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Information systems - informing systems. Keynote presentation given at 5th CONTECSI 2008, São Paulo, June 5 9.00-10.30

This presentation considers some basic theoretical issues concerning information systems. Theoretical and conceptual issues are seen as important, although difficult, neglected and perhaps somewhat disappointing in the short run.
An analysis of the concept "information" demonstrates that anything can be information. But if anything is information, what then is the content of information systems? What principles guide the selection of "information". If information is understood as something that informs somebody about something, it follows that information systems should be understood as informing systems. Information systems are teleological (goal directed) systems in which the intention and goals behind the systems determine what to consider information, how informative objects should be selected, labeled, described, organized and retrieved. (as opposed to "objective" or "universal" criteria governing these processes).
Theory in relation to information systems spans several levels: 1) The theory of information science and information systems, 2) the theory of the contents in information systems ("information" or "knowledge", i.e. the theory of knowledge), 3) the nature of users (cognition) and 4) the theory of languages and symbolic systems used by cultures, communities and domains. Basically are the theories governing all layers influenced by epistemological views (often unconsciously). The epistemological theories are thus seen as fundamental for all levels.
There are many theories of knowledge and the point is, of course, that it is important for information science and information systems research to be based on the most fruitful one. By implication it is important for us to defend a specific epistemology on which to base our work. My recommendation is "pragmatism" understood broadly and in contrast to other views such as empiricism, rationalism and positivism. Pragmatism is related to historicism but emphasizes the study of goals, values and consequences, which is important given the teleological nature of information systems.
The pragmatic understanding of information systems, the knowledge represented in the information systems, the users and the languages is consequently outlined and implications for information systems design is proposed.
Date05 1900
CreatorsHjørland, Birger
Source SetsUniversity of Arizona
Detected LanguageEnglish

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