Information is any entity or form that resolves uncertainty or
provides the answer to a question of some kind. It is thus related to
data and knowledge, as data represents values attributed to
parameters, and knowledge signifies understanding of real things or
abstract concepts. As it regards data, the information's existence
is not necessarily coupled to an observer (it exists beyond an event
horizon, for example), while in the case of knowledge, the information
requires a cognitive observer.
Information is conveyed either as the content of a message or through
direct or indirect observation. That which is perceived can be
construed as a message in its own right, and in that sense,
information is always conveyed as the content of a message.
Information can be encoded into various forms for transmission and
interpretation (for example, information may be encoded into a
sequence of signs, or transmitted via a sequence of signals). It can
also be encrypted for safe storage and communication.
Information reduces uncertainty. The uncertainty of an event is
measured by its probability of occurrence and is inversely
proportional to that. The more uncertain an event, the more
information is required to resolve uncertainty of that event. The bit
is a typical unit of information, but other units such as the nat may
be used. For example, the information encoded in one "fair" coin flip
is log2(2/1) = 1 bit, and in two fair coin flips is log2(4/1) = 2
The concept that information is the message has different meanings in
different contexts. Thus the concept of information becomes closely
related to notions of constraint, communication, control, data, form,
education, knowledge, meaning, understanding, mental stimuli, pattern,
perception, representation, and entropy.
Information theory approach
3 As sensory input
4 As representation and complexity
5 As an influence that leads to transformation
6 As a property in physics
7 The application of information study
8 Technologically mediated information
9 As records
11 See also
13 Further reading
14 External links
History of the word and concept "information"
The English word apparently derives from the
Latin stem (information-)
of the nominative (informatio): this noun derives from the verb
informare (to inform) in the sense of "to give form to the mind", "to
discipline", "instruct", "teach". Inform itself comes (via French
informer) from the
Latin verb informare, which means to give form, or
to form an idea of. Furthermore,
Latin itself already contained the
word informatio meaning concept or idea, but the extent to which this
may have influenced the development of the word information in English
is not clear.
The ancient Greek word for form was μορφή (morphe; cf. morph) and
also εἶδος (eidos) "kind, idea, shape, set", the latter word was
famously used in a technical philosophical sense by
Plato (and later
Aristotle) to denote the ideal identity or essence of something (see
Theory of Forms). "Eidos" can also be associated with thought,
proposition, or even concept.
The ancient Greek word for information is πληροφορία, which
transliterates (plērophoria) from πλήρης (plērēs) "fully" and
φέρω (phorein) frequentative of (pherein) to carry through. It
literally means "bears fully" or "conveys fully". In modern Greek the
word Πληροφορία is still in daily use and has the same
meaning as the word information in English. In addition to its primary
meaning, the word Πληροφορία as a symbol has deep roots in
Aristotle's semiotic triangle. In this regard it can be interpreted to
communicate information to the one decoding that specific type of
sign. This is something that occurs frequently with the etymology of
many words in ancient and modern Greek where there is a very strong
denotative relationship between the signifier, e.g. the word symbol
that conveys a specific encoded interpretation, and the signified,
e.g. a concept whose meaning the interpreter attempts to decode.
In English, “information” is an uncountable mass noun.
Information theory approach
From the stance of information theory, information is taken as an
ordered sequence of symbols from an alphabet, say an input alphabet
χ, and an output alphabet ϒ.
Information processing consists of an
input-output function that maps any input sequence from χ into an
output sequence from ϒ. The mapping may be probabilistic or
deterministic. It may have memory or be memoryless.
As sensory input
Often information can be viewed as a type of input to an organism or
system. Inputs are of two kinds; some inputs are important to the
function of the organism (for example, food) or system (energy) by
themselves. In his book Sensory Ecology Dusenbery called these
causal inputs. Other inputs (information) are important only because
they are associated with causal inputs and can be used to predict the
occurrence of a causal input at a later time (and perhaps another
place). Some information is important because of association with
other information but eventually there must be a connection to a
causal input. In practice, information is usually carried by weak
stimuli that must be detected by specialized sensory systems and
amplified by energy inputs before they can be functional to the
organism or system. For example, light is mainly (but not only, e.g.
