Academic journal article Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline

Subjectivity Dispelled: Physical Views of Information and Informing

Academic journal article Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline

Subjectivity Dispelled: Physical Views of Information and Informing

Article excerpt

Motto: In a well-defined context of operations and extension of knowledge, factors in form play roles as objective as factors in substance.


Many streams of research deal with information and informing. It is an interdisciplinary mix: cybernetics (the study of communication and control processes), operations research (analysis of processes for decision making), operations management, systems theory, systems analysis, praxiology (the study of human action with regard to effectiveness, ethics, and efficiency), psychology, sociology, political science, and also cognitive informatics (the study of natural intelligence and internal information-processing mechanisms of the brain, as well as the processes involved in perception and cognition). The 20th century has become known as the century of quantum mechanics and the theory of relativity in physics, nuclear energy, electronics, aviation, computing, and space exploration. The 21st century emerges, at least, as the century of information, microbiology, bioengineering, nano technology, and quantum and bio-based computing.

Information and informing are of a transdisciplinary nature. They are a heterogeneous collection of disparate views of the subject that are made from a variety of perspectives. Information may be considered to be a simple pair of values, a rule, a lengthy message, a concept, an idea, a design, etc. It is difficult to articulate valid statements without contradicting or excluding at least some of them. It is like attempting to make valid statements about all kinds of brick houses and the bricks they are made of. Callaos and Callaos (2002) tried to reconcile the disparate views by resorting to the concept of distributive truth. It tempts empiricists but does not suffice for articulation of a comprehensive theory for informing science. A unifying approach needs identification of something common, a common denominator. A physical operational approach seems to be promising. It views information as a factor in operations that triggers a state transition of a previously defined situation or as an elementary transversal association of physical states--signals in communication channels that leave no room for subjectivity if the latter is the opposite of objectively provable existence.

Information is recognized, at least by some, as the third essence that supplements matter and energy in viewing the universe; it describes its structural aspects represented by patterns. It is an intrinsic, thus always present and objectively observable, component of all physical systems that are ascribed to their organization or lack thereof (Stonier, 1997, p. 12). In the physical view presented in this paper, information is anything inform that can be communicated (in contrast to factors in substance). Information, as factors in substance, affects operations and their results. A pattern, whether in form or in substance, is also represented by physical states of matter and energy. As such, information is as objective as other factors in substance.

Patterns in form may represent actual, virtual, or hypothetical reality. Thus, not the pattern but what it represents may be fuzzy and murky. Informing may induce physical changes in entities informed. These changes are subject to the same physical laws as the rest of the physical world. Fragments of a discrete world can by mapped one to one into symbolic patterns (e.g., states of information systems, as defined by Wand and Wang, 1996)--patterns in form. In turn, patterns in form can also be impressed on fragments of the world by constructive operations that completely or partially replicate (e.g., car key replication) or transcribe (e.g., copying, DNA transcription, memorization) them. How and with what further consequences it occurs, contrary to other views (e.g., studies of semantics), depends rather marginally on the pattern per se while mainly depending on the entities informed and the situations they are in. …

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