Practical and Philosophical Considerations for Defining Information as Well-formed, Meaningful Data in the Information Sciences


This paper demonstrates the practical and philosophical strengths of adopting Luciano Floridi’s “general definition of information” (GDI) for use in the information sciences (IS). Many definitions of information have been proposed, but little work has been done to determine which definitions are most coherent or useful. Consequently, doubts have been cast on the necessity and possibility of finding a definition. In response to these doubts, the paper shows how items and events central to IS are adequately described by Floridi’s conception of information, and demonstrates how it helps clarify the muddy theoretical framework resulting from the many previous definitions. To this end, it analyzes definitions, popular in IS, that conceive of information as energy, processes, knowledge, and physical objects. The paper finds that each of these definitions produces problematic or counterintuitive implications that the GDI suitably accounts for. It discusses the role of truth in IS, notes why the GDI is preferable to its truth-requiring variant, and ends with comments about the import of such a theory for IS research and practice.