Information Processing and Information Systems
In popular usage, the term information refers to facts and opinions provided and received during the course of daily life: one obtains information directly from other living beings, from mass media, from electronic data banks, and from all sorts of observable phenomena in the surrounding environment. A person using such facts and opinions generates more information, some of which is communicated to others during discourse, by instructions, in letters and documents, and through other media. Information organized according to some logical relationships is referred to as a body of knowledge, to be acquired by systematic exposure or study. Application of knowledge (or skills) yields expertise, and additional analytical or experiential insights are said to constitute instances of wisdom. Use of the term information is not restricted exclusively to its communication via natural language. Information is also registered and communicated through art and by facial expressions and gestures or by such other physical responses as shivering. Moreover, every living entity is endowed with information in the form of a genetic code. These information phenomena permeate the physical and mental world, and their variety is such that it has defied so far all attempts at a unified definition of information. (see also Index: information processing)
Interest in information phenomena has increased dramatically in the 20th century, and today they are the objects of study in a number of disciplines, including philosophy, physics, biology, linguistics, information and computer science, electronic and communications engineering, management science, and the social sciences. On the commercial side, the information service industry has become one of the newer industries worldwide. Almost all other industries--manufacturing and service--are increasingly concerned with information and its handling. The different, though often overlapping, viewpoints and phenomena of these fields lead to different (and sometimes conflicting) concepts and "definitions" of information.
This article touches on such concepts, particularly as they relate to information processing and information systems. In treating the basic elements of information processing, it distinguishes between information in analog and digital form, and it describes their acquisition, recording, organization, retrieval, display, and dissemination. In treating information systems, the article discusses system analysis and design and provides a descriptive taxonomy of the main system types. Some attention is also given to the social impact of information systems and to the field of information science. For coverage of related topics, see SPECTRUM, section 735, and the Index.
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Concepts of information and information systems.
A wide-ranging discussion by 39 scientists on the nature and goals of the information, computer, communication, and systems sciences appears in FRITZ MACHLUP and UNA MANSFIELD (eds.), The Study of Information: Interdisciplinary Messages (1983). Fundamental concepts of information representation and processes are dealt with, sometimes speculatively, in MARVIN MINSKY, The Society of Mind (1986); ROGER C. SCHANK, Conceptual Information Processing (1975); ALLEN NEWELL and HERBERT A. SIMON, Human Problem Solving (1972); HERBERT A. SIMON, The Sciences of the Artificial, 2nd ed., rev. and enlarged (1981); and RONALD J. BRACHMAN, HECTOR J. LEVESQUE, and RAYMOND REITER (eds.), Knowledge Representation (1992). BÖRJE LANGENFORS and BO SUNDGREN, Information Systems Architecture (1975), explores fundamental aspects of structure and design. The impact of information technology on making human recorded knowledge available was first visualized in VANNEVAR BUSH, "As We May Think," Atlantic Monthly, 176:101-108 (July 1945). THEODOR HOLM NELSON, Literary Machines, edition 90.1 (1990), presents a vision of a literary "hyperspace" in which digital representations of ideas, images, and sound are recombined at will. Reference sources can be useful for independent study of the subject, especially DENNIS LONGLEY and MICHAEL SHAIN, Van Nostrand Reinhold Dictionary of Information Technology, 3rd ed. (1989); and ANTHONY RALSTON and EDWIN D. REILLY (eds.), Encyclopedia of Computer Science, 3rd ed. (1993), for the professional reader.
JENS RASMUSSEN, Information Processing and Human-Machine Interaction: An Approach to Cognitive Engineering (1986); and TERRY WINOGRAD and FERNANDO FLORES, Understanding Computers and Cognition: A New Foundation for Design (1986), address interface issues arising in computer processing. A comprehensive, basic survey is offered in STEVEN L. MANDELL, Computers and Information Processing: Concepts and Applications, 6th ed. (1992). C. GORDON BELL and JOHN E. McNAMARA, High-Tech Ventures: The Guide for Entrepreneurial Success (1992), includes an insightful analysis of the trends in information technology. CARLO BATINI, STEFANO CERI, and SHAMKANT B. NAVATHE, Conceptual Database Design: An Entity-Relationship Approach (1992), offers technical but highly readable coverage of this central area of information systems engineering. Computerized management of text is well covered in GERARD SALTON, Automatic Text Processing: The Transformation, Analysis, and Retrieval of Information by Computer (1988); and traditional methods of searching text receive thorough treatment in GERARD SALTON and MICHAEL J. McGILL, Introduction to Modern Information Retrieval (1983). Systematic, technical descriptions of computer processing of nontextual signal carriers appear in PANKAJ K. DAS, Optical Signal Processing (1991); and WALT TETSCHNER, Voice Processing, 2nd ed. (1992); and descriptions of multimedia image signals in CRAIG A. LINDLEY, Practical Image Processing in C: Acquisition, Manipulation, Storage (1991). The emphasis of JAMES D. FOLEY et al., Computer Graphics: Principles and Practice, 2nd ed. (1990), is on human-machine interaction in this field of computer applications; the theory, practice, and future of virtual worlds is discussed in HOWARD RHEINGOLD, Virtual Reality (1991). MARTIN P. CLARK, Networks and Telecommunications: Design and Operation (1991), is a readable introduction to the fundamentals of computer networks, their design, and their management. Natural language understanding, expert systems, and robotics are explained competently in PATRICK HENRY WINSTON, Artificial Intelligence, 3rd ed. (1992). An engrossing introduction to information-processing applications that enable artistic expression is given in STEPHEN WILSON, Using Computers to Create Art (1986).
