ISIA – Introduction

What is Information Science?

Information science is concerned with […] the origination, collection, organization, storage, retrieval, interpretation, transmission, transformation, and utilization of information. This includes the investigation of information representations in both natural and artificial systems, the use of codes for efficient message transmission, and the study of information processing devices and techniques such as computers and their programming systems. It is an interdisciplinary science derived from and related to such fields as mathematics, logic, linguistics, psychology, computer technology, operations research, the graphic arts, ” communications, library science, management, and other similar fields.

Borko, H. (1968), Information science: What is it?

Information collection and representation is very old

Began 5100 BP; completed 4100 BP

Knowledge is embodied in physical structure

What information does this scene convey?

Physical structure x environmental input → new information

Pictures convey information

40000 BP (Indonesia)
30000 BP (Chauvet, France)
7000 BP (Libya)
5500 BP (Tartaria)

writing began about 4600 years ago

First (undisputed) writing: Uruk, Sumer, 4600 BP

Sumerian limestone tablets, Ashmolean Museum

Small-scale collection and preservation of information (sales receipts, etc.) stable representation (pictographs, runes) understood by writers and readers.

Libraries collect, protect and disseminate information

First great library roughly around 2300 BP, Alexandria (Egypt)

O. Von Corven, The Great Library of Alexandria

Scribes copy information for dissemination

2500 BP (Egypt)
600 BP (Europe)
today (India)

Printing press reproduces information quickly and cheaply

Movable Type

Ceramic and wood moveable type

  • China, 3000 BP

Metal moveable type

  • China, Korea, 900–800 BP
  • First book: Korea, 1234 AD (Sangjeong Gogeum Yemun)

Effective mechanical printing

  • Gutenberg, 570 BP

Dissemination: by 1642 printed pamphlets were being given away for free in Europe preservation: more copies (redundancy) → better survival

libraries continue operating 2300 years later

a BOOK is still our Basic Organisation Of Knowledge

Carsten Whimster, The Library of Alexandria today

codes classify information for dissemination (ease of access)

  • Dewey Decimal System (Melvil Dewey, 1876)
    • assigns a decimal code to every subject that a book might be about
    • classes (100s) divide knowledge into all major domains of human enquiry
    • subdomains (10s) divide a class into academic fields
    • sub-subdomains (1s) divide a field into specialisations
    • extensible: digits can continue after a decimal separator for further specialisation
  • 500 Natural sciences and mathematics 510 Mathematics
    • 516 Geometry
      • 516.3 Analytic geometries
        • 516.37 Metric differential geometries 516.375 Finsler geometry

Codes facilitate visual communication

  • First communications networks: visual
    • smoke signals
  • Codes increase the amount of information transmitted
    • semaphores can represent letters
Semaphore flag tower

Disseminate faster (and further) with electrical networks

  • First electrical network: the telegraph
    • long distance communication
    • Morse code (serial encoding of alphabet)
    • Baudot code (precursor of ASCII and other computer codes)
      • on punched (paper) tape → a code for data storage too
International Morse code
Morse visualisation
Baudot Code
Baudot code on punched (paper) tape

Location is also information

  • Bonfires, light signals (position/location information for navigation)
    • lighthouses for ships, and then…early aircraft navigation systems
    • permitted night flight
    • but how to know which beacon is flashing?
      → beacons flash a code to identify themselves
      = Morse code identifier for the station
    • radio ‘navaid’ beacons still transmit a Morse code ID

Information science as an academic field

  • The Encyclopaedia Britannica on ‘information science’:
    • discipline dealing with the processes of storing and transferring information
    • concepts and methods from
      • library science, computer science & engineering, linguistics, psychology, etc.
    • develops techniques and devices to aid the
      • collection, organization, storage, retrieval, interpretation, and use of information
  • Early 1900s
    • rise of scientific periodicals and journals → science of ‘documentation’
    • books: cataloguing and classification (Dewey Decimal), vs…
    • periodicals: indexing and abstracts, collation of information from divergent sources

