.

As the author describes it:

A book on Information and Information Science. Not a book about computers or psychology, the emphasis here is on information, the processes that produce information, and how information can be understood and used in a range of environments.

[page v]

One may understand information in a variety of ways. For some, information is found in facts that were previously unknown. For others, a fact must have some economic value to be considered as information. Information may be something with meaning, words put together into sentences, brush strokes on an artist's canvas, or a crescendo in music. Other people emphasize the movement through a communication channel from one location to another when describing information.

In all of these instances, the information is the set of characteristics of the output of a process, the characteristics produced from the set of possible characteristics of the output. The information produced by the process is about the process itself and about its input. This informative output may be observed and analyzed, and the output may be captured by a statement describing the information and the relationships between the information containing variables. Such an informative statement may describe the state of nature at the output of the process.

With that in your mind, read these two chapters in Gleick's book and be ready to discuss them in class


Gleick, J. (2011). The information: A history, a theory, a flood.
New York, NY: Pantheon Books.

From the New York Times:

... a sweeping survey that covers the five millenniums of humanity's engagement with information, from the invention of writing in Sumer to the elevation of information to a first principle in the sciences over the last half-century or so. It's a grand narrative if ever there was one ...
  1. read chapter chapter 7, Information theory. As you read it, think about:
    p. 213 - the idea that coding is not meant to obscure, but to illuminate
    p. 219 - "information is uncertainty, surprise, difficulty, and entropy"
    p. 224 - the concept of a state
  2. read chapter chapter 8, The informational turn. As you read it, think about:
    p. 242 - Is information about communication
    p. 263 - or is it a hard core branch of mathematics
    pp. 260-261 - what is the connection between "the magical number seven" and "bits"?

You don't have to read these unless you wish to, but we might touch upon them in conversation

Fundamental concepts of information book

Lester, J., and W. C. Koehler. "Fundamental Concepts of Information."
In Fundamentals of Information Studies, 16-25. 2nd ed. New York: Neal-Schuman, 2007.

Information Concepts book

Marchionini, Gary. "The Many Meanings of Information."
In Information Concepts: From Books to Cyberspace Identities, 1-9.
Synthesis Lectures on Information Concepts, Retrieval, and Services. Morgan & Claypool, 2010.

Which readings speak more to your interests?