Organizational information systems.
JAMES I. CASH, JR., F. WARREN McFARLAN, and JAMES L. McKENNEY, Corporate Information Systems Management: The Issues Facing Senior Executives, 3rd ed. (1992), is recommended reading for managers having responsibility for corporate information processing. An increasing list of monographs centres on the issue of cost-effectiveness of corporate information processing and computing--e.g., MARILYN M. PARKER and ROBERT J. BENSON, Information Economics: Linking Business Performance to Information Technology (1988); PAUL A. STRASSMANN, The Business Value of Computers (1990); and RICHARD VERYARD (ed.), The Economics of Information Systems and Software (1991). The continuous evolution of information technologies requires a disciplined approach to their use in the office, argues CHARLES RAY, JANET PALMER, and AMY D. WOHL, Office Automation: A Systems Approach, 2nd ed. (1991). DAVID D. BEDWORTH, MARK R. HENDERSON, and PHILIP M. WOLFE, Computer-Integrated Design and Manufacturing (1991), offers a detailed description of computer-assisted functions in a manufacturing enterprise.
Public information utilities.
The broad view of library networking in the United States given in SUSAN K. MARTIN, Library Networks, 1986-87: Libraries in Partnership (1986), remains representative of current trends. Cooperative arrangements in Europe are discussed in KARL WILHELM NEUBAUER and ESTHER K. DYER (eds.), European Library Networks (1990). Access guides to information resources in printed form are exemplified by ELLIS MOUNT and BEATRICE KOVACS, Using Science and Technology Information Sources (1991). Since the publication of J.S. QUARTERMAN, The Matrix: Computer Networks and Conferencing Systems Worldwide (1990), the growth in the number and variety of electronic information resources has been so astonishing that guides to these resources are maintained predominantly in electronic form. Among the published monographs are MATTHEW RAPAPORT, Computer Mediated Communications: Bulletin Boards, Computer Conferencing, Electronic Mail, and Information Retrieval (1991), attesting to the growing popularity of informal communications via digital media; ED KROL, The Whole Internet: User's Guide & Catalog (1992), offering comprehensive instructions for accessing the rapidly evolving virtual library of the world; and MICHAEL STRANGELOVE and DIANE KOVACS (compilers), Directory of Electronic Journals, Newsletters, and Academic Discussion Lists, 2nd ed. (1992), pointing the reader to the newest forms of documents and communications (which includes a growing repertoire of classical literature in digital form). Readers interested in the plans of the U.S. information community may consult ASSOCIATION OF RESEARCH LIBRARIES, Linking Researchers and Resources: The Emerging Information Infrastructure and the NREN Proposal (1990); the Canadian vision is described in GARY CLEVELAND, Research Networks and Libraries: Applications and Issues for a Global Information Network (1991).
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Impact of information systems.
Seminal studies of the "information era" include FRITZ MACHLUP, Knowledge: Its Creation, Distribution, and Economic Significance, 3 vol. (1980-84); DANIEL BELL, The Coming of Post-Industrial Society: A Venture in Social Forecasting (1973); MARC URI PORAT and MICHAEL ROGERS RUBIN, The Information Economy, 9 vol. (1977); and MICHAEL ROGERS RUBIN, MARY TAYLOR HUBER, and ELIZABETH LLOYD TAYLOR, The Knowledge Industry in the United States, 1960-1980 (1986). For an example of parallel studies in Great Britain, see IAN MILES, Mapping and Measuring the Information Economy (1990). Early French views of the societal effects of the marriage of computers and telecommunications were presented in SIMON NORA and ALAIN MINC, The Computerization of Society: A Report to the President of France (1980; originally published in French, 1978). A more recent Japanese view is summarized in TAICHI SAKAIYA, The Knowledge-Value Revolution; or, A History of the Future (1991; originally published in Japanese, 1985). JACK MEADOWS (ed.), Information Technology and the Individual (1991), discusses a range of societal implications of the technology. The importance of preserving individual freedoms in the information age is argued eloquently in ITHIEL DE SOLA POOL, Technologies of Freedom (1983). PHILIP FITES, PETER JOHNSTON, and MARTIN KRATZ, The Computer Virus Crisis, 2nd ed. (1992), shows the dimensions of one of the hazards to be faced by corporate and public information networks in the years to come. ARTHUR R. MILLER and MICHAEL H. DAVIS, Intellectual Property: Patents, Trademarks, and Copyright in a Nutshell, 2nd ed. (1990), elaborates on issues of property rights in information.
