A Very Short Introduction to Information

I am an information scientist by profession, and sufficiently proud of the fact to tell prospective clients at an initial meeting. The Wikipedia definition of information science is a good one, but the historical background is weak, and for example makes no reference to founding of the (UK) Institute of Information Scientists in 1958.  Information fascinates me, and yet my professional experience and learning over four decades enables me to see commonalities in how people find, assess, use and communicate information.

The literature of information science is vast, but is published in books and journals aimed at the academic market. There have been some attempts to ‘popularise’ information, notably (and in my view unsuccessfully) by James Gleick, but none of them get to the heart of matter.  Browsing around the vast subterranean Norrington Room of Blackwell’s in Oxford this week I can across a very small book entitled Information – A Very Short Introduction by Luciano Floridi. This is a remarkable book.  In just 126 pages of masterly exposition and insight the author introduces the reader to a vast panorama of information in action. The chapters cover the information revolution, the language of information, mathematical information, semantic information, physical information, biological information, economic information and the ethics of information.  In the intranet world we often see content and information as being synonyms, but that is far too simplistic.

Reading this book will not have an immediate impact on your intranet, but you will almost certainly see information in a different and probably more stimulating way.  I know many people who have had the same sort of epiphany when reading the books on the visual display of information by Edward Tufte.  Why not start 2012 by stretching your mind a little, and purchasing this little book?  It won’t take long to read.

Martin White