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what_is_information.jpg
A very neat and original animated infographic film about the concept of information. It was created by Maya Design, a design consultancy and technology research lab. Although most of us think we know what we mean when we say "information," the movie claims we sometimes confuse the medium with the message.

Do you agree?

The information movie is accompanied by a very similar film about the concept "architecture", in the broadest sense. Watch both movies below.

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13 COMMENTS

Slick, but not very compelling. The point seems to be that there is no "information" unless the viewer's or recipient's immediate objective is achieved. This is a sadly narrow view of how we use information. What happens to learning that has no identifiable immediate objective? Or getting something from information that is completely different from what the author intended? Or absorbing information that has no other purpose than the joy of finding out something new?

What if I am exploring data as part of a long-term effort to grapple with a problem? Does it become information only if I solve the problem? If I die first, did the analyst fail? What if I'm simply half-witted?

Information is anything that communicates facts to increase understanding of the world. Methods of doing this might be more or less appropriate for a given objective or audience, but it's hard to see the point of getting narrowly dogmatic about what qualifies.

Mon 16 Feb 2009 at 10:52 PM

This is defining "information" in the Information Theory sense. (Wikipedia it.) Which is incredibly useful (it underlies much or all telecommunications technology of the second half of the 20th century, for example), but it's not quite intuitive. This video does a relatively good job at getting that intuition across to an audience. I'd consider playing it to undergraduates as a first attention-getting step in explaining the basics of information theory.

Mon 16 Feb 2009 at 11:06 PM
Harlan

Reminds me a cool story. I asked once on a forum on information theory whether a sorted list of words contains more or less information than the same list, but unsorted. I was pretty convinced a sorted dictionary or phone book contains more information since you can retrieve data much easily than if it wasn't sorted. But I got this answer : "an contains information list more unsorted" :-)

Mon 16 Feb 2009 at 11:32 PM

Information is anything that diminishes uncertainty.

Tue 17 Feb 2009 at 4:08 AM

entropia: are ambiguous directions not information?
information itself has no intrinsic value or moral.

Tue 17 Feb 2009 at 6:50 AM
takio

Not really up to par, visually or content-wise with the 1953 Eames brothers film on the same subject:

http://www.archive.org/details.php?identifier=communications_primer

Tue 17 Feb 2009 at 8:38 AM
Crow

I think I need more information before I comment on this.

Tue 17 Feb 2009 at 8:45 AM

Information is relative. Both information and architecture are definition of relations. One top down, the other bottom up. eg. I need to know which colour is orange, what a cup is, etcetera, to then know what the relative (singular) information being expressed is. Architecture, on the other hand, is the definition of relations (plural).

Tue 17 Feb 2009 at 1:21 PM

OK, so "You're favorite mug" is... "you're favorite mug". It seems to pretend that information is there before, in the air. But in this case, information do not exist without the question.
Besides, information is a temporary result of a relational process. It's actually the work to give a form. To put In a Form. And this form has to be recognized. It's only when I'm satisfied with one of your answers, and when you've checked someway that I'm not missing something that information exist.
In a way the problem is not What is information?, but When is information?

Tue 17 Feb 2009 at 7:25 PM

Beautiful.

Wed 18 Feb 2009 at 7:07 AM

The point that is being made here is related to the definition of information, as Harlan mentioned. The distinction between information, data, and knowledge. The cups, an orange, a green and a red cup… are all data until they are given context and made relevant in the way that the film is talking about. It's at that point the orange cup becomes "information".

Side note Crow, The Eames were husband and wife. It's a common misunderstanding. There films are all really spectacular if you ever get the chance to view the others.

Also really worth checking out is Richard Saul Wurman's view on this topic in his book Information Anxiety.

Wed 18 Feb 2009 at 8:21 AM
Mark

Information is news of difference. When it's a difference that makes a difference it has meaning.

Thu 19 Feb 2009 at 4:55 AM
Graycard

Information as a concept bears a diversity of meanings, from everyday usage to technical settings. Generally speaking, the concept of information is closely related to notions of constraint, communication, control, data, form, instruction, knowledge, meaning, mental stimulus, pattern, perception, and representation.

Thu 18 Jun 2009 at 1:44 AM
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