plants can grow in the direction of the lightsource) a causal input to
plants but for animals it only provides information. The colored light
reflected from a flower is too weak to do much photosynthetic work but
the visual system of the bee detects it and the bee's nervous system
uses the information to guide the bee to the flower, where the bee
often finds nectar or pollen, which are causal inputs, serving a
As representation and complexity
The cognitive scientist and applied mathematician Ronaldo Vigo argues
that information is a concept that requires at least two related
entities to make quantitative sense. These are, any dimensionally
defined category of objects S, and any of its subsets R. R, in
essence, is a representation of S, or, in other words, conveys
representational (and hence, conceptual) information about S. Vigo
then defines the amount of information that R conveys about S as the
rate of change in the complexity of S whenever the objects in R are
removed from S. Under "Vigo information", pattern, invariance,
complexity, representation, and information—five fundamental
constructs of universal science—are unified under a novel
mathematical framework. Among other things, the framework
aims to overcome the limitations of Shannon-Weaver information when
attempting to characterize and measure subjective information.
As an influence that leads to transformation
Information is any type of pattern that influences the formation or
transformation of other patterns. In this sense, there is no
need for a conscious mind to perceive, much less appreciate, the
pattern. Consider, for example, DNA. The sequence of
nucleotides is a pattern that influences the formation and development
of an organism without any need for a conscious mind. One might argue
though that for a human to consciously define a pattern, for example a
nucleotide, naturally involves conscious information processing.
Systems theory at times seems to refer to information in this sense,
assuming information does not necessarily involve any conscious mind,
and patterns circulating (due to feedback) in the system can be called
information. In other words, it can be said that information in this
sense is something potentially perceived as representation, though not
created or presented for that purpose. For example, Gregory Bateson
defines "information" as a "difference that makes a difference".
If, however, the premise of "influence" implies that information has
been perceived by a conscious mind and also interpreted by it, the
specific context associated with this interpretation may cause the
transformation of the information into knowledge. Complex definitions
of both "information" and "knowledge" make such semantic and logical
analysis difficult, but the condition of "transformation" is an
important point in the study of information as it relates to
knowledge, especially in the business discipline of knowledge
management. In this practice, tools and processes are used to assist a
knowledge worker in performing research and making decisions,
including steps such as:
Review information to effectively derive value and meaning
Reference metadata if available
Establish relevant context, often from many possible contexts
Derive new knowledge from the information
Make decisions or recommendations from the resulting knowledge
Stewart (2001) argues that transformation of information into
knowledge is critical, lying at the core of value creation and
competitive advantage for the modern enterprise.
The Danish Dictionary of
Information Terms argues that information
only provides an answer to a posed question. Whether the answer
provides knowledge depends on the informed person. So a generalized
definition of the concept should be: "Information" = An answer to a
Marshall McLuhan speaks of media and their effects on human
cultures, he refers to the structure of artifacts that in turn shape
our behaviors and mindsets. Also, pheromones are often said to be
"information" in this sense.
As a property in physics
Main article: Physical information
Information has a well-defined meaning in physics. In 2003 J. D.
Bekenstein claimed that a growing trend in physics was to define the
physical world as being made up of information itself (and thus
information is defined in this way) (see Digital physics). Examples of
this include the phenomenon of quantum entanglement, where particles
can interact without reference to their separation or the speed of
light. Material information itself cannot travel faster than light
even if that information is transmitted indirectly. This could lead to
all attempts at physically observing a particle with an "entangled"
relationship to another being slowed down, even though the particles
are not connected in any other way other than by the information they
The mathematical universe hypothesis suggests a new paradigm, in which
virtually everything, from particles and fields, through biological
entities and consciousness, to the multiverse itself, could be
described by mathematical patterns of information. By the same token,
the cosmic void can be conceived of as the absence of material
information in space (setting aside the virtual particles that pop in
and out of existence due to quantum fluctuations, as well as the
gravitational field and the dark energy). Nothingness can be
understood then as that within which no matter, energy, space, time,
or any other type of information could exist, which would be possible
if symmetry and structure break within the manifold of the multiverse
(i.e. the manifold would have tears or holes).