Useful series of printed reviews in information science include Annual Review of Information Science and Technology; Advances in Computers (irregular); and Advances in Artificial Intelligence in Software Engineering (annual). Major abstracting journals in computing include Computing Reviews (monthly); ACM Guide to Computing Literature (annual); Computer Literature Index (quarterly); Computer Abstracts (monthly); and Computer Book Review (monthly), surveying new publications in a broad range of subjects on computing. Useful secondary sources that list publications dealing with information science and systems include Information Science Abstracts (monthly); and Library & Information Science Abstracts (monthly), containing abstracts of literature on librarianship and archives, documentation, publishing, dissemination of information, and mass communications. (V.Sl.)
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Communication, the exchange of meanings between individuals through a common system of symbols, concerned scholars since the time of ancient Greece. Until modern times, however, the topic was usually subsumed under other disciplines and taken for granted as a natural process inherent to each. In 1928 the English literary critic and author I.A. Richards offered one of the first--and in some ways still the best--definitions of communication as a discrete aspect of human enterprise:
Communication takes place when one mind so acts upon its environment that another mind is influenced, and in that other mind an experience occurs which is like the experience in the first mind, and is caused in part by that experience.
Richards' definition is both general and rough, but its application to nearly all kinds of communication--including those between humans and animals (but excluding machines)--separated the contents of messages from the processes in human affairs by which these messages are transmitted. More recently, questions have been raised concerning the adequacy of any single definition of the term communication as it is currently employed. The American psychiatrist and scholar Jurgen Ruesch has identified 40 varieties of disciplinary approaches to the subject, including architectural, anthropological, psychological, political, and many other interpretations of the apparently simple interaction described by Richards. In total, if such informal communications as sexual attraction and play behaviour are included, there exist at least 50 modes of interpersonal communication that draw upon dozens of discrete intellectual disciplines and analytic approaches. Communication may therefore be analyzed in at least 50 different ways.
Interest in communication has been stimulated by advances in science and technology, which, by their nature, have called attention to man as a communicating creature. Among the first and most dramatic examples of the inventions resulting from technological ingenuity were the telegraph and telephone, followed by others like wireless radio and telephoto devices. The development of popular newspapers and periodicals, broadcasting, motion pictures, and television led to institutional and cultural innovations that permitted efficient and rapid communication between a few individuals and large populations; these media have been responsible for the rise and social power of the new phenomenon of mass communication. (See also INFORMATION THEORY ; INFORMATION PROCESSING AND INFORMATION SYSTEMS ; TELECOMMUNICATIONS SYSTEMS .)
Since about 1920 the growth and apparent influence of communications technology have attracted the attention of many specialists who have attempted to isolate communication as a specific facet of their particular interest. Psychologists, in their studies of behaviour and mind, have evolved concepts of communication useful to their investigations as well as to certain forms of therapy. Social scientists have identified various forms of communication by which myths, styles of living, mores, and traditions are passed either from generation to generation or from one segment of society to another. Political scientists and economists have recognized that communication of many types lies at the heart of the regularities in the social order. Under the impetus of new technology--particularly high-speed computers--mathematicians and engineers have tried to quantify and measure components of communicated information and to develop methods for translating various types of messages into quantities or amounts amenable to both their procedures and instruments. Numerous and differently phrased questions have been posed by artists, architects, artisans, writers, and others concerning the overall influences of various types of communication. Many researchers, working within the relevant concerns of their disciplines, have also sought possible theories or laws of cause and effect to explain the ways in which human dispositions are affected by certain kinds of communication under certain circumstances, and the reasons for the change. (see also Index: social science)
In the 1960s a Canadian educator, Marshall McLuhan, drew the threads of interest in the field of communication into a view that associated many contemporary psychological and sociological phenomena with the media employed in modern culture. McLuhan's often repeated idea, "the medium is the message," stimulated numerous filmmakers, photographers, artists, and others, who adopted McLuhan's view that contemporary society had moved (or was moving) from a "print" culture to a "visual" one. The particular forms of greatest interest to McLuhan and his followers were those associated with the sophisticated technological instruments for which young people in particular display enthusiasm, namely motion pictures, television, and sound recordings.
By the late 20th century the main focus of interest in communication seemed to be drifting away from McLuhanism and to be centring upon: (1) the mass communication industries, the people who run them, and the effects they have upon their audiences; (2) persuasive communication and the use of technology to influence dispositions; (3) processes of interpersonal communication as mediators of information; (4) dynamics of verbal and nonverbal (and perhaps extrasensory) communication between individuals; (5) perception of different kinds of communications; (6) uses of communication technology for social and artistic purposes, including education in and out of school; and (7) development of relevant criticism for artistic endeavours employing modern communications technology.
In short, a communication expert may be oriented to any of a number of disciplines in a field of inquiry that has, as yet, neither drawn for itself a conclusive roster of subject matter nor agreed upon specific methodologies of analysis.
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Last modified: Mon May 24 19:04:39 EST 1999