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Methodology, Key to Information Modeling and Defining
1  Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications


What is the really appropriate definition of information? This is always the No.1 issue in the study of information science doubtlessly. Precise definition of information is by all means the most significant foundation for information studies. Unfortunately, researchers with different backgrounds, and thus different view angles, have already proposed variety of definitions of information in different disciplines. This has led to difficulties for the successful studies of information science.

What is wrong with the information defining then? Is it possible to have a proper definition of information able to unify all the others? Is there existed any unity over the diversity in the information studies? This paper will tackle with these problems.

To start with, some representative, and thus most influential, definitions of information are reviewed, including the definitions respectively presented by Norbert Wiener in 1948, which says that information is neither matter nor energy, by Claude Shannon in 1948 which means that information is something that can be used for uncertainty removal, and by Gregory Bateson in 1972, which considers that information is the difference that makes difference.

It is realized through the reviews that the methodology of “divide and conquer” is the common root for producing the diversity and is no longer suitable for the information science studies though it had been successful in physical science studies. The methodology for information science studies should base on the view of information, the view of system, the view of ecology, and the view of interaction between subject and object.

Employing the new methodology, an ecological model of information process is established. Based on the methodology for information science and the new model of information process, both the ontological and epistemological definitions of information are derived, which are able to unify the other definitions, including the ones mentioned above. This indicates that the definitions of ontological information and epistemological information are appropriate ones and can serve as the foundation for information studies.

The rest of the paper is organized as follows. In section 2, reviews and comments on some typical definitions of information are made and the improper methodological issue governing the information defining is revealed. In section 3, the methodology for the information studies is summarized and the ecological model of information process is thus established. In section 4 the new definitions of information, able to unify the other definitions, are derived from the new methodology and new model. Finally, some concluding remarks concerning the model and the definitions are made in section 5.


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Keywords: Methodological Challenge to Information Studies, Ecological Model of Information Process, Ontological Information, Epistemological Information or Comprehensive Information