Another link is demonstrated by the
Maxwell's demon thought
experiment. In this experiment, a direct relationship between
information and another physical property, entropy, is demonstrated. A
consequence is that it is impossible to destroy information without
increasing the entropy of a system; in practical terms this often
means generating heat. Another more philosophical outcome is that
information could be thought of as interchangeable with energy. Toyabe
et al. experimentally showed in nature that information can be
converted into work. Thus, in the study of logic gates, the
theoretical lower bound of thermal energy released by an AND gate is
higher than for the NOT gate (because information is destroyed in an
AND gate and simply converted in a NOT gate).
Physical information is
of particular importance in the theory of quantum computers.
In thermodynamics, information is any kind of event that affects the
state of a dynamic system that can interpret the information.
The application of information study
The information cycle (addressed as a whole or in its distinct
components) is of great concern to information technology, information
systems, as well as information science. These fields deal with those
processes and techniques pertaining to information capture (through
sensors) and generation (through computation, formulation or
composition), processing (including encoding, encryption, compression,
packaging), transmission (including all telecommunication methods),
presentation (including visualization / display methods), storage
(such as magnetic or optical, including holographic methods), etc.
Information does not cease to exist, it may only get scrambled beyond
any possibility of retrieval (within information theory, see lossy
compression; in physics, the black hole information paradox gets
solved with the aid of the holographic principle).
Information visualization (shortened as InfoVis) depends on the
computation and digital representation of data, and assists users in
pattern recognition and anomaly detection.
Partial map of the Internet, with nodes representing IP addresses
Galactic (including dark) matter distribution in a cubic section of
Information embedded in an abstract mathematical object with symmetry
Visual representation of a strange attractor, with converted data of
its fractal structure
Information security (shortened as InfoSec) is the ongoing process of
exercising due diligence to protect information, and information
systems, from unauthorized access, use, disclosure, destruction,
modification, disruption or distribution, through algorithms and
procedures focused on monitoring and detection, as well as incident
response and repair.
Information analysis is the process of inspecting, transforming, and
modelling information, by converting raw data into actionable
knowledge, in support of the decision-making process.
Information quality (shortened as InfoQ) is the potential of a dataset
to achieve a specific (scientific or practical) goal using a given
empirical analysis method.
Information communication represents the convergence of informatics,
telecommunication and audio-visual media & content.
Technologically mediated information
It is estimated that the world's technological capacity to store
information grew from 2.6 (optimally compressed) exabytes in 1986 –
which is the informational equivalent to less than one 730-MB CD-ROM
per person (539 MB per person) – to 295 (optimally compressed)
exabytes in 2007. This is the informational equivalent of almost
CD-ROM per person in 2007.
The world’s combined technological capacity to receive information
through one-way broadcast networks was the informational equivalent of
174 newspapers per person per day in 2007.
The world's combined effective capacity to exchange information
through two-way telecommunication networks was the informational
equivalent of 6 newspapers per person per day in 2007.
As of 2007, an estimated 90% of all new information is digital, mostly
stored on hard drives.
Records are specialized forms of information. Essentially, records are
information produced consciously or as by-products of business
activities or transactions and retained because of their value.
Primarily, their value is as evidence of the activities of the
organization but they may also be retained for their informational
value. Sound records management ensures that the integrity of records
is preserved for as long as they are required.
The international standard on records management, ISO 15489, defines
records as "information created, received, and maintained as evidence
and information by an organization or person, in pursuance of legal
obligations or in the transaction of business". The International
Committee on Archives (ICA) Committee on electronic records defined a
record as, "a specific piece of recorded information generated,
collected or received in the initiation, conduct or completion of an
activity and that comprises sufficient content, context and structure
to provide proof or evidence of that activity".[this quote needs a
Records may be maintained to retain corporate memory of the
organization or to meet legal, fiscal or accountability requirements
imposed on the organization. Willis expressed the view that sound
management of business records and information delivered "...six key
requirements for good corporate governance...transparency;
accountability; due process; compliance; meeting statutory and common
law requirements; and security of personal and corporate
information."[citation not found]
Michael Buckland has classified "information" in terms of its uses:
"information as process", "information as knowledge", and "information
Beynon-Davies explains the multi-faceted concept of
information in terms of signs and signal-sign systems. Signs
themselves can be considered in terms of four inter-dependent levels,
layers or branches of semiotics: pragmatics, semantics, syntax, and
empirics. These four layers serve to connect the social world on the
one hand with the physical or technical world on the other.
