Searching for the significance of “information” from angles of study as disparate as electrical engineering, communication studies, journalism, computer science, information science, and mathematics reveals a dynamic and changing phenomenon, at times ephemeral yet characterizable, both mediated and directly, inextricably linked to the physical world.
Claude Shannon is considered the father of information theory for his discussion of electrons flowing through circuitry as “information,” and his book is a technical exploration of the factors that affect how an input gets to an output. What happens along the way? What measures can be taken to reduce damage (or noise) in the process. What is the best encoding mechanism?
The same question can be asked of journalism – what is the best way to tell a story, and to get information from the scene to the reader in one piece, without bias, misinformation, sensationalism, or message-destroying noise and to make sure the final product is representing the truth of the matter? Information, it seems, has to survive a series of noise-makers along the way as it moves through a channel on its way to becoming output of the media system.
The communication of information, or moving it from one place to another in-tact, can be a real problem. It is a problem I think about a lot as a journalist. I am also extremely interested in the production of power, both through the creation of meaning and by mining natural resources that can create electricity and feed societies. I wanted to find out how the different types of power are connected. I approached this question through photography, art, audio documentation, research into various systems and through as many mediums as I could find. Some of them worked, some didn’t
When I found Shannon’s work on the mathematical theory of information, I wanted to shove everyone aside and see for myself if his theory could extend beyond a mathematical theory applicable to electronic circuits and apply to the information that humans create and interact with, information that flows through systems in society. I discovered that combining Shannon’s mathematical theory of information with systems theory and framing theory can yield some interesting analogies that can educate us on how information behaves and the roles humans play in the process.
Mathematics is often called the language of science. Information has also been called the language of science. Electricity can also be a language of information in the modern environment where most of our news is delivered electronically. I attempted to combine these ideas into an experimental research presentation and discovered that there are endless connections between these disparate ideas that I would like to explore further, applying even more intricate models to discover the relationships between systems of information in the journalism of science.