Informational Depth

Susan Crawford comments on a recent talk by Benjamin Reeve about the impoverished nature of our understanding of information:

The thesis…is that Shannon’s understanding of information is not helpful — that information is really differences that “make a difference” by causing a system to change its state. Informational things have different qualities than physical things (you can’t run an algorithm against a hill). Most fundamentally, information is not conserved. Information, instead, amplifies. But amplification, just for its own sake, isn’t an unmixed good. Instead, what we should be interested in (and design for) is metainformational depth — quality information about information.

The most important thing we can do is “make things deep” — build for better information. Maybe that means tagging data and having it report back to us about how it’s doing. At any rate, for any amount of amplification we create, we need to create MORE metainformational depth.

I’m becoming very intrigued with the potential of “tagging data” to increase the utility of information, especially its usefullness for visualizing large sets of information. Susan promised follow-up, and I’ll pass her posts along.

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