Pragmatics is concerned with the purpose of communication. Pragmatics
links the issue of signs with the context within which signs are used.
The focus of pragmatics is on the intentions of living agents
underlying communicative behaviour. In other words, pragmatics link
language to action.
Semantics is concerned with the meaning of a message conveyed in a
Semantics considers the content of communication.
Semantics is the study of the meaning of signs - the association
between signs and behaviour.
Semantics can be considered as the study
of the link between symbols and their referents or concepts –
particularly the way that signs relate to human behavior.
Syntax is concerned with the formalism used to represent a message.
Syntax as an area studies the form of communication in terms of the
logic and grammar of sign systems.
Syntax is devoted to the study of
the form rather than the content of signs and sign-systems.
Nielsen (2008) discusses the relationship between semiotics and
information in relation to dictionaries. He introduces the concept of
lexicographic information costs and refers to the effort a user of a
dictionary must make to first find, and then understand data so that
they can generate information.
Communication normally exists within the context of some social
situation. The social situation sets the context for the intentions
conveyed (pragmatics) and the form of communication. In a
communicative situation intentions are expressed through messages that
comprise collections of inter-related signs taken from a language
mutually understood by the agents involved in the communication.
Mutual understanding implies that agents involved understand the
chosen language in terms of its agreed syntax (syntactics) and
semantics. The sender codes the message in the language and sends the
message as signals along some communication channel (empirics). The
chosen communication channel has inherent properties that determine
outcomes such as the speed at which communication can take place, and
over what distance.
Accuracy and precision
Anti-information reduces certainty
Complex adaptive system
Data storage device#Recording medium
Freedom of information
Information and communication technologies
Information quality (InfoQ)
Lexicographic information cost
Philosophy of information
Receiver operating characteristic
Information p Definition of
Information by Merriam-Webster".
Merriam-webster.com. Retrieved 2017-05-01.
^ A short overview is found in:
Luciano Floridi (2010).
A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press.
ISBN 0-19-160954-4. The goal of this volume is to provide an
outline of what information is...
^ Stephen B. Wicker, Saejoon Kim (2003). Fundamentals of Codes,
Graphs, and Iterative Decoding. Springer. pp. 1 ff.
^ Dusenbery, David B. (1992). Sensory Ecology. New York: W.H. Freeman.
^ Vigo, R. (2011). "Representational information: a new general notion
and measure of information".
Information Sciences. 181 (21):
^ Vigo, R. (2013). "
Uncertainty in Generalized
Information Theory (GRIT): A Structure-Sensitive
General Theory of Information". Information. 4 (1): 1–30.
^ Vigo, R. (2014). Mathematical Principles of Human Conceptual
Behavior: The Structural
Nature of Conceptual Representation and
Processing. New York and London: Scientific Psychology Series,
Routledge. ISBN 0415714362.
^ Shannon, Claude E. (1949). The Mathematical Theory of
^ Casagrande, David (1999). "
Information as verb: Re-conceptualizing
information for cognitive and ecological models" (PDF). Journal of
Ecological Anthropology. 3 (1): 4–13.
^ Bateson, Gregory (1972). Form, Substance, and Difference, in Steps
to an Ecology of Mind. University of Chicago Press.
^ Simonsen, Bo Krantz. "Informationsordbogen - vis begreb".
Informationsordbogen.dk. Retrieved 2017-05-01.
^ Merali, Zeeya. "Demonic device converts information to energy :
Nature News". Nature.com. Retrieved 2017-05-01.
^ a b Hilbert, Martin; López, Priscila (2011). "The World's
Technological Capacity to Store, Communicate, and Compute
Information". Science. 332 (6025): 60–65.
doi:10.1126/science.1200970. Free access to the article at
^ a b "World_info_capacity_animation". YouTube. 2011-06-11. Retrieved
^ Failure Trends in a Large Disk Drive Population. Eduardo Pinheiro,
Wolf-Dietrich Weber and Luiz Andre Barroso
^ ISO 15489
^ Willis 2005.
