Information Informatics

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Here are some insightful snippets about “information” & “informatics” that I’ve found.

Purdon, Modernist Informatics

Modernist Informatics: Literature, Information, and the State

In the company kept by the word—public service and business, agency and control—we can begin to discern the outline of a modern understanding of information as a form of mediation which structures relations between individuals, corporations, and state bureaucracies. (5)

Informatics can be regarded as the infrastructure of information, but it need not be limited to digital computing machines, or indeed to machines alone. The most recent edition of the International Encyclopaedia of Information and Library Science, for instance, allows that since “computers, individuals , and organizations all process information, informatics has computational, {»5/6«} cognitive, and social aspects.” Informatics, that is to say, deals with the representation, processing, and communication of information within and between systems of several kinds: not only “computer communications and networking” but “paper, analogue and digital records,” “organizational processes,” and even “human reasoning.” (5-6)

Modernist Informatics explores the premise that informatics begins not with digitization but rather with the development of new information controls in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century government systems. Informatics might then be understood as the government of information, allowing that phrase its full measure of ambiguity in order to call to mind the way information has emerged as both the basis of modern political power and one of its primary objects of attention and control. (6)

Modernist Informatics charts the structures of information in modernist culture by attending to moments at which those structures emerge into view, but it also insists that “the politics of information,” far from constituting a new field for the exercise of forms of official power later to be represented in cultural artifacts, was one of the principal ways in which both the state and literary culture came to define themselves in the new century. (8)

As Daniel R. Headrick has pointed out, “information” has come to designate a category so vague as to be critically useless: he therefore turns his attention to “a more manageable concept, the study of information systems.” (9)

The above quotes come from Purdon’s intro and do a great job of revealing the context within which our current notions of “information” and “informatics” developed and solidified. As he traces “information” through a number of different thinkers, he shows that our current conception of information has long been tied to political projects.

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