Information science as an academic field

  • 1950s developments leading to information science:
    • information theory (Claude Shannon, 1948) – source, message, transmitter,
      • signal, channel, noise
      • receiver, destination,
      • probability of error, encoding, decoding, – information rate, channel capacity
  • Cybernetics (Norbert Wiener, 1948)
    • regulatory systems
      *structures, constraints, and possibilities
    • control and communication in animal and machine

Advances in electronic computer design and production

Information science as an academic field

  • Many disciplines merged under the idea of ‘information’
    • first formal course: Georgia Institute of Technology (1963)
    • adopted as speciality within departments of library science, computer science, engineering
      • computer processing of documents
        → information storage and retrieval metrics
        → modes of human-machine interaction
        → effect of form on the content and comprehension of information
        → information generation, transmission, and transformation
        → general principles to explain and predict information phenomena
  • Many aspects absorbed into other fields
    • theory & technology → computer science
    • information systems → management science

Information science: opportunities

  • Mobile Technology, Pervasive Computing, Social Computing
    • wearable computing, ubiquitous computing
    • autonomous systems
  • Human-Computer Interaction, Social Computing
    • collaboration, assistive technologies, embodied interaction
    • mixed reality, augmented reality, virtual reality learning
    • big data & data science
  • Everyday Technology Use
    • technology & behaviour
    • computer security & IT forensics
  • IT in Organisations
    • software engineering, artificial intelligence, machine learning
    • health informatics, image analysis, pattern recognition, telepresence

Information science: challenges

Data used Daily

Google’s first server (1998)
One of Google’s 15 datacentres (Iowa, USA, 2009–2014)
One of Google’s 15 datacentres (Iowa, USA, 2009–2014)
One of Google’s 15 datacentres (Iowa, USA, 2009–2014)

Information science: implications

  • Protecting information
    • the library at Alexanrdia burned down (three times)
      • digital storage fails; is there a backup?
      • who manages this?
      • who owns your data ‘in the cloud’, anyway?
      • when it vanishes, can you ever get it back?
  • Digital society and culture is now online; is there a backup?
    • much of our recent history is only in digital form
    • Internet Archive and ‘the wayback machine’
    • searchable record of the entire Internet since 1996
    • 15 petabytes (15,000 terabytes) of saved web content
  • Spoken/written languages are lost
    • nobody knows how to read Linear A writing
Linear A writing
  • Data formats are lost
    • the equipment needed to read them is thrown away
  • World-wide web (WWW): no quality control, unchecked dissemination
    • who put the information there?
    • what is their motivation?
    • is the information reliable/true?
  • Media literacy: access, analyse and evaluate
    • know how to question and measure media
      → media guerillas
      • take only what you trust and need; reject the rest
    • with great power comes great responsibility (William Lamb, British politician, 1817)
    • the price of freedom is eternal vigilence (Thomas Charlton, 1809)
  • Whoever controls information, controls the world
    • Google — “organizing the world’s information”
      • search filtering/censorship, sponsored results, targeted results
    • media manipulation: creating belief to manufacture consent
      • biased access, biased reporting, censorship

Social and ethical implications

  • Protecting information: prevented unwanted access
    • too easy to intercept, observe, and duplicate information and communication
  • Ethical issues
    • copyrights and patents
    • bootlegging?
      • Grateful dead: please record our concerts
  • Open source software
    • disseminating knowledge and power
    • how to fix software when it is broken
  • Creative commons
    • culture of sharing
    • who cares about IP?
    • solve bigger problem, and don’t worry about ‘not invented here’
  • Tools for analysis? visualization aviation weather

Summary: Information Science

  • An inter-disciplinary field, borrowing
    • from mathematics, computer science and information theory
    • through informationm, system and communcation technologies (‘ICT’)
    • to knowledge and information management, and decision support
  • Each discipline adopts its own perspective and interpretation of ‘information science’
  • We will adopt an ‘engineering’ perspective and study information/data
    • acquisition
    • transmission
    • manipulation
    • storage
    • retrieval
    • analysis
    • visualisation
  • Supported by several techniques from computer science