^ Buckland, Michael K. (June 1991). "
Information as thing". Journal of
the American Society for
Information Science. 42 (5): 351–360.
^ Beynon-Davies, P. (2002).
Information Systems: an introduction to
informatics in Organisations. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave.
^ Beynon-Davies, P. (2009). Business
Information Systems. Basingstoke:
Palgrave. ISBN 978-0-230-20368-6.
Liu, Alan (2004). The Laws of Cool:
Knowledge Work and the
Information. University of Chicago Press.
Bekenstein, Jacob D. (August 2003). "holographic universe". Scientific
Gleick, James (2011). The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood.
New York, NY: Pantheon.
Lin, Shu-Kun (2008). "Gibbs Paradox and the Concepts of Information,
Symmetry, Similarity and Their Relationship". Entropy. 10 (1):
Floridi, Luciano (2005). "Is
Information Meaningful Data?" (PDF).
Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. 70 (2): 351–70.
Floridi, Luciano (2005). "Semantic Conceptions of Information". In
Zalta, Edward N. The Stanford Encyclopedia of
Philosophy (Winter 2005
Floridi, Luciano (2010). Information: A Very Short Introduction.
Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Logan, Robert K. What is Information? - Propagating
the Biosphere, the Symbolosphere, the Technosphere and the
Econosphere. Toronto: DEMO Publishing.
Nielsen, Sandro (2008). "The Effect of Lexicographical Information
Costs on Dictionary Making and Use". Lexikos. 18: 170–89.
Stewart, Thomas (2001). Wealth of Knowledge. New York, NY:
Young, Paul (1987). The
Nature of Information. Westport, Ct: Greenwood
Publishing Group. ISBN 0-275-92698-2.
Look up information in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Wikiquote has quotations related to:
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Information.
Semantic Conceptions of
Information Review by
Luciano Floridi for the
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Principia Cybernetica entry on negentropy
Fisher Information, a New
Paradigm for Science: Introduction,
Uncertainty principles, Wave equations, Ideas of Escher, Kant, Plato
and Wheeler. This essay is continually revised in the light of ongoing
How Much Information? 2003 an attempt to estimate how much new
information is created each year (study was produced by faculty and
students at the School of
Information Management and Systems at the
University of California at Berkeley)
(in Danish) Informationsordbogen.dk The Danish Dictionary of
Information Terms / Informationsordbogen
History of communication
Intercultural / Interpersonal / Intrapersonal communication
Models of communication
Text and conversation theory
Mediated cross-border communication
Philosophy of language
Sociology of culture
Epic poetry/National epics/Pan-national epics
Facts and factoids
Point of view
School of thought
Theory of everything
Self-fulfilling prophecy (
Clever Hans effect, placebo effect, wishful
Change and maintenance
Argumentum ad populum
Education (religious, values)
Religious conversion (forced)
Suppression of dissent
Anthropology (cultural, social)
Identity (philosophy) (cultural)
Myth and ritual
Rites of passage (secular)
Social class/Social status/Caste
Collective behavior (animal)
Folie à deux
Mass psychogenic illness
Social facilitation (animal)
Axioms (tacit assumptions)
Evidence (anecdotal, scientific)
Reasoning (fallacious, logic)
Truth (consensus theory, criteria)
Consciousness (mind–body problem)
Origin myths (political myths)
Otherworlds (axes mundi)
Problem of evil
Physics (natural philosophy)
Codes of conduct
Ecstasy (emotional, religious)
Food and drink prohibitions
Food and drink prohibitions (unclean animals)
Laws (jurisprudence, religious)
Liberty (political freedom)
Meaning of life
Virtues and Vices
Works of art
African traditional religions
Chinese traditional religions
Schools of philosophy
Georg W. F. Hegel
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz
Charles Sanders Peirce
Alfred N. Whitehead
G. E. Moore
P. F. Strawson
R. G. Collingwood
Willard V. O. Quine
G. E. M. Anscombe
David Malet Armstrong
Peter van Inwagen
Abstract object theory
Meaning of life
Pirsig's metaphysics of Quality
Category of being
Cogito ergo sum
Identity and change
Interpretations of quantum mechanics
Philosophy of mind
Philosophy of psychology
Philosophy of self
Philosophy of space and time